Jenica Swartz scored two of her 11 points en route to a 53-52 Lacombe Rams win against the Notre Dame Cougars. (Todd Colin Vaughan/LACOMBE EXPRESS)

Lacombe Sr. Girl Rams topple Cougars 53-52

Peighton Melton go-ahead bucket puts Rams over Red Deer Rival

Lacombe Rams 53 – 52 Notre Dame Cougars

The Lacombe Composite High School Senior Girls Rams Basketball team came into 2020 with a bang, winning their first game of the new year 53-52 against the Notre Dame Cougars.

Centre Peighton Melton, who finished with 15 points on the night, played the hero, grabbing a rebound and cashing in the ensuing put-back bucked to put the Rams up one after the teams traded baskets for much of the second half.

“We had a few let-down games at the end of the first half of the year, but the girls came out strong and probably played the best first half we have played,” Head Coach Murray Cunningham said. “Notre Dame hit a whole bunch of shots and then it cooled off to some ugly basketball in the second half.

“We will win ugly games.”

After the Cougars started on a 12-5 run, the Rams responded by gaining the lead and playing Notre Dame fairly equal throughout the rest of the game — with the Cougars not getting up by more than 4.

“I am really proud of the girls for responding each time. We are hoping to stay in games and then win at the end and against a really quality opponent, that’s what we did. It was impressive how the girls fended of the runs,” Cunningham said.

The Rams success can be partially attributed to figuring out an aggressive Cougar full-court press, which forced Lacombe turnovers early in the game.

“They are athletic, they are fast, they are smart how they do things and they have some bigs that can really jump lanes and make it tough. I thought a bunch of our girls played well and figured it out through the game,” Cunningham said

The Rams now sit at 2-2 in league play, which could easily be 4-0 if it not for a rough game against Camrose and an overtime loss to Sylvan Lake. Cunningham said the next two weeks will be important in terms of playoff seeding — with a second play home-court advantage still in play.

“For us it is about challenging the girls to take it to the next step by hitting open shots and stopping the players they are defending.

“Hunting and Wetaskwin are probably the two toughest teams, but Sylvan is good; St. Joe’s is good — there are a lot of good teams in the league. If we come out and play like this, we can beat most teams,” Cunningham said.

Jenica Swartz was a big part of this win with 11 points and will be a key piece going forward, along with Nina Secretario who hit a big three late in the game to put the Rams within a point.

“Jenica hasn’t played that much basketball but she has a really good sport sense,” Cunningham said. “She is looking up the floor and it really helps to have someone with that athleticism. She has played really well for us.

“It is nice to have a player like Nina lead us and Peighton has come in and done some big things.”

Cunningham praised all of his players for coming in after the Christmas break prepared.

“It is nice to see when it works. Win or lose, that is one of the best games we have played and it is nice to see the girls keep playing and stepping up to the next level.”

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Abby Peterson finished through traffic during the Lacombe Rams 53-52 win over the Notre Dame Cougars. (Todd Colin Vaughan/LACOMBE EXPRESS)

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