Cougars 52 Raiders 38
The Notre Dame Cougars were confident, but not over-confident heading into their Central Alberta senior high 4A girls sudden-death basketball playoff game versus the visiting Lindsay Thurber Raiders Thursday.
In fact . . .
“They had butterflies at the beginning of the game,” confessed Cougars coach John Groenen. “And it showed. They missed a few easy shots in the first half because of that. It was just a nervous thing.”
The clubs were knotted 21-21 at halftime, but the Cougars’ offence started to click in the third quarter and the hosts rolled to a 52-38 victory and gained a berth in the zone final with the Hunting Hills Lightning, a best-of-three set that will start Tuesday. Molly Li drained a pair of baskets from long range to kickstart the Cougars’ second-half attack and finished with 14 points.
“Full measure to Thurber. They played us hard in the first half,” said Groenen. “In the third quarter we settled down on defence, Molly hit a couple of big threes for us and all of a sudden the lid was off. We got some nice steals and it was nice to see that all of the kids contributed.
“You could see the confidence pick up in the second half and the fans here were fantastic tonight.”
Maddi Quinn led the Cougars with 27 points. Jenna Stone and Rachel Bysterveld paced the Raiders with 10 points apiece.
“They worked hard this year,” Raiders coach Kathy Lalor said of her squad. “They’re young. We have nine Grade 11s. The other (Red Deer) high schools both have quite a few returning Grade 12s and we don’t have that.
“The girls have come a long way this year. We’re building for the future.”
And the returning Raiders may be able to build off of their first-half performance Thursday.
“We gave them (Cougars) a great first half, but they hit some threes in the second half and that was the difference in the game,” said Lalor. “Notre Dame played hard tonight. Their Grade 12s got a lot of floor time and because we’re young we were trying to play everybody.”
The Cougars will not have home-court advantage versus Hunting Hills, but that won’t interfere with their game plan.
“The key for us against Hunting Hills will be more of the same — take care of our own end first and just make sure that we limit their shots,” said Groenen. “It all starts on defence. It always does with us.”
The zone champion will advance to the 4A provincials March 15-17 at Raymond and Cardston.