Following their semifinal game, Lacombe Composite Rams Senior Girls Coach Murray Cunningham felt confident enough to make a prediction regarding the guys game.
“They could surprise Hunting tonight. They really could,” he said.
That is exactly what the three-seeded Rams did — putting in an astonishing defensive effort to take down the two-seeded Hunting Hills Lightning 61-51 after the Lightning had previously won the regular season matchup easily.
“We had a really good plan,” Coach Tylor Johannesson said. “We played these guys a month ago and lost by 40. We studied the film for hours and the boys individually watched films on the guys they were supposed to cover. We had a good plan and they executed. It was really good to see.”
Richard Jans led the Rams with 15 points but it was the defensive effort of Daniel Kenney and Jackson Overacker on the Lightning’s best players that carried the day.
“We needed it. Our Grade 12 guys didn’t want this to be our last game. We had to put in work and it paid off,” Overacker said.
The Rams will now move on to a best-of-three matchup between either the Notre Dame Cougars or the Lindsey Thurber Raiders.
“Thurber is the heavy favourite as the best team in our league,” Johannesson said. “We will watch them Saturday and for my boys, no one expected us to be here. This year we only had one returning player and there was no one in our league that thought we would be here.
“What do we have to lose? Let’s go play basketball.”
The final schedule has yet to be announced, but Johannesson expects his team to be ready for anything.
“I am really proud of the guys. I have a great group of kids,” he said. “They are young, but they don’t stop working and I hope everyone reading this comes out to our game Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
“Maybe we can take them down and head to provincials.”
On the girls side, the Rams were looking for an upset against a highly skilled 1st-seeded Hunting Hills Lightning team.
Cunningham felt they had prepared well for their matchup, but they would ultimately go on to lose 67-24.
“We thought we had a really good gameplan coming in,” he said. “We have played games where we hit shots — we did not hit shots in this one. I was really proud of our girls today.”
Despite the lopsided score, Cunningham felt his team played a competitive first half, which ended at 28-10, that could have been helped out by a higher field goal percentage.
“The other team is really good and finished Number 1, beating all the other 4A schools. We weren’t in bad shape. If we hit some shots, we would have been in that game. They are a real tough team,” he said.
Cunningham was pleased with his team that had six Grade 10s and only two returning players from last year
“We are building the program and we have come a long way. We put in a lot of stuff this year. It is a big jump from the Wolf Creek A League to the 4A league in Red Deer,” he said.
Cunningham expects more growth next season, with more returning veterans and a talent pool that saw 40 girls try out
“For the girls team, we need more reps and to play more in the spring. We need to go to more camps and we will keep building it. It is a huge difference for kids if they can even play a couple extra months,” he said.
Cunningham was proud of his Grade 12s — Lisanne Weaver, Heather Schellenberg and Abby Pederson — who he said formed the core leadership group of the team.
“Lisanne Weaver came out last year as a Grade 11 and has been around the program,” he said. “Her athleticism and determination to never give up on a ball helps set the tone in practice. Heather Schellenberg is gutsy and plays tough in games — she goes out and hit shots and Abby Peterson did some great stuff.
“We are really happy with the way Abby was a leader in our practices and she came off the bench always ready to shoot the ball and battle out there.”
Sierra Stewart led the Rams with eight points on the night and Lightning guard Marrissa Richards led all scorers with 13 points.
Cunningham wanted to thank the athletes, parents and the school for all the support they received this season.