Thanks for your patience.
We’ve got a wrap on Thursday’s AAA quarterfinal games with reports on all four contests below. First, however, here’s Friday’s Final Four menu:
7 p.m. — No 1 Semiahmoo vs. No. 5 Kelowna
8:45 p.m. — No. 2 Walnut Grove vs. No. 5 Brookswood
TOP HALF DRAW
No. 1 SEMIAHMOO 86 No. 8 OKANAGAN MISSION 33
LANGLEY — It’s one thing to win your opening-round Sweet 16 game by over 50 points at the B.C. senior girls Triple A basketball championships.
It’s something entirely different to do it again, the next day, in the Elite 8 quarterfinal round.
For historians around the province, it’s just another reminder that Surrey’s Semiahmoo Totems are changing the metrics by which we measure dominance in girls high school hoops.
Grade 10 Izzy Forsyth scored 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, while fellow Class of 2021er Tara Wallack had 12 points and nine rebounds, all a part of an 86-33 win over Kelowna’s Okanagan Mission Huskies.
Now, with a semifinal date Friday in the Final Four booked against the defending champion Kelowna Owls, the real tests start to come for head coach Allison McNeill’s young and restless squad.
Yet is their any concern from the former Canadian senior national team head coach about the lack of push her team has received this week over their first two games at the LEC?
“It’s so exciting to go to the Final Four because we’re so young,” McNeill said after the win, referencing the fact that while her team made the semifinals last season as Grade 9s, that moment proved to be just a little too large.
“Last year it was all new and we played well to place fourth,” McNeill continued. “This year we know we’re in the Final Four, we’re focusing on who are opponent will be and we’re ready to go.”
Yet despite what you might think, the Totems’ process has not been accompanied by a hyper-intense regimen.
In fact McNeill chuckled when she was asked if she had upped the tenor of her pre-tournament practices in preparation for the potential of a pair of games to open provincials that might not be in doubt entering the fourth quarter.
“No, we took the weekend off,” she smiled. “I said to them ‘Go be a kid. I didn’t want to see them. I needed two days away, too. Then we came back and had solid practices. We focused on our defence and our execution, which I think are things we’re good at.”
Of course the way Kelowna steadied itself over the final three minutes of play just drives home the point, stronger than ever, that a champion is a champion until they aren’t.
“They have senior leadership and they have kids that have been there before and done it,” she said of the likes of Owls Jaeli Ibbetson and Kennedy Dickie. “So I think they will rise to any and every challenge, as will we.”
Senior Totem Faith Dut had a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds. Jordan Robb led OKM with 12 points, while Makenna Jacklin added 11.
The Totems were a plus-49 in the rebounding-differential department, while their 17 offensive rebounds came on the same glass as the Huskies’ 16 defensive caroms.
No. 5 KELOWNA 65 No. 4 YALE 64
LANGLEY — Darren Semeniuk has been around the game of basketball his entire life, and over that span the head coach of the Kelowna Owls has a number of axioms he’s always ready to lean on.
One of them?
The deeper you get into the game clock, the more each and every moment reveals the kind of team you are.
“I was just saying how lucky we were to get away with that one,” Semeniuk said in the moments after his defending B.C. champion Owls beat Abbotsford’s Yale Lions 65-64 to find their way into Friday’s Final Four here at the provincial tournament.
“But,” Semeniuk continued of his Owls, who looked like a team on brink for virtually the entire game, “we did have some big moments from key players. It doesn’t matter what you look like for the first 38 minutes, if you can find a way to win in the last two minutes, it tells you a lot about what’s going on in your locker room, and the character that your Grade 12s are bringing.”
The Owls’ run actually started in minute No. 36, but the point is taken.
Back-to-back transition lay-ins by Jaeli Ibbetson, another off the dribble-drive by Rylee Semeniuk, and then three more points from Kennedy Dickie, one off a free throw, and two off an explosive Euro step in the paint.
All told, a 9-3 run over a span of 2:21 and all of a sudden, with 59.7 seconds left, the Owls were on top 65-63.
The Lions had a chance to send the game to overtime but missed a free throw with 1.7 seconds left.
Just prior to that, with 11.6 seconds left, the Owls’ Kassidy Day missed a pair of free throws which could have iced the game.
“We just patted her on the back and said ‘We need to D-up,’” said Ibbetson who finished with 20 points and 21 rebounds. “We just had to stay in the game and we did it, and we did it by staying together.”
The result brought out two very different emotions.
Yale, which had just six player dress for the game following an ankle injury which sidelined starting point Neelam Rai, were understandably devastated.
