BREAKTHROUGH - Sierra Laye

High school basketball heats up during provincials

It was not an easy weekend for Red Deer’s high school basketball teams during the 2016 Alberta High Schools’ Athletic Association 4A Basketball Provincials.

The Provincial tournament, which was held at Red Deer’s three high schools from Thursday through Saturday last weekend, featured 32 of the best boys and girls high school basketball teams from around Alberta, all vying for the provincial championship.

“We were happy with the outcome,” said Kathy Lalor, the head coach of the Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School Raiders girls’ team, who were Red Deer’s biggest winners on the weekend.

Lalor’s team ended up winning the consolation final of the tournament, defeating the St. Mary’s Saints 68-64 in overtime at Lindsay Thurber on Saturday morning.

It was a good weekend overall for LTCHS, who only lost a single game on the weekend. The only problem was the game they lost was their first of the tournament, a 56-43 defeat at the hands of the fifth seed Spruce Grove Panthers, which determined which side of the bracket they would be playing on.

“We weren’t happy with how well we played (in that first game). You know, 43 is a low number of points for us,” Lalor said.

The Raiders bounced back well, though, and earned a big 72-43 victory over Foothill Composite High School in their next game on Friday morning.

Lalor said that game, in particular, really turned things around for the team.

“I really felt like, that game, every girl on our team made a huge contribution. Whether it was in scoring or playing good defense or coming off the bench and being able to give us some really good minutes. I just thought it was probably one of our best team games of the year.”

And Thurber wasn’t done yet, as they kept the momentum going and rolled to a big upset win over ninth seeded Cardston 79-71 on Friday evening.

“Cardston is a very good team and we knew we were going to have to play one of our best games to beat them,” Lalor said.

“Friday was just a great day because we played four good quarters in each of those games and that’s something, as a coach, that you really hope happens by the end of the season.”

The win over Cardston set the stage for the consolation final on Saturday morning against St. Mary’s.

“We set a goal after that (first) game, we wanted to try to win the consolation and we knew we were going to have to play hard to do it,” Lalor said.

With just two seeds separating St. Mary’s and LTCHS in the standings, it was bound to be a dramatic matchup.

“They’re always a good team,” Lalor said of the Saints.

But the Raiders were on a mission and came out of the gates flying. They led the game through the first three quarters of play, scoring 54 points in the first three quarters alone while holding their opposition to just 41.

“Our first three quarters, I thought, were really solid. We played good defense, ran our fast breaks and we were able to put the ball in the hoop.”

The fourth quarter, though, was a bit of a different story.

“Our last quarter, we struggled,” Lalor said.

The Raiders managed to score just four points in the final quarter as the Saints came surging back on a 17-2 run to take a 58-56 lead into the final minute of the fourth.

“You could kind of see the fatigue of the weekend setting in. It was our fourth game and our fourth really hard game in three days,” Lalor said, adding that her team rose to the challenge and a last minute two pointer by Kelsey Lalor sent it to overtime.

“In that overtime, I really felt like our girls just put their nose to the grind and just went and got the job done,” Kathy said.

The Raiders scored a couple of early layups to grab hold of the lead and didn’t let go. Even as St. Mary’s pushed back by sinking four foul shots and a two pointer, the Raiders responded with three two pointers and a foul shot of their own.

A pair of perfectly placed foul shots by Nikki Thomas with just seconds remaining in the overtime frame sealed the deal.

“I was really, really pleased with them because that’s what you work towards as a coach,” Kathy said.

“It’s a funny thing with this group of girls. I just totally believe in them as a group. Even when we tied it up, it wasn’t like I was stressed out when I was talking to them because I knew what they had done all year. This year, as a core group, they have worked so hard. I wasn’t actually feeling that nervous.”

Among the other Red Deer teams playing in the tournament, the Notre Dame boys’ team came away tied for 13th and the LTCHS boys and Hunting Hills girls’ squads lost in their 13th place matchups.

zcormier@reddeerexpress.com

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