After being away from the team for close to two years Erika Pottage wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when she returned to the bench for Notre Dame Cougars girls’ basketball team this season.
Pottage left for her maternity leave in the middle of the 2011-12 season, then took all of last year off.
“I could have returned partway through last season, but that wouldn’t have been fair to the coaches or the players,” explained Pottage, who coached two of her players two years ago — Brooke Hardy and Candice Morse.
“They are the only two I know,” she said. “Overall we’re an athletic team, but young and very raw. But the players are like sponges. They’re easy to coach, but being so young makes it tough as the experience isn’t there.
“Last year wasn’t as successful as they wanted, so this year it’s a new experience for all the girls with me being back, except for the two girls I had in Grade 10,” added Pottage following a 49-37 victory over the Sylvan Lake Lakers in Central Alberta High School Basketball League action at Notre Dame Tuesday.
“What we need to continue to develop is our confidence and that comes with experience.”
Pottage has only four players in Grade 12 to go with six Grade 11s and two Grade 10s — both post players.
Both Grade 10s — Kirsten Pinkney and Hayley Hollings —have impressed.
“Hayley is a dominant rebounder and tonight was one of her best games as far as driving to the hoop. As for Kirsten she averages almost a double-double every game.”
Hardy, Morse, Mataya Dixon and Stacy Chomyn are in Grade 12 and all played last year along with point guard Autumn Letkeman and wing Cierra Stephens. Backup point guard Katrina Logan, who didn’t play at all last year, Elise Martinoski, Alyssa Reid and Chelsie Antonio are the other Grade 11s.
“Overall rebounding is one of our strengths,” said Pottage. “As well Autumn has come a long way and I feel she can develop so she can play college ball.”
Pottage has also rotated her roster this season, allowing everyone to develop to a point where they will contribute to the team.
“I’d rather play all 12 players and win by 12 points than use five or six players and win by 30,” she said. “By the end of the year we may need those players to come off the bench and feel confident in themselves.”
Pottage likes playing in the Central Alberta League, so that she can use everyone.
“It prepares us for the end of the year when we have to face (Lindsay) Thurber and Hunting Hills in the 4A playoffs,” she said. “From what I hear all three schools are young, so it will be a matter of whoever comes together and is more consistent.”
The Cougars have done well on the tournament trail, placing third at McNally and Strathmore.
“We lost by three in the semifinal in McNally and by six at Strathmore, so we were right there,” said Pottage.
Dixon led the Cougars against the Lakers with 12 points while Letkeman added 10 and Stephens eight. Anna Carslon had nine points and Taylor Vick eight for the Lakers.
Cougars 103 Lakers 54
In boys’ action the Cougars, after being tied at 24-24 in the second quarter, exploded for a 103-534 win over the Lakers.
Eleven players scored for the Cougars who got 20 points from Amet Deng, 15 from Ken Villaluz and 10 points and 11 rebounds from Jackson Haddow. Edmark Mills had 15 points, which included four three-pointers, for the Lakers.
l Meanwhile at Linsday Thurber, the Raiders took both ends of a twin bill off the Stettler Wildcats, winning the girls’ game 74-29 and the boys’ contest 88-39.
Emma Newton had 21 points, Kelsey Lalor 16 and Lizzy Morneault 14 for the LTCHS girls while Dacia Gramlick had 15 for the ‘Cats.
Parker Cook hit 14 points, Ben Pasiuk 13 and Tanner Rehn 12 for the LTCHS boys. Ben Nichols had 16 for Stettler.
l In other girls’ play the Wetaskiwin Sabres downed the Lacombe Rams 71-43 as Mary Krause had 25 points, Michaela Barkwell 14 and Emma Ripka 10. Kirsten Ramsay had 22 for the Rams.
l In Ponoka, the Broncs edged West Central Rebels of Rocky Mountain House 40-32 in girls’ play and won 92-36 in boys’ action.
Lee Travis had 21 points and Clinton Braithwaite 15 for the Ponoka boys.