The Lindsay Thurber Raiders are underdogs heading into the Alberta Schools Athletic Association 4A basketball provincials.
Both the Raiders senior boys and girls tip off provincials on Thursday morning in Edmonton and both are ranked 15th out 16 teams at the tournament.
That is no problem for Raiders senior girls head coach Kathy Lalor, who leads an inexperienced group to the big dance this season.
They have just one full-time starter from last year’s group that played at provincials, so they even surprised themselves with strong play down the stretch and beat Hunting Hills in the zone final to qualify.
“The last month, they have been amazing at practice. They have worked so hard. Things just started to click and they’ve started to get stuff. We’ve been getting more confident with what we’ve been doing,” Lalor said.
“We didn’t have many returning players. Of the returning players, only one was a regular starter. I think it took a lot of time to make the adjustment understanding the game at the next level.”
Led by guard Jamie Lalor and Hannah Wirtanen, the Raiders will square off against the number two ranked Bishop Carroll Cardinals. The Cardinals are anchored by Yvonne Ejim, a grade 11 power forward who plays for Team Canada Women’s U17 team.
“Are we in a spot to be competitive with every team here? I think so and that’s all you can hope for, is to be able to go out there at this time of year and give every team that is at the tournament a really good game,” the head coach added.
Joel Carroll, in his first year at the helm of the Raiders senior boys, has his team set to square off against the Western Canada Redhawks. The Raiders senior boys ousted the Lacombe Rams in the 4A zone final last week.
Nathaniel McIntosh is the Raiders go-to player and had a game-high 34 points in the first of two games in the zone final.
In 3A girls play, the Wetaskiwin Wildcats are the second-ranked team. They get a bye to open the tournament in Athabasca. On the boys side, the H.J. Cody Lakers are ranked sixth of 12 teams and play W.H. Crawford to kick off action in Brooks.
Pigeon Lake represents the central in 2A girls play and Our Lady of Mount Pleasant Catholic School is the 2A team on the boys side.
In 1A play, Central Alberta Christian High School Knights girls travel to Lloydminster and take on the host E.H. Walter. New Norway School is the 1A central zone representative on the boys side.
For more information on the provincial championships and live scoring, check out www.asaa.ca/championships/list/basketball.