Hunting Hills Lightning boys’ basketball head coach Stephen Pottage isn’t bragging when he says his starting five is as strong as any in the province.
What he doesn’t have is a lot of depth.
“We go seven or eight deep,” he said. “So the biggest challenge is to keep our starters out of foul trouble and manage their energy so we get 35 minutes out of them.”
On the other hand, the girls’ edition of the Lightning have depth to go with a solid starting lineup.
“We are deeper than the guys team and we have a lot of girls with sound skills,” said girls’ head coach Jill Potts, who has eight veterans returning.
Pottage, who is in his first season as the senior boys’ head coach, has five veterans, including six-foot-eight Jared Ruston, who he considers one of the premier big men in the province.
“From what I’ve seen he’s as good as anyone when he comes to play,” said Pottage, following the Lightning’s 74-50 victory over the Archbishop MacDonald Mauraders of Edmonton in their opening game of the 16th annual Hunting Hills senior boys’ and girls’ basketball tournament Friday.
Ruston joins point guard Pedro Porto Alegre, guard Travis Czainski, Cody Bourque and Lindsay Thurber transfer Chris Karambamuchero in the starting lineup.
Ruston and Porto Alegre are two of the key players.
“When Jared and Pedro are off the court it’s a big deal,” said Pottage, who worked with the JV program last season and also helped coach with the RDC Kings.
Czainski, Drew Hamilton, Porto Alegre and Connor Oshust also return from last season, but saw limited playing time.
Six-foot-three, 250-pound Jose Liso of Brazil, who is highly recruited by the University of Calgary football team, and six-foot-five Kyle Klootwyk also see significant playing time while Jon Boutin, Wyle Cunningham and Tyler Rutherford round out the roster.
The Lightning came into the weekend with a 9-2 record over their last 11 starts.
“We didn’t start great this season, but fortunately we’re starting to play well at the right time,” said Pottage, whose squad will have to face the Notre Dame Cougars in a one game playoff in the zone 4A semifinal. The winner will face the LTCHS Raiders in a best-of-three.
Czainski led the Lightning against the Mauraders with 27 points while Karambamuchero added 13. Mac Dederich had 11 for the Mauraders.
The Lightning will face Calgary Bowness at noon today in the semifinal. Bowness downed Lloydminster 94-34 while on the other side Strathcona of Edmonton beat Notre Dame 70-51 and Lindsay Thurber downed Grande Prairie 88-78. The LTCHS-Strathcona game goes at 1:45 p.m. with the final at 8:45 p.m.
The Hunting Hills girls’ dropped an 91-63 decision to a senior ladies team in their tournament opener, but still advanced. The senior team is filling in for a team that dropped out last week.
The Lightning have had a solid season, winning the Notre Dame and the Okotoks Foothills tournaments while placing second at Henry Wise Wood in Calgary and Catholic Central in Lethbridge and third last weekend at LTCHS. They also took the consolation title at Airdrie’s Bert Church.
“This is the first winning season I’ve had here as a head coach,” said Potts, who is in her fourth year with the program.
The big thing is her veterans have stepped up, she said.
“We can score more than we have in the past” she said. “Our shooting is more consistent, so when teams play a zone it doesn’t hurt as much. As well we’ve done a good job of running the court and getting more fast-break points.”
The Lightning are led by a pair of third-year veterans in wing Ainsley Wright and post player Brooke Hanson as well as solid forward Lexi Kambeitz and second-year Grade 11 point guard Amanda Stonehouse.
Other veterans are forward Corbie Fedyk and guards Dacey Livingstone, Sara Codd and Whitney Robinson.
Potts also has a pair of Grade 10s in forwards Brittani Blake and Teighan Ponto and two JV grads in inside players Hanna Wunsch and Braelyn Winter.
The Lightning will also face Notre Dame in the zone semifinal with the winner clashing with LTCHS.
“You never know what will happen in a one-game situation, but I believe we’re where we want to be,” added Potts.
Wright led the Lightning against the senior squad with 12 points while Kambeitz added nine and Livingstone and Hanson had eight each. Jody Potts had 26 points, Carla Stewart 22 and Fiona Hicks 11 for the ladies.
The Lightning will clash with Lindsay Thurber at noon today after LTCHS beat Lloydminster 81-65.
The 1:45 p.m. semifinal sees Archbishop MacDonald taking on Grand Prairie. MacDonald beat Notre Dame 51-42 and Grande Prairie downed Lord Beaverbrook of Calgary 52-39.
The final is set for 7 p.m.