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Cochrane's senior girls' basketball teams exhibit friendly rivalry in cross-town clash

"The girls all know each other. I don’t see animosity, I just see good, aggressive play from the girls. A cross-town rivalry that isn’t too mean? That’s what you want.”

The Cochrane Cobras and Bow Valley Bobcats senior girls' basketball teams may be getting a bit sick of each other. 

The two local squads faced off twice last week: on Jan. 10 in a regular-season match-up, and then again on Jan. 13 in a friendly exhibition to make up for a cancelled tournament in Olds.

Last week's games marked Cochrane and Bow Valley's second and third times playing each other this season. Cochrane High came out on top in both editions, winning 45-38 in the regular-season game and 39-38 in the exhibition contest. 

Darryl Viste, the head coach of Bow Valley's senior girls' squad, said both games were evenly fought and a good showcase of the healthy Cochrane-versus-Cochrane rivalry that always exists between the Bobcats and the Cobras.

“It was low-scoring for a high-school game, but we’ve seen each other a couple of times,” he said. “Defensively, we just know each other, so the girls play hard and know what’s coming. It becomes a bit of a defensive battle."

Viste's counterpart, Cobras head coach Doug Jensen, echoed the same sentiments.

“We're both very strong defensive teams, for sure, and had a bit of a tough time figuring them out," he said. “I know Daryl and I both tried new defences and switched our tactics around, which made it a bit more challenging for both teams."

The Bobcats' defeat to the Cobras on Jan. 10 marked their first loss in the Rocky View Sports Association (RVSA) this season. The setback means they are in second place of the division with a 2-1 record, behind the still-unbeaten W.H. Croxford Cavaliers of Airdrie.

The Cavaliers are the two-time defending RVSA champs in the senior girls' division, having won the division banner in both 2020 and 2022. They're currently 3-0 in the division and 14-1 overall. 

“[Croxford] were head and shoulders above everyone last year,” said Viste of the west Airdrie team. “They have great coaching and a good program. They’ll probably be the [top seed] at the end. But that’s a good measuring stick for those of us trying to climb the ladder.”

While every team has its difference-makers, Viste stressed that Bow Valley's strength this season has been in its overall camaraderie and teamwork. Though he cited senior point guard Josie Powers as a key player and the team's "engine," the coach noted anyone on the Bobcats' roster can produce a game-winning performance on any given night. 

“We have three or four really strong girls who we rely on, but we’re starting to get deeper and deeper,” he said. “It’s definitely a team game for us, and we have someone different step up every night.”

Cochrane's two senior girls' teams had previously played each other at the Cochrane High Classic tournament in preseason, with the Cobras winning by a 20-point margin. Jensen noted that in each game since, the margin between the two teams has shrunk. 

Powers, the Bow Valley point guard, said the closeness of the Bobcats' two encounters with Cochrane last week is evidence of the team's growth this season.

“I think after ]the Friday game], we were all still very proud of how far we’d come,” Powers said. “Before we’d played them, we lost by 20 points. To come back from that and only lose by one point and have it such a close game – back and forth the whole time – was amazing.”

The senior guard reiterated her coach's comments that Bow Valley's basketball rivalry with Cochrane High is a healthy one. She said it's great to play in front of a packed gymnasium whenever the schools face each other, and that it's amusing to line up against some of her friends who play for the Cobras.

“I’m really good friends with some of the girls at Cochrane High… and I even play ringette with some of the girls there,” she said. “It’s weird to play against your own teammates but it also brings a fun competitive friendship aspect to it.

“We’re all friends. No one is hitting anyone behind the play. It’s all fair and fun.”

January is, as usual, a fragmented month for local high-school basketball, due to the diploma exam break that limits games in the second half of the month. The Bobcats' next RVSA game isn't until Jan. 31, when they travel to Airdrie to face the George McDougall Mustangs. After that, they'll host the dominant Cavaliers on Feb. 7. 

The Cobras, meanwhile, will travel east to face the Chestermere Lakers on Jan. 31, hoping to improve upon their current 1-1 record. 

The senior girls' regular season ends on Feb. 14, with the RVSA playoffs taking place shortly afterwards. That's followed by the South Central Zones tournament and the ensuing provincial championships in March. 

Powers believes in the Bobcats' banner-winning chances this season, adding she doesn't feel the team has reached its peak yet.

“I think the team’s dedication and being able to stay calm in stressful situations [is good]," she said. "Even when we’re down, we were able to overcome that and play our best.

“From where we’ve come since the beginning of the season, it's been amazing and I think we have so much more to unlock as a team.”

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