BY ZACHARY CORMIER
A thin piece of metal attached to a backboard was the only thing standing between the Lacombe Composite High School Rams Sr. boys basketball team and a dramatic gold medal win at their home tournament this past weekend.
With his team trailing the visiting Brooks High School Buffalos 69-67, Rams point guard Jonrick Tubungbanua dribbled the ball to the centre line. There was no time left on the clock to drive to the basket. No time to pass the ball to a teammate. With no other options available to him, Tabungbanua took the only option available to him: he lifted his head, took aim at the basket and fired just as the final buzzer rang out.
Spectators, players and coaches alike collectively held their breath as the ball arced through the air towards the basket, exhaling only when the clang of the ball off the iron rang out through the LCHS gym.
“As the shot was in the air I said ‘oh this will be interesting,’” said Rams Head Coach Tim Mclenahan after the Saturday evening game, which the Rams ended up losing 69-67 to take home silver from their home tournament.
“It actually probably was the right way to end. It was very close.”
It was the perfect conclusion to a game which saw two gifted basketball teams exchange leads and chances throughout, with the Buffalos prevailing after a last minute 7-0 scoring run.
“Brooks is a very athletic group. They’re top in their zone, 3A in Southern Alberta, and they haven’t lost yet. So they’re a good squad,” Mclenahan said, adding that having the chance to play against a team as strong as Brooks was a good experience for a Lacombe team, which is building towards becoming a provincial contender.
“It’s great that we get an athletic team like that to try and work against a zone defense. For the most part the shots we took were great but we’re just not used to doing it with kids that are that quick, that fast, and that athletic.”
Right from the start it appeared that this one was going to come down to the wire. By the end of the first half, the scores stood deadlocked at 27 points apiece.
“It was a very exciting game. We had the shot we wanted to win at the end but really, a lot of the work needed to be done earlier. We just didn’t shoot the ball as well as we need to against a zone,” said Mclenahan.
In the end, he explained, it came down to defense. Brooks’ zone defense was able to shut down the Lacombe shooters early in the game, which allowed their offense to take over and come out with the win at the last minute.
“We did not handle the pressure very well. We didn’t rely on the system and the structure and people started to do things on their own. When you do that it doesn’t always work out for you, and this time it didn’t.”
This isn’t the first time the Rams have played a game down to the wire. According to Mclenahan it’s happened seven times before, and they came out on top in all of them.
“We were due to come up on the short end,” he said.
Still, the strong performance against a team as dominant as Brooks bodes well for the young team, who currently boast a 10-3 record.
“We’re a pretty young group. We’re just trying to lay the ground work and trying to make it a bit of a two-year season, but at the same time we believe that we should be going to provincials this year.
“I like where we are. We’ve just got to do those attention-to-detail things at a fast pace.”
Meanwhile, the junior varsity boys had a successful tournament as well, earning a spot in the final game before falling in the final to a dominant West Central High School team to come away with silver.