Note: This story has been amended to reflect widespread cancellations of sporting events and gatherings of more than 250 people in Alberta due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
For the Chestermere Lakers senior boys’ basketball team, the Rocky View Sports Association (RVSA) championship game March 7 offered a double shot at redemption.
A year after Chestermere surrendered the division banner to the Cochrane Cobras, the two sides met again in the gold-medal game at Springbank Community High School. After an entertaining encounter, Chestermere left the court as the RVSA’s newly-crowned champion, beating the Cobras 63-49.
While the 14-point margin made it appear the Lakers took the win easily, Scott Ledieu, one of the team’s coaches, said it was a close battle throughout.
“It was a two- or three-point game in either direction until early in the third quarter, when we went on a bit of a run,” he said. “They came back from that, but then we went on an another run early in the fourth, and we were able to make it stick.”
While last year’s championship defeat to Cochrane was surely on the minds of many Lakers players, Ledieu said a more recent loss to the Cobras provided just as much motivation – in the final game of the regular season, Feb. 26, Cochrane ended Chestermere’s unbeaten record, downing the Lakers 81-78.
“The guys were excited to go to the finals, because we had just lost to Cochrane the week before, and we figured we’d see them in the final, if we got there,” Ledieu said. “We were motivated to get back and have another crack at those guys.”
Before that, however, the Lakers had to take down the Bow Valley Bobcats in the quarterfinals, and the W.H. Croxford Cavaliers in the semi-finals.
Playing in front of an energetic home crowd March 5, the Lakers defeated the Cavaliers 71-66 in a back-and-forth encounter.
“When we played Croxford in the regular season, it was also five-point game, with them leading for most of the way, so both times we played them were exciting games,” Ledieu said. “We sort of seem to match up tightly with Croxford, so those games are always fun.”
The gold-medal game two days later featured the RVSA’s best offensive team against the strongest defensive team. Cochrane was the top-scoring team throughout the regular season, averaging 91 points per game, while Chestermere boasted the division’s tightest defence, conceding just 53 points per game.
“We paid a lot of focus on [defence] in practice and always felt if we did a good job on that end, we would do a better job in the offensive zone,” Ledieu said.
Under usual circumstances, the Lakers would have followed up the RVSA calendar by competing in the South Central Zones 4A playdowns, which act as the qualifier for the Alberta Schools Athletic Association (ASAA) championships, March 19 to 21. On March 11, the ASAA announced on its Twitter account all provincial high-school basketball tournaments would be "postponed indefinitely," due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19.
Following an emergency meeting of the ASAA Executive Committee, it has been determined that the 2020 ASAA Basketball Provincials will be postponed indefinitely. pic.twitter.com/K7oiRWhooO— ASAA (@ASAA) March 13, 2020
In the senior girls’ division, the Bow Valley Bobcats came up just short in its quest for the RVSA banner. The Cochrane-based Bobcats lost 69-60 to the W.H. Croxford Cavaliers, March 7.
The loss in the final was disappointing, according to Bobcats coach Kris Nielsen, considering the team went 6-0 in the regular season.
“Any time you go through all of that and you get to the final moment and it didn’t go your way, there’s going to be some disappointment,” he said.