OLDS, Alta. — If you’re reading this, it’s not too late.
The 2019-20 basketball season is right around the corner, and we’re here to help you get set for what will surely be an incredible journey.
While we’re still looking back on an incredible 2018-19 season, one that saw two teams win their first-ever National Championships in school history, it’s also the perfect time to look ahead. The 2019-20 season promises to deliver a heightened level of excitement, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for the new campaign.
To get fans across the country ready for the new season, we’ve taken on a challenge that hasn’t been done before. In the coming weeks, we will preview every team from coast to coast ahead of the 2019-20 season.
That’s 111 different programs, if you’re keeping a tally.
From August 8th through to October 6th, every team will be previewed in some capacity. For institutions that have both men’s and women’s basketball, a separate preview piece will be done for each team.
Rosters will be dissected and a look back at the year that was will help us determine what the team looks like this time around as every team begins with a blank slate in the standings.
Without further adieu, here is today’s preview on the defending CCAA Women’s Basketball National Champions, the Olds College Broncos.
2018-19 in Review
What a year it was in 2018-19 for the Olds College Broncos.
On a weekly basis, the Broncos found themselves ranked among the country’s best in both the CCAA Weekly Top 15 rankings, as well as our own CCAA Power Rankings. With a ton of talent and experience on both sides of the ball, Olds College used both to help carry them through their historic season.
In the regular season, the Broncos didn’t finish as the best team in the ACAC South Division. With a record of 17-4 overall, the Broncos finished second in their division, one game behind the nationally-ranked Medicine Hat Rattlers. Still, the Broncos recorded 1,702 points over their 21 games, good for most in the conference.
Down the stretch, the Broncos went 8-2 over their final 10 regular season games, and they closed on a three-game winning streak to build some momentum heading into the post-season. From there, wins over the NAIT Ooks and Lakeland College Rustlers propelled them into the ACAC Championship game against the host Keyano College Huskies.
While both the Huskies and Broncos secured a spot at Nationals by way of the ACAC having a wild card spot, both teams wanted to enter the field as ACAC Champions. It was a back-and-forth contest from start to finish. Keyano College held a slim one-point lead heading into the final frame, but the Broncos wouldn’t be denied. A 16-12 fourth-quarter saw Olds College overtake the Huskies and hang on to win the conference title.
From there, the Broncos were off to Sainte-Foy, Quebec for the National Championships. With momentum on their side, the Broncos had their sights set on a second banner to hang in their gymnasium when the year was over.
Up first for the ACAC Champions was a date with the VIU Mariners. The PACWEST BC Champions allowed the Broncos to seize control early on, putting themselves behind the proverbial eight-ball. Olds College punched their ticket to the semifinals with a 61-37 win over the Mariners. From there, a tight 71-70 win over the Dawson Blues sent the Broncos onto the Championship Game against the host school, the Dynamiques de Sainte-Foy.
In the finals, the Broncos’ best player put the team on her back and willed them to victory. Brittney Thibeaux (Lake Villa, Ill.) recorded 30 points, 13 rebounds, four steals, and three blocks for the game, and Olds College used a strong first quarter to put the Dynamiques in a deficit that they weren’t able to overcome. The Broncos outscored Sainte-Foy by a 21-14 margin over the first 10 minutes, and they rode that momentum to their first-ever CCAA Championship.
Counting the regular season and playoffs, the Broncos closed the 2018-19 season on a nine-game winning streak, and they have two impressive banners to show for their hard work as a result. They were a veteran team that was rich with talent on both ends of the floor, and they made the most of their opportunities.
Now, Head Coach Avery Harrison and his staff will be without several key pieces from last year’s puzzle. With that said, they add some intriguing players that will look to step in and make the transition rather smooth.
In total, the Broncos will be missing five players from last year’s championship team. Given the toughness and the overall talent level of the ACAC South Division, that’s a significant number of players to be without from year to the next.
Most notably, the Broncos will be without the services of Kyla Adams (St. Paul, Minn.) and Kristina Bajovic (Belgrade, SRB). Both players played significant roles for Olds College last season, and not having them on the floor as the team looks to defend their national title has left two big holes to fill in the lineup.
On both ends of the floor, Adams was a problem for opposing teams night in and night out. The St. Paul native posted 16.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 2.2 steals per contest for a stellar two-way stat line for the year. She shot 46.9% from the field, 35.4% from three-point range, and 64.2% from the free throw line.
Her impact on the game stretched the full 94-feet of the court, and that is a level of production that doesn’t come around every day for coaches.
As for Bajovic, her decision to transfer from the program has left another hole in the Broncos’ lineup. The product of Belgrade posted 10.5 points per game while shooting 40.3% from the field. Bajovic added 2.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.2 steals per contest.
Both Bajovic and Adams were selected as First Team All-Stars at the 2019 CCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship as well as in the ACAC.
Despite her decision to transfer, Bajovic will remain in the ACAC. She is set to join the Ambrose University Lions.
