Lightning 57 Cougars 47
A stout defence is vital in the playoffs, as the Hunting Hills Lightning proved yet again on Thursday.
The Lightning held the host Notre Dame Cougars to 16 second-half points en route to a 57-47 victory in the central zone 4A girls high school basketball semifinal, in the process advancing to a best-of-three final against the Lindsay Thurber Raiders starting on Tuesday.
“We got most of our offensive looks off of our defence,” said Lightning coach Jill de Jonge. “That’s something we’ve really been working on and something I think we’ll have to bring into next week.”
De Jonge directed accolades to her entire team, with the likes of back-up point guard Wendy Cortes, Dacey Livingstone, Braelyn Winter and top scorer Brittani Blake getting special mention.
“We had some key players step up tonight. That was the most controlled, composed game that I’ve seen Wendy play this year and it came out of nowhere,” said de Jonge.
“And Dacey did a great job of defending Molli Li. She’s a phenomenal player and scored a lot of their (Cougars’) points, but Dacey did a great job of not giving her a few extra. We also had Braelyn pulling down some major rebounds for us and Brittany scored 24 points, the most she’s scored in a game all year.
“My kids have been throwing the ball away. We had trouble with that the last little while, but managed to get it under control tonight.”
The Lightning, who fell behind early but rallied to take a 49-43 lead after three quarters and then kept their momentum over the final 10 minutes, got secondary scoring from Winter, who had nine points, and Corbie Fedyk, who drained eight.
Li paced the Cougars with 18 points, while Megan Schmidt also hit for double figures with 10.
“It’s tough. We’ve had so many obstacles to overcome this season and we’ve come so far,” said an emotional Notre Dame coach Erika Pottage. “I couldn’t have asked for a better start tonight, we just couldn’t finish the game.
“We missed a few box-outs and Hunting Hills is a strong enough team that they capitalized on those and made those easy shots inside.”
While the Cougars’ offence pretty much dried up in the second half, they managed to hold the Lightning to eight points in the final quarter.
“Neither team scored much in the last quarter. But we struggled that way after the first half,” said Pottage. “You’re not going to win games if you can’t put the ball in the hoop.”
Pottage will have her three most consistent players this season — Li, Schmidt and Maddi Quinn — return for the 2011-12 campaign. Emily Elkins and Luwam Ghezehl will also be back.
The Raiders will host Game 1 of the zone final on Tuesday. The series will shift to Hunting Hills on Thursday and a third game, if necessary, will be played on Friday at Lindsay Thurber.
l In 3A girls’ playoff action, the Ponoka Broncs downed the West Central Rebels of Rocky Mountain House 60-24 on Wednesday to advance to the quarter-finals against Lacombe.
Victoria Rose had 14 points and Danielle Davies 11 for the Broncs, while Brittini Turner had nine points for the Rebels.