There is only one word that can describe senior high basketball at Ponoka Secondary this season – new.
Both head coaches of the Broncs senior girls and boys teams are in their first season patrolling the bench, which also equates to even a veteran team having to adjust to some new things.
Tylor Johnson has taken over the reins of an inexperienced boys squad, while Cameron Horan is the new guy looking after a more veteran girls team.
The boys roster includes six Grade 12 players and five Grade 11s to go with a pair of Grade 10s, but only four of those players were on the team last season and that has put them a bit behind according to Johnson.
“Everyone is new to me and that has us behind teams as far as preparation goes, as we don’t have the luxury of having guys who already know my systems,” he said.
”We are a very inexperienced group, but my expectations are very high for us this season. I have been impressed early on with the level of talent that we have. You will see us improve greatly from the start of the year, to the end of the season. We will be at our best come playoff time.”
Johnson’s goal is qualify for provincials, which will likely be done on the backs of their defensive play.
“We will struggle scoring at times, but we will keep games close with our defense. We are a group that will have to work hard at becoming better scorers.”
For the girls, Horan has two-thirds of his roster coming back from last season and he couldn’t be happier with that.
With four Grade 12s, five Grade 11s and three Grade 10 players, Horan believes their potential is huge and their goal is to not only challenge for the zone title, but make the provincial championship.
Both teams had a tough time in their season openers in Wetaskiwin on Tuesday, Dec. 1 – each coming out on the losing end.
“It went exactly how I thought it would go,” stated Johnson about playing a team who ended up fourth in the province last year.
“Like most teams in the league, they have the same coach and a solid group of returning players. We came out very jittery and turned the ball over a lot. The thing I preached is that our mistakes are completely fixable.”
The Broncs’ fixable items include working the boards at both ends, as they gave up 42 points by not being able to grab the offensive boards.
“You will never win with that kind of rebounding effort. We play a lot of zone defense, allowing teams to take long, contested shots, but the key is we absolutely have to rebound and we did a horrible job at that,” he added.
Johnson did say, however, that the boys are getting better fundamentally each day and the effort he sees in practice will go a long way to improving those weaknesses.
Meanwhile, the girls’ nerves early proved to be the big difference in their loss to Wetaskiwin. Horan stated that saw them down 18 at halftime, but the team was able to settle in and were only outscored by three in the second half.
The boys are excited to make their home debut this weekend as the Broncs host their annual PUMP Invitational tournament, which tips off Friday, Dec. 11 with the hosts taking on Barrhead at 3:45 p.m. at the PSC gym.
The rest of Friday’s action will see Sylvan Lake face Holy Redeemer of Edson at 5:30, Grande Prairie Composite versus Ryley at 7:15 and Rundle Academy of Calgary taking on Onoway at 9. The winners will head to the semifinals Saturday (Dec. 12) at 12:15 and 2:30 p.m. with the third place game going at 5:45 and the final slated for 7:30.
The consolation side semi’s will go at 9 and 10:45 a.m. with the seventh place game going at 2:15 and the consolation final at 4 p.m.
“I absolutely love tournaments because there is no pressure and they offer an exceptional opportunity for me to evaluate each player and allow our players to get valuable playing time and experience at this level,” added Johnson.
“We obviously would love to win our home tourney, but the main goal for us is just to continue getting better each day and be the best version of ourselves come playoff time.”