The Lacombe Junior High Senior Girls Basketball team were undefeated going into their zone championship game against St. Thomas out of Red Deer.
After winning their league, beating St. Thomas earlier in the season and being able to hang a Wolf Creek JJJ Championship banner — the Lions were feeling confident.
St. Thomas, however, would go to win Zones, putting the only dent in the Lion’s otherwise sterling season.
“I was looking forward to those girls bringing home the C.W.A.J.A.A banner because those girls had worked hard enough to deserve it, but with the top five teams in Red Deer really made it anyone’s game,” Lions Head Coach Nadine Cunningham said.
Cunningham said that, despite the one loss, the season was a great one for both the Lions and girls basketball in Lacombe.
“Right from the start, we took 15 girls — which was a lot, but we are trying to develop a program where girls can continue on. We want to get girls better and interested and involved,” she said.
“We had a good group of girls who were really eager to learn and do better — with three of them having never played the game ever.”
Cunningham said the Zone loss to St. Thomas will only help her girls long-term, with 10 of them moving on to Lacombe Composite High School where Cunningham also coaches with her husband Murray Cunningham.
She said being able to develop fundamentals at this age will only be helpful down the road.
“You don’t have to teach those things in high school and you can focus on other things,” she said. “We had three teams, so two other people stepped up and coached junior teams which only makes our program better.”
Being able to bring basketball to Lacombe kids is something the Cunninghams are passionate about.
“We love the game and we want to get kids excited about it. We want to have something around Lacombe where kids can go and play,” she said.
Cunningham will continue to coach both club and Alberta Games teams throughout the summer, with many of her players from Lacombe Junior High continuing to play.
“We are really proud of them and we are happy to be able to coach. Hopefully the girls had some fun and want to keep playing,” she said.