The Lacombe Composite High School Senior Girls Rams basketball team is hoping to make the jump to the 4A provincials next season.
Despite a disappointing 42–85 loss to the Hunting Hills Lightning in the City Semifinals, the Rams gained a lot of traction against the Red Deer teams this season — playing tough games against the Lindsay Thurber Raiders and winning a game against the Notre Dame Cougars.
The task will be made easier for the Rams with several returning players currently in Grade 11.
“I think against the Red Deer teams we fared quite a bit better than last year. Looking forward to next year, I think we can take it even further to medal even second or first in our 4A zone. That would be a big milestone for our team and big personal accomplishment,” Guard Brie Oatway said.
Forward Maddyson Felt, who didn’t play against the Raiders due to injury, said she felt the season was a success and some hard work in the off-season and some minor tweaks to their game management would be the difference next year.
“I could definitely see that some of our team was getting down about it. I think we all knew we could beat Thurber, we just weren’t in the head space at the time. We know we are capable of anything,” she said.
Rams Guard Jenica Swartz added their team chemistry was important this year and will continue to be.
“I feel like we were in that (Lightning) game and then the score got into our head a little bit. It wasn’t that bad of a game, it just kind of got away from us. If we work on our mental game a bit, I think we can do a lot better against the Red Deer teams,” she said.
Center Peighton Melton added they have to expect the Red Deer teams to continue to play hard.
“We didn’t come out as strong (in the second half) and maybe we thought they would mellow out. They didn’t, so we have to expect them to be just as strong,” she said.
With COVID-19 stopping the Rams from playing spring and summer club ball, Guard Faith Curtis said the team is looking for other ways to improve.
“I think this is a good opportunity for us to work on our skills and develop individually before we come out again next year. We have a lot of time on our hands and we all have a ball at home. We have a lot of time to work on it,” she said.
Guard Taryn Miller said she intends to utilize her home court.
“I have a basket at my house, so I plan to work on my shot and work on my handle. I hope next season, my shot will more accurate and more consistent,” she said.
Despite the uncertain offseason, the Rams are training with the assumption being they will be competing against Red Deer teams next year.
“I feel like Hunting Hills is the team to beat and I feel like we can do it if we have the right mindset,” Felt said. “Most of us have a great mindset during the game, it was just that they were stronger than us this year. If we work on ourselves and as a team, we can beat them and get to provincials.”
Coach Murray Cunningham said having a veteran-laden team will be a huge asset next year and having quality competition, both 3A and 4A, will help them grow throughout the year.
“You get great, tough games against teams like Camrose, Sylvan, Rocky and Stettler. You don’t play them in the playoffs, so you get to try things and push things. If you don’t perform against them, you will suffer against the Red Deer teams because they’re bigger schools and they are deeper,” she said.
Coach Nadine Cunningham said it is great to see the improvement in this group.
“We have coached some of these girls since Grade 5, so it awesome to see the growth they’ve had throughout the years. We are happy to be a part of it,” she said.
Murray added, “We are proud of what the girls did this year and it is great to hear that they know exactly what we need to do for next year.”