By Zachary Cormier
With the Christmas break over, the Lacombe Composite High School Rams basketball teams hit the ground running Tuesday when they played host to the Notre Dame Cougars at LCHS.
Both the boys and girls senior teams were in action Tuesday night, and while both teams put in a good effort, the results couldn’t have been more different.
Let’s start with the boys.
The senior boys Rams were 0-2 in league play going into the evening, having played only four games together including exhibitions.
By contrast, Notre Dame went into the game on a hot streak, riding high on a third-place finish in their home tournament and a couple of key wins in league play.
“We drew the four toughest teams right off the start, haven’t had any tournaments yet. They haven’t really dealt with a team like that last one, and it shows,” said Head Coach Wayne Gustafson after the 89-33 loss.
It seemed like the Cougars were a beat ahead of the Rams right from the word ‘go’, surging to a 10-point lead before three minutes had ticked off the clock.
After that it became difficult for the Rams to find a foothold on either end of the court.
Offensively, they couldn’t get past the Cougars’ pressing defense, who forced a number of turnovers in the back court as well as inside the key. Offensively, Notre Dame showed an incredible ability to find the open lanes and drive to the basket.
In short, Lacombe was just out-worked and out-muscled, and by the end of the first half the score stood at 52-14.
“Basically, at halftime I just said look, that was awful. In the first half we got completely out-worked. We’re obviously not going to come back and win this game, so now it’s 0-0 on the scoreboard. We’re playing for pride. It’s all about heart and wanting to work and win this thing,” Gustafson said of the speech he gave to his players at the end of the first half.
The second half was much better for the Rams, who actually outscored Notre Dame in the first couple minutes of the third quarter and held them to just 37 points in the final 20 minutes while scoring 19 points themselves, not bad considering how the first half went.
Although the outcome was not quite what he envisioned before the game, Gustafson said the team was going to take the loss as a learning experience and continue to get better.
“I hope they take away that it really doesn’t feel good to get out-hustled and out-worked, which they did in the first quarter,” he said.
The second half also showed that the team has the ability to keep pace with a team like Notre Dame.
“They’ve got some good, fast forwards and some players that can pick up the rebounds pretty well. There were also a couple of good blocks and steals scattered throughout the game that showed the makings of a good defensive core. All they have to do is pull all of those pieces together before playoffs roll around.
“We’ll be ready. Playoffs are still two months away and it’s a learning process,” Gustafson said.
The senior boys will be back in action this weekend along with their junior Varsity counterparts when they head out to Cash for their first tournament of the year.
In contrast to the boy’s game, the red-hot LCHS senior girls ended up clawing their way to a victory during their showdown against Notre Dame Tuesday night in what may end up being one of the closest games of the entire season.
Notre Dame weren’t going to go down easy, and they fought Lacombe every step of the way and matching them blow for blow.
Eventually, though, after a hard-fought battle, Lacombe managed to down the Cougars 50-45 in double-overtime.
“We didn’t start very well, we were really flat, so to come back and win in double-overtime, it’s pretty exciting,” said Head Coach Doug Bennett after the game.
After getting down early in the first quarter, Lacombe managed to fight their way back, going on a 5-2 scoring run to take a 9-7 lead into the second.
The game went on like that with Lacombe holding a 25-20 lead four minutes into the second half and Notre Dame keeping pace just behind.
Suddenly, though, the Cougars came surging back and went on a 7-0 scoring run to take a 27-25 lead going into the fourth quarter.
“It was a bit of a nail-biter. Some bad turnovers at spots,” Bennett said.
The fourth quarter was when Lacombe really showed their teeth.
A dramatic final push from the Rams that saw the Rams go on a five-point scoring run in the dying minutes of the fourth thanks to scoring efforts from Katie McMillen, who had a team-high 14 points (most of them coming in overtime), and Danielle Wilson who managed to pot the equalizer in the final minute.
“Some girls came through at the end. There were some girls that didn’t show up early that, at the end of the game, made some important baskets,” Bennett said.
After the first five-minute OT solved nothing, the Rams came out flying. Five different Rams contributed in the extra quarters, including a huge three pointer from Adi Waqatabu in the last minute, to clinch the victory.
The next home game for the senior boys’ and girls’ teams will be Feb. 2nd against Ponoka Secondary at 6 p.m.