The Lacombe Rams only led for less than a minute on Friday in the Central Alberta Schools Athletic Association 4A senior boys basketball final, but it was the minute that mattered most.
After losing game one in the best-of-three series to the Lindsay Thurber Raiders, the Rams won the next two games at home, including a remarkable 54-50 come-from-behind victory to close out the series.
“I knew that if we just stuck with them and not melt down, I knew we would have a chance,” Rams head coach Tim McLenahan said.
“You could just see the momentum swing when we went on a five-point run at the four minute mark.”
Trailing by as many as 11 in the third quarter and down seven with five minutes left to play, McLenahan said his team just stuck with what had worked all season long.
“We really just said keep guys in front of you and trust if you get beat that you’ll get help. That was huge because we weren’t doing that in the first three quarters,” McLenahan said.
“Fourth quarter the help started coming and they were getting offensive fouls, travels and turnovers and it gave us a chance. Really the big things were we actually rebounded offensively and then on top of that our guys finally hit some shots.”
The Rams pulled within two during the final two minutes before Jonrick Tubungbanua went 1/2 from the free throw line and forced a turnover following the second shot from the line.
The Rams didn’t convert and were down one, but off the next Raiders inbound forced another turnover to get their first lead of the game.
Tubungbanua had ice in his veins with 30 seconds left up one when he nailed two free throws to make it a three-point margin for the Rams. He hit another free throw with 20 seconds left to make it a four point lead.
“When he shoots free throws it’s like a cool summer’s day,” McLenahan said. “It’s unbelievable, it’s really neat.”
The Rams were the top ranked team in the CASAA this year and finished with a 26-5 record on the season included tournament play. They will represent the region at provincials later this month.
For the Raiders, who lead by five at the half and 42-34 at the end of three quarters the game just slipped out of their grasp.
“They hit two deep threes and we know that they were going to live and die by the three pointer,” Lindsay Thurber head coach Carl Light said.
“We just said keep calm and I guess we stopped attacking. Got a little too excited too early. They’re a good team and they closed it out in the end.”
Light added that the whole series was a battle and despite coming out on the losing side was happy for the Rams.
“I love playing against these guys. I’m proud of what they’ve done this year,” Light said.
“I told them to represent us well at provincials. Great series, great competition for high school boys basketball.”