Tough playoff sked takes toll on Broncs

Kendra Joyes drives with her left hand to the basket. Joyes was one of 10 players to score against West Central.

Kendra Joyes drives with her left hand to the basket. Joyes was one of 10 players to score against West Central.

By Charles Tweed

They knew it was going to be tough, but the Ponoka Composite High School Broncs girls’ basketball team was in no mood to make excuses.

After knocking off Rocky Mountain House’s West Central High School on March 2 and then going to Lacombe on March 4 and knocking off the number 3 seeded team, the Broncs had to go to Wetaskiwin to face the Sabres. It was their third game in six days and the schedule finally caught up to them.

The Broncs started strong — a re-occurring theme for the team during their recent strong play — and found themselves up six at half, 23-17.

The break did the team no good.

Ponoka came out flat in the second half. Legs got heavier, and as they did, Wetaskiwin saw their opportunity and seized it.

The Sabres made everything down the stretch, putting up 19 points in the final quarter and outscoring the Broncs by the same number in the second half, winning the contest 53-40 and ending the Broncs’ season.

“The girls played amazing, hard defense like the last two games leading up to this one. Unfortunately we didn’t make enough shots in the second half and got into some foul trouble. It was a physical game and I am proud of the girls,” said head coach Jody McElroy.

The loss ends the Broncs’ season but this team showed something down the stretch. McElroy said this year’s group was a special team and the playoff run should help them next year.

“It was a great season and I will really miss this group of girls, they came together and surpassed a lot of expectations. They went further than any other (PCHS) team in the last four or five years,” explained McElroy. “And our girls program is starting to pick up steam, so we expect to be competitive again in the next few years.”

How they got there

Just days prior to the loss to Wetaskiwin and buoyed by their dismantling of the West Central Rebels, Ponoka faced Lacombe in the quarter-finals. The last time Ponoka and Lacombe met, it came right down to the buzzer. On that night — less than a month ago — the Lacombe Rams were one shot better than the Broncs, in Ponoka’s gym.

Needing a good start, the Broncs responded and found themselves up 12-9 after the first quarter. The start was important to the Broncs — the last time the teams met, Ponoka allowed Lacombe to dictate the tempo early and could never fully recover.

At halftime the Broncs had managed to stretch their lead to seven.

The third quarter resembled a bad blind date — lots of posturing and no scoring. The teams combined for just 11 points in the penultimate quarter and moved to the final frame — 32-26, Broncs.

The fourth was back and forth. Both teams scored 12 points, meaning the lead the Broncs had worked so hard to build up, was the difference.

 “It was a total team effort by all 12 bodies. The difference was the drive and intensity. The girls are making the shots need and we are seeing the floor and moving the ball really well right now,” said McElroy.

The quarter-final win over Lacombe was made possible only after the Broncs won the leagues’ version of the NCAA play-in game.

Standing in their way on that day was Rocky Mountain House’s West Central Rebels.

Right from tip-off, the Broncs controlled the flow and tempo of the game. It was evident the Rebels couldn’t keep up with ball movement of Ponoka. The first quarter ended with the Broncs leading 14-7.

The second quarter followed the same trend. Ponoka shot 35 per cent from the floor and tacked on another 18 points to lead 32-14.

From there, Ponoka put it in cruise control. Coach McElroy used the lead to get everyone in the game and team went on to a 60-24 victory.

Victoria Rose was particularly impressive in the win, going six for 13 and collecting 14 points. Danielle Davies chipped in with 11 points, while Josie Teitge and Sarah Davis had nine each.

The game was a total team effort. Of the 12 players who saw court time in the win, only two didn’t register on the scoreboard.

“It was good to see whether the shots went in or not, we kept playing. Leaving it all on the floor, if you miss a shot, keep shooting and eventually they’ll go in,” said McElroy.

The Broncs have a lot to be proud of this year. The knocked off the number 3 seeded team and gave the number 2 team a scare for three quarters of basketball.

“The girls, once again proved to be first class players and ambassadors for the school. I just want to thank them for all their hard work and thank their parents, who supported the team for the last five months. We couldn’t do what we do here at the school without the incredible support we receive,” said McElroy.