Queens solid defensively but drop hard fought decision to Lightning

Samantha Wade (5) had 2 points and 2 rebounds for the Queens. Picture - Colby Brochu Photography
Samantha Wade (5) had 2 points and 2 rebounds for the Queens. Picture - Colby Brochu Photography

Brent Forster – RDC

Red Deer, AB – In the first game of 2019, the RDC Queens showed continuing growth and battled the defending Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) Women's Basketball champions, the St. Mary's University Lightning, to the bitter end, but were edged 66-62 at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre.

In a close opening quarter, Harneet Sidhu propelled the RDC Queens ahead 7-4 with a pair of successful free throws. For the Lightning, Hannah Helton had a strong first quarter, connecting from both the outside and the free-throw line. With the help of another effective rebounding effort from RDC's Sandra Garcia-Bernal, the Queens and Lightning were deadlocked 15-15 after ten minutes.

Sandra Garcia-Bernal (23) Colby Brochu Photography

Only a trio of points separated the two squads in the second. Helton provided the Lightning with an early 19-18 edge but RDC pushed back. Garcia-Bernal sank a bucket while being fouled, and capped off the three point play from the line. RDC's Mallory Uskiw drained the final basket of the quarter and the Queens led by three (34-31) at the half.

Early in the third, Sydney Deighton of St. Mary's University was successful from behind the three-point arc which inspired her side for 19 points. In the quarter, the Queens received contributions from Jessie Handley, Harneet Sidhu and Lauren Cardinal, adding 12 points to their total. After the quarter, the Lightning held a four point margin (50-46).

Harneet Sidhu (14) Colby Brochu Photography

The St. Mary's University Lightning started connecting from the outside and went up by nine (63-54) but the Red Deer College Queens eventually reduced the gap. Harneet Sidhu brought RDC within three (60-63). In an exciting finish, the Lightning finalized a 66-62 win.

Sandra Garcia-Bernal was outstanding and received the Queens Player-of-the-Game award, totaling 16 rebounds, 11 points, 5 steals and 1 assist. Chayle Clark was chosen for the Lightning, finishing with 22 rebounds, 6 points, 1 steal and 1 assist.

Queens Head Coach Ken King was proud of Garcia-Bernal's persistent effort and performance. "Sandra is a competitor right until the final buzzer and she will sacrifice her body. She will outcompete anybody on the court, every time we play. That is one of her staples," says King. "We know what we are getting out of Sandra every single game. She is putting up rebound numbers, which for somebody her size, are unheard of, and she is competing for the rebound title in the league."

Jessie Handley added 14 points for the Queens.

Katie Ballhorn (4) Colby Brochu Photography

Hannah Helton recorded 17 points and Sydney Deighton chipped in with 15 for the Lightning.

For the most part, King was pleased with the Queens' play in their own zone. "That is a pretty good scoring team that didn't put up 20 points or more in any quarter," says King. "With a young team, we are just trying to impress upon them that we need to be locked in and execute defensively, but that will come. Overall, the defence was solid and we did a lot of good things but had a couple of defensive lulls at key times."

Several performances stood out for the head coach. "Lauren Cardinal did a nice job and played with a lot of poise," says King. "She showed why she is our captain, scoring 12 points and shooting 50 per cent from the field."

The Queens were once again strong on the boards and shot 31.5 per cent from the field. 

"We had 23 offensive rebounds which is an incredible number but the problem was, we gave them too many offensive boards as well, and we didn't put the ball in the hoop," says King.

St. Mary's finished with 17 offensive rebounds. 

In a rematch, the St. Mary's University Lightning will host the RDC Queens in Calgary on Saturday at 6:00 p.m.