By Charles Tweed
They may have gotten a little scare but the St. Augustine Queens battled through the adversity en route to winning their first ever Central Western Alberta Junior High Athletic Association basketball title.
Ranked number 1 coming into the tournament, the Queens faced a game St. Patrick’s side from Red Deer in their first contest. At the half the score was separated by only a basket and St. Augustine was in danger of being knocked out in the first round.
The team found something in the high post, establishing a give and go and managed to push through the first round with a 39-30 win.
“Our strength as a team is our speed, fitness level and pressure which St. Pat’s handled really well. We tighten up a bit but thankfully we have experienced enough close games this year that the girls found a way to win,” said coach Kevin Prediger.
The adversity seemed to motivate the Queens who faced Red Deer’s River Glen in the semifinals of the tournament. St. Augustine was focused and converted their pressure defense into easy baskets to take a commanding lead.
“We watched them the previous night and knew that we needed to key on their two guards. Early in the second quarter our relentless pressure began to pay off, stealing the ball four times in a minute to score eight quick points and take the lead. After that, our confidence grew and we played our best ball of the year,” said Prediger.
The 51-18 win meant the Queens were in the finals against the Camille J Lerouge team from Red Deer. The teams played a similar style, relying on their quickness to generate offense.
The Queens established a lead early in the contest but couldn’t pull away from the speedy Voyageurs —never leading by more than seven until the final minutes. When the buzzer finally sounded it was a win for the host Queens.
“The finals were touch and go for the whole game and could have went either way. But I believe the girls had experienced enough close games to not panic at the end. They knew they needed to dig deep find that extra burst of energy and finish strong,” said Prediger.
The basketball championship is the first for the school, which boasts a bevy of other championships but had never captured a hoops trophy.
The team was more than a little pumped about the honor.
“They were excited. Their commitment to practice and to each other, paid off in the end. And, while the title is nice, I truly believe it isn’t the end all for them, they just love to have fun and compete,” said the coach. “They worked hard. Not only are they blessed with athletic ability but they were smart and good listeners.”
Prediger said the girls were a joy to coach this year and continued to progress as the season went on. The team chose the motto, ‘It doesn’t matter if we win or lose, as long as we look good doing it!” and explained it meant they were going to learn as much as they could to perform at the highest level.
Prediger deflected the credit of the team’s success when asked about how the young team had such a good grasp on fundamental basketball.
“They came to me with a lot of good fundamentals and an excellent fitness level. I need to give credit to their previous coaches and P.E. teachers as well as their parents for getting them involved in all sorts of sports,” he said.
The work ethic and fitness level granted the coach the luxury of not having to use much gym time to get in shape and allowed him to focus on subtle nuances such as the pick and roll, screen and pressure defense.
One shot could have changed Diamond Willow Middle School’s fate
St. Augustine wasn’t the only Ponoka school involved in the tournament. Ponoka was proud to send two teams to the CWAJSAA tournament.
Diamond Willow Middle School (DWMS) competed at the tourney and was one missed shot away from a better fate.
The Wolf Pack faced Camille, the eventual second place team, in the first game and rimmed out a three pointer at the end of regulation that would have punched their ticket to the semifinals. Instead the two teams went into overtime, where again DWMS had a chance for the victory.
As the buzzer sounded the gym held their breath and the ball clanged off the rim. The missed shot gave Camille a 23-22 win.
DWMS would finish the tournament up with a win over Delburne to take seventh spot.