Add four more bronze to Lacombe’s Alberta Summer Games medal total – the basketball players are coming home with hardware.
Jonathan Ericson, Cale Hamelin Carter McLenahan and Andrew Cunningham were part of the Zone 4 basketball team that took the bronze medal, defeating Zone 4 in the bronze final.
Coach Jody Watson said he couldn’t be happier with how the team played and added the medal victory was actually quite unexpected.
“We didn’t have any huge expectations,” said Watson. “A bronze medal was certainly a pleasant surprise.”
Watson went on to say that, traditionally, Zone 4 is not particularly strong in basketball.
As such he was more than happy with the third place finish and said the only teams Zone 4 lost to were the first and second place finishers.
Cunningham said he too was a little unsure of how the team would perform.
“I don’t know if I expected to win a medal coming in,” said Cunningham.
He added he knew there would be some stiff competition and wasn’t sure if Zone 4 would be strong enough to overcome that competition.
While the expectations for Zone 4 were not particularly high before entering the tournament, Watson said it soon became clear that the team had the drive to go far.
“As soon as we started playing you could tell the guys were really, really hungry for it,” said Watson. “They put everything out there every single game.”
Prior to the Alberta Summer Games, Cunningham had said one of the things he was looking forward to was seeing what the competition was like across Alberta. What he learned was that there is some stiff competition in other zones.
“I found out there is a lot of really talented basketball players,” said Cunningham.
Watson said one of the reasons the competition was stiff is that many of the zones can pull players from larger and sometimes more competitive pools.
“They can draw from so many more players than we possibly can.”
McLenahan said that, while the larger centres may have bigger pools of players to choose from, he thinks Central Alberta has some excellent coaches and very competitive players.
He added that one of the things he was looking forward to about the Alberta Summer Games was meeting and playing with new players. Afterwards, he said the experience did not disappoint.
“It was really fun, I had a really great time,” said McLenahan. “They are an awesome group of people and really fun to hang around. They really know how to play basketball.”
In the bronze medal final, Zone 4 was able to defeat Zone 5 handily in a 69-46 game. Watson said this was due to Zone 4 peaking, putting on the pressure and the loss of a key Zone 5 player halfway through the game.
With the large score gap, Watson was able to make sure everyone got to play in the bronze medal game.
“To get everybody in that bronze medal game was really great for those players.”
As with many of the Alberta Summer Games teams, the basketball team had some difficulty developing a team chemistry at first.
Luckily, Watson had some time to get them ready and planned several practice sessions in each of the communities that players had been drawn from to help bring the team together. In addition to the practices, the team even got the chance to play together in a few tournaments before the games.
Watson said the team really came together when it counted.
“They did so many little things right,” said Watson. “We played our best game in our last game so they were just kind of peaking at the right time.”
The Alberta Summer Games, which ran July 24-27th, featured an array of sports including baseball, canoe/kayak, cycling (BMX and Mountain Bike), lacrosse, rugby, soccer, swimming, softball and volleyball among others.
Approximately 3,000 athletes, coaches and officials were expected to take part.