If you have the horses you might as well gallop.
“I’d like to a be a little more up tempo team this year and I think I have the athletes to do that,” Notre Dame Cougars coach Ed Major said Tuesday, following his club’s 57-51 senior high girls basketball win over the visiting Sylvan Lake H.J. Cody Lakers.
Major, in his first year on the girls bench after handling head coaching duties with the senior boys Cougars the previous three seasons, has three returning players in guard Ayzhel Tultog and posts Gemma Davis and Hayley Hollings, all Grade 12 students.
“All three of them were integral parts of last year’s team, Gemma and Hayley especially on the inside,” said Major. “They really provided a lot of scoring for the team.”
Major expects that and more from his veterans this season, and he also likes the ability and potential of his first-year players. The rookies are Grade 10 point guards Erin Tanagras and Ireland Black, Grade 11 guard Shae Best, Grade 11 wings Kamryn Henderson, Kennedy Sommerville and Sarah Koopmans, Grade 11 post Lexi Kowalchuk and Grade 12 post Heather Daniel.
“My Grade 10 girls can handle the ball and they can run,” said Major. “I think I have the girls who can shoot from the wing and then we have our post players who are pretty dominant.
“We’re hoping to be able to get down the court and if we don’t get a good shot away, then get it inside.”
The Cougars finished 6-3 in league play last season, then lost in the zone semifinals. With Red Deer hosting the 2016 provincials in March, two city schools will gain berths.
Major is all but conceding the Lindsay Thurber Raiders one of the spots.
“Thurber is a pretty good team, so it might be between us and Hunting Hills. We’re going to battle it out for that second spot,” he said.
“We’ll see what happens when we play Hunting Hills. They have some tall girls and some experience as well.
“It’s going to be a battle, for sure.”
Notre Dame faces Hunting Hills in league play Feb. 23, two weeks after the Cougars clash with Lindsay Thurber.
Davis paced the Cougars with 23 points Tuesday, while Best and Black each scored 11. Megan Steenbergen netted 15 points for the Lakers, who also got 14 from Alli Kondor and 12 from Erin Bryenton.
The victory gave Notre Dame a 3-0 record heading into the Christmas break.
“I was hoping to have that record at this point,” said Major. “The girls have made it a little tougher on themselves than they’ve probably had to, but the teams we’ve played are all scrappy teams and their guard play was really good.
“We’ve played against Grade 12 guards and our guards are in Grade 10 and 11. But our guard play is improving, they are definitely learning.”
Later, the Notre Dame senior boys dropped an 87-82 decision to H.J. Cody while being outscored 17-7 from the free-throw line.
Cody White paced the Cougars with 25 points and Josh Ballantyne netted 18 before fouling out.
• In another senior girls game Tuesday, the Raiders cruised past Innisfail 84-26 at Lindsay Thurber.
Kiera Fujimoto led the Raiders with 20 points, while Kelsey Lalor drained 17 and Hayley Lalor scored 10. Innisfail’s top scorer was Emily McCook with 14 points.
In the boys contest, the Raiders got 23 points from Ben Pasiuk in a 96-26 victory. Vince Barbuco added 18 points for the hosts and Andrew Ma scored 17.