Cougars rally to overcome nine-point half time deficit
Leah Hundeby personified the persistence of the Caronport Cougars Saturday.
© submitted photo
Caronport's graduating players Marissa Hartman, left, Lauren Janzen and Mikayla Barks with the game ball and trophies after winning the 3A girls provincial basketball championship.
After being held off the score sheet for most of the night in the 3A provincial girls basketball final, Hundeby made her first basket with less than a minute left in the game to give the Cougars their first lead of the second half. With six seconds left she hit two free throws as the Cougars beat the Indian Head Broncs 64-60 to win their first Hoopla title since 2003.
The Cougars entered half time trailing by nine points, but they stayed positive.
"The girls weren't discouraged being down by nine at the half," said Cougars coach Leigh Wolverton. "We had to tell them that they were doing the right things, the ball isn't falling, but keep working at it and hopefully in the second half you'll be rewarded for your work. And they were."
The teams had split their two meetings during the regular season and the Cougars knew they could beat the top-ranked Broncs.
"We just had to dig deep," said Wolverton. "It was come-from-behind, high drama, it was pretty exciting."
The Broncs hit nine three-point shots, but the Cougars adjusted defensively to try to limit their outside looks.
"Indian Head shot well, especially from the outside. We were shutting down the one forward that they like to go to, but they had a couple of guards who were hitting the outside shots and their percentage was very good," said Wolverton. "We had to make some defensive adjustments for the second half."
One of the other adjustments the Cougars made in the second half was that they began to drive the ball to the basket to force the issue as their shots from the field were hard to come by.
"We started driving hard and were picking up fouls," said Wolverton.
The Cougars chipped away at the Broncs lead in the second half. They got to within a point when Hundeby scored on a put-back to give them a 61-60 lead. Her four points on the night came in the final 25 seconds.
"She was missing everything up until then. We had a hard time buying baskets. Their defence was very good," said Wolverton. "We weren't finishing shots that we normally would.
The Cougars forced a turnover in the dying seconds and converted a free throw with a second left before the celebrations began.
"We got the points down the stretch when we needed it to make it happen," said Wolverton whose team made 67 per cent of their free throws. "We made 16-of-24 free throws and that was huge for us."
Lauren Janzen, a senior guard, led the Cougars with 22 points.
"She was had just a great game. She gave us great leadership," said Wolverton.
The Cougars lost the Moose Jaw city final 89-61 to Peacock Tuesday, but Wolverton felt the quality of the local league helped them.
"We totally respect them. They're an awesome team. What they did was, they helped us prepare," he said of the Peacock girls team. "Being able to play at that extra level was really helpful. The girls were gaining confidence that we could play with them. They were going to beat us, but we could play with them."
The Cougars had previously won the 3A girls provincial title in 1979 and a 4A girls title in 2003.
"We showed the two banners to the girls before the weekend and told them we need another banner up there," said Wolverton. "It was really exciting to see it finish that way."