The Lindsay Thurber Raiders employed their two greatest weapons while racing to a 71-53 win over the visiting Hunting Hills Lightning in senior high girls basketball playoff action Tuesday.
The Raiders played with speed and energy en route to grabbing a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three 4A zone final which continues Thursday at 6 p.m. at Hunting Hills.
“There’s no quit in these girls. We don’t always play to what our plan is, but the girls never quit and that’s what I love about them,” said Raiders head coach Kathy Lalor.
“Hunting Hills was really good on the boards tonight and we have to do a little better job with that (in Game 2). But the work ethic of these kids is what I love more than anything else. It’s fun to work with these kids.”
Kelsey Lalor led the Raiders with a splendid 36-point performance. Teammate Elizabeth Morneault also hit for double figures, netting 11 points.
The hosts led 36-22 at halftime and extended their lead to 59-34 after three quarters. The Lightning came out strong and started the fourth quarter on a 9-1 run with several of the Raiders starters on the bench.
“But I wouldn’t say that’s the reason (for the Hunting Hills surge),” said Kathy Lalor. “In the second quarter we worked really hard at controlling the boards because in the first quarter I felt that they (Lightning) did a really good job of that.
“That kind of carried over into the third quarter and in the fourth quarter we just let them get on the boards again. So it has to be something that’s on our minds for the next game.”
Nicole Fisher paced the Lightning offence with 18 points, while Brooke Vanhantsaeme scored 10 and Madi Nimmo added nine.
In the end, the Raiders’ fast-break game was too much to handle for their opponents.
“We like to get out and run,” said the Raiders coach. “We worked hard on it this year and running has always helped with our endurance. We don’t get caught standing still too much on defence. We get beat on the boards sometimes but we don’t get caught much defensively.”
The final score, Lalor insisted, was not a good indicator of how the game was played.
“The score sometimes is not indicative of the play and I thought that was a pretty hard fought game,” she said. “We had a couple of girls who shot pretty well tonight and Nicole had a good night for them.
“It was a great game, and again, the score wasn’t indicative of the play. I thought they were a little better on the boards than us and we were a little better speed-wise.”
Lalor isn’t worried about her players looking past the Lightning in Game 2.
“It’s one game and anything can happen,” said the coach. “Our girls know that. They came in here prepared to work hard tonight. In talking to them before the game they basically said to each other that we know what we have to do.”
A third game, if necessary, will be played Friday at Lindsay Thurber. The zone winner will advance to the provincial 4A championship tournament March 19-22 at Edmonton Jasper Place.