Sam Aiello, head coach of the Sr. boys' basketball at Holy Trinity Academy (HTA) in Okotoks, is getting his group ready for the weekend as they try and push for a spot in Provincials.

"We are obviously closer to the tail end of our season here. We have had a super successful season. Just a great group of kids on the team" Aiello said.

"We have been to five or six different tournaments, we won four of them, and been to the finals in one. It's been a great season. This week we are into zones."

With the team winning a vast majority of their games this season, Provincials next week in Red Deer is a possibility.

"It's obviously one of our goals for sure, we got some tough teams to get through here for sure. But that is one of our goals, to get to Red Deer next week" he said.

Aiello has been the coach and teacher at HTA for 27 years. Many different groups of kids have come through the program, but he explains what makes this team different. 

"We have had really successful years of basketball at our school. It's hard to pinpoint what's different. This group, their IQ of basketball is really high, and we just got guys who really get along with each other. It's just been fun to coach them for sure," Aiello explained.

"We work hard with our team to prepare them for games. We have an incredible community and club program throughout the Okotoks area that these kids have been playing in since they were younger. We are just finding over the years that kids are coming into high school with more skills and IQ."

An important aspect in any youth sports program is to not to only teach the game but help kids learn life lessons as they try and figure out the world after high school.

"Coming from our school and from a Catholic perspective, a big focus for us is having these kids be really respectful when we go to different schools. Just being good to each other and to other people. Obviously, our Catholic faith is a big part of our team, we pray before games and at halftime. That's a big focus for us, and we are just trying to make these boys, young men when they leave high school and just be good citizens in the community" he said.

Aiello isn't new to basketball playing in both high school and University basketball before he turned to coaching 27 years ago. He said he enjoyed his high school coach when he was playing as they help motivate him while he was playing the game.

While basketball isn't a sport as talked about here in Canada compared to hockey, Aiello explained that the Toronto Raptors and their success from a handful of seasons ago has led to more kids enjoying and joining the sport.

"Well, I would say that especially in the Okotoks area, basketball is just a really popular sport. It's evidence by just our community involvement in basketball. The Okotoks basketball association has grown tremendously in the last decade I would say. From just having a few team offerings, to the last couple years, I might be a little off here, but 25 plus teams at different community and club levels. Different ages, genders, it's just taken off here," Aiello said.

"The Toronto Raptors have just made basketball more popular sport in Canada; I just think it's a good thing."

Ecole Secondaire Foothills Composite High School advanced to the zone championship game and will face HTA on Friday at 7:30 at Bert Church in Airdrie.

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