Broncos basketball teams winning despite changes

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A perfect start in 2016 has Olds College’s women’s basketball team back in a playoff spot.

The Broncos have won four straight in the new year and now sit fourth in the ACAC South with a 7-6 record.

“Having (Ronika Ransford) come in has had us all pick up our game and meet at her level of play. We’re playing a lot better as a team and holding each other to a higher standard,” said second year guard Sierra Harty, who scored 11 points and recorded six rebounds, six assists and five steals against Briercrest College on Jan. 23 at the Ralph Klein Centre.

Olds College won the game 103-49, sweeping both games against the Clippers over the weekend.

Ransford is one of head coach Reg Carrick’s new recruits for the second half of the season. The guard is currently averaging 44 points in four games for the Broncos. On Jan. 16, she scored 56 against the Ambrose University College Lions in a 123-31 win.

The Broncos have a bye this weekend. After that, they travel to play first-place Lethbridge College for a pair of games.

“It’s more of a test for us to see where we’re at right now, see how much further we have to go before provincials. We’re looking forward to seeing how we match up against them,” Harty said.

Men’s coach Ben Julius resigned earlier this season, in the middle of his third season with Olds College, citing “personal reasons.”

Under Julius, the men’s basketball program had grown into a national power, winning ACAC bronze last season and being ranked by the CCAA earlier this year.

So far, assistant coach Stephen Anthony has taken over as associate head coach.

As well, the Broncos added Mike Stevens, former head coach of the SAIT Trojans. Stevens had left his previous post in 2014 to start a family.

Anthony is leading the team but could possibly hand over the reins to Stevens.

“We try to keep a lot of things very similar as far as routine, training, systems. There hasn’t been a lot of re-teaching of concepts or offensive or defensive sets,” Anthony said.

Anthony said he learned a lot about using video from Julius. It keeps athletes accountable and helps them better understand the game.

“Video doesn’t lie, was something he used to always say.”

Despite the change in the midst of a season where Olds College will host the ACAC men’s basketball championship, the Broncos have won all four games in 2016, including a pair against Briercrest College this past weekend.

However, Anthony said some players will notice a difference.

“There are a few guys that will benefit from my coaching style compared to coach Ben’s, where they were a little bit intimidated and not as comfortable to do certain things.

“Those athletes will definitely thrive under coach Mike and myself heading into second semester here. But I know there were athletes that responded very positively to coach Ben’s style and they’re going to have to learn how we do things as a coaching staff.”

The team is currently third in the ACAC South with a 10-3 record. They are one of three teams tied for first in points in the division.

“I think we’ve got a strong bond on the floor. Our assistant coach Steve is holding everything together so I don’t think it’s had much of an effect on our team,” said guard Wayne Tucker Jr. “I didn’t expect (Julius’s departure). It kind of came out of the blue. I wish him the best.”

Tucker Jr. scored 30 points in the team’s victory over the Clippers on Jan. 23. He had help from five teammates who also scored in double figures.

“It’s real big. I’m not really a scorer by nature and when guys are helping out with the scoring load, it makes things a lot easier,” he said.

Mike Stevens has been impressed early by the Broncos’ backcourt rotation in Tucker Jr., Cody Bouchard, Shaquille Bedminster and Anthony Heintzman.

“When I was at SAIT, we got a chance to go to the national tournament and I think our backcourt here is as good as the one I had when we were there,” Stevens said.

He’s also noticed how far the men’s basketball program has come since he was last coaching.

“Nationally, this program has some recognition. You can see the skill level of the players has picked up,” he said.

He’s currently focusing on recruiting and learning how the organization works.

“For the players, giving my insight, my experiences. Having Stephen Anthony who’s been here for years has been an absolute godsend,” he said.

“It’s been awesome. Everybody has been welcoming, from the staff, the players. I’m excited to be here.”

jho@olds.greatwest.ca

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