March is the month of upsets in basketball and the Lindsay Thurber Raiders hope they can conjure some underdog magic this week.
College basketball’s biggest stage south of the border – March Madness starts later this week and is always ripe with dramatic defeats of top seeds.
At the same time on Thursday afternoon the top 4A Alberta high school basketball teams will compete at the Alberta Schools Athletic Association Provincials in Medicine Hat.
Both Raiders’ teams, who picked up 4A Central Zone titles last week, are ranked 14 out of 16 teams heading into provincials.
There’s still belief on each side that they can surprise a team or two at the big dance.
“As long as you go into every game knowing that if you play like you can play, you’re going to be competitive and you’re going to have a chance,” said senior girls coach Kathy Lalor, whose team will line up against the previously top-ranked Bishop Carroll.
“I think these girls believe that… I think the important thing is that they realize if they go out and play their best game, they can compete.”
On the senior boys side, Raiders coach Carl Light said the third-ranked Magrath team they’ll face is as good as any his group has seen this year.
“We’ve just been talking about the real March Madness, we know that number 14, 13 and 12 seeds get upsets all the time. We just want to make it a dream come true for this team. We’re just going to go out and have a lot of fun. Play our best and biggest ball all season,” Light said.
The Raiders senior boys were close to a provincial appearance last year but fell short in the zone final to Lacombe. They avenged last year’s defeat with a win in Game 3 of the zone final this year and senior Sean Vandervlis said it’s all about having fun from here on out.
“Good game for our whole team, no one was really the star. We just played team basketball, which we’ve been trying to play all year. We lost (zones) last year. Gave up a big lead. Good to close it out. Our first city win in 10 years,” he said.
Vandervlis added that their group always seems to get scoring by committee if one top player isn’t going on a particular night, another player will step up. He thinks that might help at provincials.
“We all play as a team, if one guy isn’t producing, then someone else steps up. We don’t have to rely on one person every game,” he said.
Lalor said the key for her team is shooting. They had their best shooting game of the season to close out the zone final against Notre Dame and they will need more of the same against Bishop Carroll.
She added the experience of a tight game in the opening game of provincials last year, an eight-point loss to Western Canada will be helpful this time around for her six seniors.
“When we went last year we were in 14th spot and every game we played at provincials last year, we were in. Sooner or later hopefully they start believing they can win some of those games,” Lalor said.
One of those returning players is senior Lauren Pasiuk. She added that the close-knit Raiders team is just hoping to bring their A-game when they open the tournament Thursday night.
“Really excited, we worked all season to get here. Really important we go out and work as hard as we can to do the best we can when it comes down to it,” she said.
The teams will depart Wednesday morning, with the senior girls starting play Thursday at 6 p.m. and the boys following at 8 p.m.