The Notre Dame Cougars senior girls proved they can hang with the best.
In a 64-55 win over the Lindsay Thurber Raiders, the Cougars made a strong statement.
It was the first time in several years they managed to stick with the two-time Central Alberta Basketball League zone Raiders and coach Ian Rattan said it was special for his group.
“It was our most complete game of the season. I’m so happy with the way the girls executed our game plan and I’m happy with how they competed all night long, extremely proud of them,” he said.
“It’s good to have success against the teams in Red Deer. Traditionally, we haven’t had success against those teams. It’s nice to know for ourselves that we can hang with them and we’re a good basketball team too.”
Brook Dyck was the catalyst for the Cougars, getting to the hoop with ferocity and playing strong defence throughout the game. She finished the contest with a team-high 27 points.
“She was lights out. She came to play with our (junior varsity) team last year because Innisfail didn’t have a team. She ended up coming to enroll this year,” Ratten said.
“She’s been a great leader and is as good of a basketball player as she is, she’s a phenomenal person.”
Hannah Wirtanen had a game-high 27 points in the loss for the Raiders.
Rattan added that it helps to have a strong group of seven grade 12 players this year, he thinks they still have room to grow as the season moves forward.
“We’ve had a lot of games where we’ve started hot then just shut down. There’s been games where we’ve done absolutely nothing until the second half, so I was really happy with the effort (Thursday),” he said.
On the senior boys side, the Cougars are a work in progress. Without a returning player and only a few grade 12 players, they have been tested early this season. Thursday, the Lindsay Thurber Raiders topped them 70-57.
“We’re an incredibly young team… it’s been a real learning experience. Part of the thing we really miss is that leadership on the floor. Somebody that’s been there and knows how hard it is and how hard they have to work,” Cougars coach Dale Henderson said.
Henderson hasn’t let his team off the hook, facing some of the top competition in the province in tournaments this year. He believes in the long run that will help them improve and be ready to be a force next year.
“We’ve had some bad lessons on those games. Those are good teams and our guys see how hard they have to work to get to that level,” he added.
“We’re really excited about next year, but I still want to go as far as we can this year so we can learn how hard it is right now and take it with us.”
After a break for exams, the high school basketball season returns to action on Feb. 5.