Earl Haig rebounds from a season of hits and misses

WELCOME TO HAIG STATE: Calin Crainic and Treston McCogg have been a big part of Earl Haig’s 5-2 season.

Home of the Carp sets its sights on North title

“We always aim high.”

Those words are spoken by one of Earl Haig’s more vocal leaders on the senior boys basketball team, Calin Crainic.

He’s talking North Region title. The team hasn’t been able to shoot past the first round of playoffs the past few years, but there’s optimism in the grade 12’s voice.

“You’ve got to at least try it,” he added, in a moment of repose after shooting hoops in the midst of the school’s exam week.

Haig State has had its fair share of backcourt violations during the season, with two key members of the starting line-up unavailable, injuries and the departure of Machel Pottinger who transferred to Central Tech in pursuit of electrical trade classes.

Coach Eric James admits it’s been tough.

“It’s been a tumultuous season with its ups and downs but overall I’ve got a good group of kids, as usual, and they’ve worked their butts off,” he said.

The two who have chipped in play production have been Crainic, younger brother of alumnus Valentin, and Treston McCogg.

“We’ve had high hopes this year, and we thought we’d have a good season with our three main players,” McCogg said. “We were 4-0 and after some players started getting kicked off the team, some for academic disciplinary reasons, we started going down.”

Partners in crime, Crainic and McCogg differ in contributions and M.O.s.

“End-to-end Calin’s probably one of the quickest forwards just running in a straight line,” James said. “He’s willing to bust his butt getting down the floor and rebound the basketball.

“Defensively, he’s not as big as his brother but he’s willing to go rebound the basketball,” he added. “He’s our most cerebral player.”

McCogg, a versatile Stephen Jackson-style player, can play the power or small forward roles on top of his traditional shooting guard tag.

“What Treston brings is a lot of athleticism, first of all,” James said. “He’s probably our most aggressive player with the ball and on the defensive end.

“Treston has a hunger for the game and really wants to do well,” he added. “He might not always make the smartest play but his effort is tremendous when he’s out there.”

Unfortunately McCogg is sidelined with an injury. A blow to the team, considering his input has doubled since the 2011 season.

“He’s not where we want him to be yet, but it’s encouraging to see, especially academically,” James said. “For the most part he’s done a really good job.”

For McCogg, he’ll use his trials as his motivation through the post-season.

“It was a tough season for me this year,” he said.

With a first-round playoff against Downsview — a traditionally tough adversary — James is taking it one game at a time.

“If you asked me at the beginning of the year, I would have said we definitely have a shot,” James said. “For me right now it would be winning a playoff game.”

Crainic looks to shoot past that, and rally his teammates in the process.

“We’re kind of pushing ourselves in practice a lot harder,” he said. “We’re not just making silly mistakes anymore. If we do, we’re not going to do it twice.

“We’ve just got to teach our team how to attack more often because if we have five players who are key components and you lose three of them you’ve got to find other players who are able to score.”

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