To suggest that the Lindsay Thurber Raiders captured the central zone 4A senior high girls basketball championship Thursday in impressive fashion would be an understatement.
The Raiders put an exclamation point on their zone title by humbling the host Hunting Hills Lightning by a 71-34 score, completing a sweep of the best-of-three final in the process.
“We were ready to play tonight,” said Raiders head coach Kathy Lalor.
“I know there was some concern that we might look past (the Lightning) tonight, but this group of girls doesn’t do that. We came out strong and played so well in the first half. We played a little cautious in the second half . We didn’t want any injuries. We wanted to take all of our players to provincials.”
Lalor was somewhat concerned with her team’s play under the basket in Game 1 of the zone final, a 73-51 Raiders win Tuesday. There was no reason for concern two days later.
“We did a little work last night,” said the coach, with a smile. “We’ve boxed out really well sometimes this year, we just didn’t do a great job of that in the second half the other night.
“We kept them to two or three offensive rebounds in the first half tonight. They got a few more in the second half but we had a decent cushion and we were playing a little safe.”
Still, the Raiders flexed their offensive muscles, with Elizabeth Morneault netting 18 points and Kelsey Lalor scoring 14. Kiera Fujimoto dropped in 12 points and Jenna Hawkes finished just outside of double figures with nine.
“Everyone was scoring tonight,” said Kathy Lalor. “Our posts were scoring, our wings were scoring. We didn’t shoot as many threes tonight, but we got a lot more drive to the net. It was fun.”
The Raiders qualified for the provincials last year but Lalor said the speed of her current crew is superior to the 2013-14 edition as well as some of her earlier teams.
“We’re definitely a lot faster this year than we have been for awhile,” said the coach. “We have lots of girls who like to run.
“There were years where we’ve had a couple of girls who like to run, but we have a lot of kids who play that way this season. We didn’t score from the outside tonight but we do have a pretty good outside game and we drive well to the hoop too.
“But the best and strongest part of our team is our defence. They (Lightning) tried to drive on us tonight and we played great outside defence. I’m hoping that will be a plus when we get to provincials.”
The Raiders will head north next week to compete in the Alberta 4A provincial championship tournament Thursday to Sunday at Edmonton Jasper Place.
“We haven’t seen too many teams this year,” said Lalor. “We were at some good tournaments earlier in the season, but down the stretch when we’ve been playing better we haven’t played a lot of really good teams. But we have nothing to lose now.”
Lightning coach Jill de Jonge got seven points from Gabby Spenst and six from each of Kelsey Kolenski — who hit for a pair of threes — and Drew McKinlay.
“We did not shoot well tonight, but I saw some good things from my younger players and my older players as well,” said de Jonge. “They (Raiders) were the better team tonight for sure. They should do well (at provincials).”