Despite all the odds, including being without a gym they could practice regularly for the whole season, senior Broncs boys have completed the task they set out to achieve and brought home the Zone 4 Championship in varsity basketball after winning their best-of-three series against Wetaskiwin Sabres 2-1.
In the first game of the series at the St. A gym on Wednesday, March 12, the PSC boys started somewhat hesitantly with the visiting Sabres trying to impose their game plan early in the first period. The Broncs initially failed to stop the quick ball movement by the Sabres and fell back for most of the first half of the game. Just four minutes left to the end of the first half, however, a time-out called by the Broncs coach Blaine Haines helped the PSC boys to get on a 11-0 run with three 3-pointers and a fast break basket to take the lead from the visitors and finish the first half with a razor thin edge, 29-28.
In the third period the Broncs succeeded to penetrate further into the Sabres defences, forcing the opponent to commit fouls. While the Ponoka boys continued to produce score, they could not put a stop to turnovers, which allowed the Sabres take advantage and score through fast breaks. On the defensive end, solid performance on the part of the local side made ball movement difficult for Wetaskiwin, who were forced to commit shot-clock violations more than once. Despite the turnover problem, Broncs still managed to open the lead to 43-36 by the end of the third period.
What was left for Broncs to do in the last quarter of the game was only to protect that 7-point cushion, but they did even better by opening the lead to 13 points by the fifth minute of the last period 53-40.
Winning the game despite losing the advantage
But the Sabres were not in a mood to let the hosts win an easy game. They managed to catch a 7-0 series against the Ponoka boys bringing the lead down to only six points. As the teams entered the last two minutes of the game, the Sabres started to commit fouls in an effort to stop the game clock as frequently as they can in order to take possession of the ball after free throws by the Broncs. This game plan did work as intended for the Sabres and with two three pointers, they brought the difference down to one point with seven seconds to go before the end of regulation:63-62. But the last possession of the game stayed with the Broncs and when the final buzzer went off, the Ponoka boys declared their first win of the series.
In the second game in Wetaskiwin on Friday, March 14, the hosts apparently used the home court advantage efficiently and scored 63-48 win against the Broncs.
On Saturday, March 15, the PSC boys had clearly put the loss in the away game behind them and were prepared to go for the title despite the absence of one of the offensive powerhouses of the team, Ethan Minde, who could not dress for the game due to family obligations.
Almost like the first game
After the initial jump of the game, it looked very much like the first game was being repeated: The Broncs fell back again failing to stop good ball movement by the Sabres and filing themselves to set a rhythm for their own game. The pressure of the title game clearly weighed heavily on both teams and production of scores proved problematic. By the 6th minute of the first period, the Sabres were leading the Broncs 13-9, when the Ponoka boys apparently realized that they needed to pull themselves together.
Justin and Clinton Braithwaite both stepped up to the challenge of Ethan’s absence to catch an 8-2 run to complete the first period with a 17-15 lead for the home side.
In the second period Tavis Lee performed spectacularly under the rim on both ends of the court, capturing offensive and defensive rebounds and scoring within the paint. With the help of good perimeter 3-point shooting by Brandt Seibel and Jared Nicolls, the Broncs opened up the lead to 23-17 at the end of third minute of the second. But the Sabres once again quickly caught up and brought the lead down to a single point 25-24 by the middle point of the period. Then it was the turn of the Broncs to step up both the defense and scoring. In the last three minutes of the second period Broncs did not allow the visitors a single point, closing the first half with 35-27 lead.
In the third period, just like in the first game, Broncs again stepped up their scoring and increased their lead to 11 points 53-42.
When the fourth and last period started however, the Sabres started a desperate campaign to catch up with the hosts and almost managed it within the first three minutes of the period after an 11-1 run: 54-53. At that moment a three-point play by Travis Lee allowed a sigh of relief for the Broncs and they made good use of the four-point cushion to take the game to the final two minutes of play, when the most powerful offensive player of the Sabres was ejected from the game after arguing with officials. The resulting technical foul was converted to two points by Brandt Seibel and the free throws by Davis Labrie helped the PSC boys secure the win with a final score of 67-62.
Head coach Blaine Haines said after the game that he was proud of his team.
“It was a very tough game but we could still win,” he said.
In reference to the win without Ethan Minde’s participation, Haines said it had just showed that they could play their game without even an important player and that the team was bigger than any of the individual players.
The Broncs are now headed to the provincials in Lethbridge this weekend.