All four of Ponoka’s senior basketball teams played for a spot in provincials, but only one came within shooting distance of making the long trip up north.
The Ponoka Secondary Campus (PSC) senior boys were in Camrose, along with the Kings from St. Augustine, at the 2A zone championship vying for just one spot in provincials being held in High Level. Meanwhile, the PSC and St. Augustine senior girls Queens travelled to Pigeon Lake for their zone playoff with one spot in La Crete up for grabs.
However, it was the PSC Broncs boys that came the closest, losing in the final to host team from Camrose — Our Lady of Mount Pleasant (OLMP) — by a wide margin.
OLMP has been ranked among the top 2A teams in the province all season, but it came as a bit of a surprise to head coach Scott Brown that the final was so lopsided.
“I’m super proud of the team this year and disappointed we couldn’t make it to provincials,” said Brown.
The boys came out flying to start the zone playoff, hammering Sedgewick 93-34 on Mar. 8 followed the next afternoon by taking a close contest 77-66 over a very strong team from Wainwright.
The one really sad thing for Brown was the loss meant about half his team — six players who graduate this year — will miss out on playing in a provincials championship after coming so close.
These include Anton Hodnefield, Brennan Waldron, Michael Bloomquist, Karson Mathieu, Riley Fillinger and Tristan Young.
“I’m sad to see our senior players leave, since I’ve coached them for all three of their senior high years. However, I’m also now looking forward to next season,” he added.
It was a bit of a different story for the St. Augustine Kings as the club defeated Tofield to open the event, but ran into OLMP in the semi-final and lost to Wainwright in the third place game
Coach Adam Bowie knew it was going to be tough slogging at the tournament.
“The team played well in both those games and ended the season on a great note,” he said. “Our main goal was to have a successful year based on how well we came together. With over half our team being Grade 10s and new to our system, we did come together and the byproduct was a winning record.”
He added the club came a long way from the start of the season and defied the ‘rebuilding’ term by contending for medals in several tournaments. The one sad part is that four players — Gene Lockridge, CJ Perez, Aidan Gratton and Kyle Roque — are graduating this season.
Meanwhile, both Ponoka senior girls teams were definite underdogs going into zones, as the host Pigeon Lake club was ranked in the top three all season and was the only one from central Alberta to be among those more elite 2A teams.
The PSC Broncs lost both of its games though head coach Paula Chapman was proud of the eight member squad’s performance in a nine-point loss to Rimbey and losing to St. Dominic’s from Rocky Mountain House.
“Rimbey is physically tough and we struggled to keep them out of the paint. As for St. Dominic’s, they are a run and gun team, but we stayed with them until the end,” she said.
“Although we had a small squad of eight, the girls were hugely committed and did a great job of learning how to play — be it in the post, on the perimeter or as a ball handler.”
Chapman also acknowledged her three graduating players efforts this season — Nadia Simons, Shelisha Baptiste and Paisley Wilson.
For the St. Augustine Queens, drawing the region’s top team — Pigeon Lake — made it hard right from the start.
“The zones were a tough test and starting out against a very strong team, the results were as expected. We needed to put in 40 minutes of work,”said head coach Ryan Roos.
The fact that didn’t happen showed in the outcome. The girls faced OLMP in their next one and it looked like the team started out on empty, losing once again.
All that said though, Roos is happy with how the season went overall, setting a foundation with a group of Grade 10 players who got to learn from the few graduating players on the roster.