The losses of both Adams and Bajovic are the two significant departures from last year’s title winning team. Both players were regulars in the starting five, and their All-Star accolades at year’s end were a testament to the work they put in on the court and what they meant to the program.
With that in mind, the Broncos still return some talented players, a group that includes the reigning CCAA Women’s Basketball Player of the Year.
Brittney Thibeaux was a woman on a mission last season. She was on her own level for the entire 2018-19 season, and at times, she looked unstoppable. At year’s end, she was awarded the CCAA Women’s Basketball Player of the Year award for her efforts, and she capped off her season with the CCAA National Championship.
Now, it’s time for some bad news for the rest of the ACAC. Thibeaux is back and ready to do it all again in 2019-20.
The return of Thibeaux instantly makes the Broncos a threat in the ACAC. Last season, She averaged 27.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 29 assists, and 1.7 blocked shots per contest. She was able to get her teammates involved when she drew a double-team from her opponents, and her impact on the glass was among the tops in the country.
In 21 regular season games, Thibeaux posted 11 double-doubles. On offense, she had 10 games with 30+ points, and she even went for a casual 55 points on January 19th against the Briercrest College Clippers. There is only one Brittney Thibeaux, and she has her sights set on closing out her collegiate career with some more hardware for the trophy case.
But, the good news for the Broncos doesn’t stop there. Guard Michaela Allen-Gullion (Calgary, Alta.) is ready to run the offense from the back end once more. Last season, Allen-Gullion was one of the ACAC’s best guards, and her 6.1 assists per game led the conference at year’s end. Add in her 11.5 points and 3.3 rebounds, and she can also impact the game on both ends of the floor.
The one knock on Allen-Gullion from last season would be her shooting percentage. She shot just 31.9% from the field and 20.3% from three-point range. If she can find consistency with her three-point jumper early in the year and build more confidence, the Broncos will take things up a notch.
Forward Macyn Morning Bull (Piikani, Alta.) enjoyed a breakout season, of sorts, after transferring to the program from the SAIT Trojans. A regular in the starting five, Morning Bull emerged as one of the top rebounders in the ACAC. She finished the year ranked eighth in the conference with an average of 8.7 rebounds per contest. Morning Bull posted 12 games with at least seven rebounds, and seven games with double-digit rebounds.
One player who should see an expanded role this season is guard Alli Taylor (Okotoks, Alta.). In the second half of the season, Taylor was a regular starter for the Broncos, and she made the most of her opportunity. She posted six games with double-digit points on the year, all of which came in the second half of the regular season when she was a starter. Overall, Taylor posted 7.4 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, and is looking like a future star in the ACAC for Olds College.
Meghan Swartz (Brooks, Alta.) should also see more minutes come her way this season, given the departure of five players from last year’s team. In limited minutes a year ago, Swartz averaged 2.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per contest.
Given that the Broncos lose two of their best players from last year’s team, Coach Harrison and his staff will look to the incoming class of recruits to step in and put together strong performances with the minutes they’re given. In total, three first-year players have been announced for the program, all of whom received some high praise from their new head coach.
“We are excited about the upcoming season, with our returning veterans and pleased with the potential of our recruiting class,” added Harrison. “We feel we are in the mix with the top teams in the ACAC.”
Mackenzie Hooson (Didsbury, Alta.) brings a natural scoring presence to the back court for the Broncos this season, and she will likely be tasked to help recover some of the offensive production lost with the departure of Adams.
Point guard Dani Earl (Winnipeg, Man.) adds leadership and poise to the back court rotation. At Glenlawn Secondary in Winnipeg, Earl was coached by legendary Glenlawn coach Bryan Kornberger.
Rounding out the group of three first-year talents is Halle Gjerlaug (Medicine Hat, Alta.). The Broncos nabbed the 5’8” wing from the backyard of one of their top ACAC rivals, and Gjerlaug will bring a defensive presence to the court each night out.
While the roster has yet to be finalized, guard Alice-Fay Pitts (Las Vegas, Nev.) is currently listed on the Broncos’ 2019-20 roster on their website. The 5’7” guard did not play last season, but posted 11.0 points and 7.4 rebounds per contest back in 2017-18.
The status of Pitts with the Broncos this season will be something to keep an eye on as the season approaches.
“Our expectations are high, as they should be for everyone,” concluded Harrison. “We just need to keep a level head and realize that last year was an exceptional year for us, but this is a different team this year.”
“Our schedule does not allow anyone to take a night off on the court and forces our South Division teams to always play their best.”
Coach Harrison knows last year was a special year for the Broncos, but he also understands that the new season provides its own set of unique challenges. For a team that won it all last season but lost the player personnel that it did, the Olds College Broncos will look to establish themselves early on in the talented ACAC South Division.
With some familiar faces back for at least one more shot at another title, and some future stars in tow, the Olds College Broncos have a real chance to win the ACAC Championship for a second year in a row. How players assume their new roles will determine how far this team goes in 2019-20.
Be sure to bookmark our 2019-20 Season Previews page to keep up with the previews as they are released online.
– T. Bennett