The difference between the Lindsay Thurber Raiders and Hunting Hills Lightning has been minimal this season, so it’s no surprise the Central Alberta High School boys’ 4A zone basketball final is going the distance.
The Raiders forced the third and deciding game tonight at 6 p.m. at Hunting Hills with an 80-70 victory over the Lightning at Hunting Hills Thursday.
“We’ve split the first two games we’ve played this season and they were both close,” said Raiders head coach Dwayne Lalor. “Tonight was the fact we hit a couple more shots than they did.”
“It was a 10-point game, but we could have called a time out and tried to narrow the gap, but it didn’t mean anything,” said Lightning head coach Scott Doan. “It was another close game.”
For the second straight meeting the Raiders outplayed the Lightning in the third quarter, this time to take a 56-53 lead after trailing 40-30 at the half.
“We played well in the third quarter and tonight we kept making our shots. On Wednesday we’d get ahead then didn’t execute,” explained Lalor.
The teams were tied at 67 in the final quarter, but when Ben Pasiuk hit a jumper put the Raiders up 69-67 they never trailed.
Parker Cook played a key role in the final outcome as he hit a pair of baskets and a free throw to give the Raiders a 76-69 lead with just over two minutes remaining.
“We made the shots we needed to and it relaxed everyone, which was important for us,” added Lalor.
“This was a must-win for us and now it sets the stage where a bunch of guys on both sides will be going for the big prize.”
Tanner Rehn was a major factor in the Raiders success as he finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds.
“He’s a player,” said Lalor. “He has the talent to play in the CIS.”
“Last year we had Dallas (Hancox) inside, but he’s not around this year so he’s hard to handle inside,” said Doan when talking about Rehn. “But that’s the best we can do.”
The Lightning still have home court advantage, but it’s not something that Doan feels confident with.
“In theory it should be an advantage, but nothing comes easy.”
Cook added 15 points, Gage Rehn 13 and Pasiuk 12 for the Raiders while Sean Campbell had 27 points, Mackenzie Wright 16 and Jesse Ross 12 for the Lightning.
Raiders 72 Lightning 36
On the girls’ side the Raiders jumped out into a 17-4 first quarter lead and coasted to a 72-36 victory over the Lightning to win the best-of-three zone final 2-0.
The Raiders were never challenged as they dominated the game with their pressure defence and fast break offence.
“They played well and forced a number of turnovers that turned into fast-break points,” said Lightning head coach Jill de Jonge. “It’s hard to guard someone in transition.”
On the other side Raiders head coach Kathy Lalor couldn’t have been happier.
“We played excellent team defence, did a great job on the boards and with our help-side defence,” she said. “Our defence certainly created offence.”
The Raiders don’t have a lot of height, but use their speed and quickness to control the play.
“We have speed and we capitalized on it,” said Lalor, who used everyone on her bench over the last quarter, including a pair of Grade 10s she brought up from the junior varsity program.
“It gives them a chance to play at this level, plus we’ll take them to the provincials so they see that as well,” said Lalor.
De Jonge also had a pair of younger JV players on her roster.
“This experience will do them nothing but good,” she said. “We have about nine girls returning next year so this has to help them.”
The Raiders will compete in the provincials, set for Lethbridge and Raymond, March 20-22.
“We’ve played some decent teams this year and played well in a couple of games and no so well in others,” said Lalor. “We want to go down and have a solid performance. Do the little things right, like boxing out and taking good shots and see where we’re at.”
Emma Newton led the Raiders with 16 points while Kelsey Lalor added 14, Kelsie Smale 12 and Reece McGuire eight. Allie Busch and Zaza Lockhart had eight each for the Lightning.