Cruising along with a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Lindsay Thurber Raiders appeared to be in lockdown mode during Wednesday’s Central Alberta senior high boys basketball 4A zone semifinal against the visiting Notre Dame Cougars.
Not so fast.
Just like that, the Cougars roared back into contention and actually pulled two within two points with just under two minutes remaining. The Raiders’ Tanner Rehn gave the hosts a 76-72 lead seconds later and Thurber hung on for a 78-75 victory and earned a zone final date with the Hunting Hills Lightning.
Games 1 and 2 of the best-of-three 4A zone final are set for next Wednesday and Thursday and a third game, if necessary, will be played 24 hours later.
Raiders head coach Dwayne Lalor breathed a sigh of relief following the semifinal thriller.
“We were in control, then the momentum swung. They (Cougars) played with a great sense of urgency and made a string of consecutive shots,” said Lalor. “We had to finish the game playing well. It was an exciting game and when you get into the playoffs it just seems like that’s how it works out.
“Both teams played hard. We just happened a make a couple of more shots earlier in the game and held them off in the end.”
The Cougars carried the play during the final four to five minutes, but couldn’t come all the way back.
“We hung in and battled,” said Lalor. “We were getting a bunch of boards earlier in the (fourth) quarter and then they got a couple and went on a roll.”
Rehn paced the Raiders with 20 points, while Parker Cook poured in 19 and David Higham contributed 12.
Amet Deng scored a team-high 22 points for the Cougars. Tony Bornyi added 16 and Jake Dahl had 12 in a losing cause.
“We gave it all we had out there. Our players decided to leave it out there and we fell just short,” said Notre Dame coach Ed Major
“We were right there for most of the game and then kind of let it slip away in the fourth quarter. That was the key — that little two- to three-minute stretch where we just let them have a couple of easy layups. We just couldn’t struggle all the way back from that.”
The loss ended the Cougars’ season.
“I’m very proud of all these guys,” said Major. “Our Grade 12s have been here three years now and have really done our program proud. I’m not happy about how the game ended but I’m happy with we played. We gave it everything we had.”
Lalor predicted the final series clash with the Lightning will be a battle.
“That’s a big test for us next week,” said the coach. “Hunting Hills is playing the game well right now and we have to come out and match what they do.”
On the girls side, Teagan Booth netted 16 points and Jaden Robinson scored 10 to lead the host Hunting Hills Lightning to a 59-46 win over the Notre Dame Cougars in the senior girls zone semifinal.
Kirsten Pinkney led Notre Dame with 14 points and Autumn Letkeman added 12.
Hunting Hills will take on the Lindsay Thurber Raiders in a best-of-three zone final with the first two games set for next Wednesday and Thursday. A third game, if necessary, will go March 14.