“We came really close minus our starting point guard,” said Lions’ head coach Bobby Braich, “so we went with six and we said ‘Next soldier up’ and we dedicated this game to her.”
The Owls, now set to face the Semiahmoo Totems in Friday’s Final Four, got 15 points and 14 rebounds from Eastern Washington-bound Dickie, as well as 13 more from Semeniuk.
Yale’s senior guard Tana Pankratz was incredible throughout, finishing with a game-high 26 points, despite the fact that the Kelowna defence was geared up to stop her above all else.
Pankratz went 11-of-24 from the field, had three blocks and three steals, and grabbed 12 rebounds, all igniting the fast break off defensive glass.
Kyleigh Boldt added 10 points, eight rebounds and five steals in the loss.
The Owls did not enter the week as the team to beat.
Semiahmoo, Walnut Grove, Riverside and Yale were all seeded above Kelowna.
It’s a fact that wasn’t lost on Ibbetson.
“It was such an amazing feeling, coming in as underdogs and beating the fouth-seeded team,” she added. “We’re all super happy because all year we’ve had to work our way up.”
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
No. 6 BROOKSWOOD 90 No. 3 RIVERSIDE 86
LANGLEY — Their past three games, dating back to last season, had all gone to overtime.
So even with the equity that comes with a 14-point halftime lead, like the 42-28 advantage the Brookswood Bobcats built over PoCo’s Riverside Rapids, you knew that whatever got splashed across the canvas of this B.C. Triple A Elite 8 clash, nothing was set in stone.
And so it was that Jessica Parker and Sammy Shields, sleeping giants at the half with a combined 16 points on a shaky 4-of-22 shooting, would right their wrongs and flip the script from a lopsided loss-in-the-making to another storied chapter in what might be the best rivalry in B.C.’s girls basketball over the last decade.
Parker and Shields came back in a big way, shooting a combined 20-of-39 over the final two quarters and combining for a gargantuan 68 points on the night.
Yet even all of that wasn’t enough.
“If you look back historically, the Brookswood-Riverside rivalry has been unreal for the last 10 years,” Veale said moments after his team dodged a huge bullet and found their way to 90-86 win, one which sends them into the semifinals Saturday (8:45 p.m.) against the No. 2 seed and 2018 finalist Walnut Grove Gators.
“The last few have been so tight, and today was probably the best defensive game we have played.”
Taking ‘bend but don’t break’ to the extreme, Brooskwood actually choked back on its 17-point lead late in the first half as Riverside took a lead of four points with 2:50 remaining.
Yet a basket with about a minute remaining in the game seemed to speak for everything Brookswood’s effort was about on Thursday.
Mackenzie Cox, the team’s 5-foot-9 Grade 10 guard, got the ball in the paint and didn’t so much finesse the ball home as physically impose it on the Rapids interior defence, bulling herself into a position to drop it through the iron.
It gave the Bobcats an 86-81 lead, allowing Brookswood to more easily absorb a Shields’ triple with 35 seconds left that made it 86-84.
Cox then hit two free throws with 20 seconds left to make it a two possession game.
Veale had his top guard, Jenna Duck, guard Parker, while fellow 10’s Cox and Quinn Jasper took turns on Shields.
They came nowhere near close to stopping the dynamic duo, but with only 18 points total coming from the rest of the Riverside roster, it was just enough to pull off the upset.
“You’ve got to contain Parker and I think she has the biggest heart in the province right now,” Veale said.
“And Sammy, she is severely dangerous,” the coach continued. “She’s like silk. She moves so well. She’s so smooth she reminds me of Sam Perkins, the Big Smooth.”
If Veale wants to live in a basketball world populated by 1990s Seattle SuperSonics, then his point guard Jenna Dick is Gary Payton, aka The Glove.
“Jenna gets lot of recognition for her offence and she’s hit a lot of threes, but she can actually play great defence.”
Dick, the Eastern Washington signee, scored a team-high 28 points, going 7-of-14 from distance. She also had 11 rebounds and eight assists as well as five steals.
Olivia Ohlman, the senior forward Veale loves to bring off the bench for her spark, had 14 points, just like Cox. Kelsey Lalonde had 12 points as the ‘Cats once again played without its injured, third-leading scorer, guard Neyha Lali.
Tessa Burton added 10 points in the loss for Riverside.
No. 2 WALNUT GROVE 86 No. 7 ROBERT BATEMAN 45
LANGLEY — You can spend an entire regular season talking about all of the ways in which Jessica Wisotzki influences a basketball game, whether that be through her offence or her defence.
Yet you can never fully appreciate how game-changing it actually is until you’ve invested yourself in the fortunes of her Walnut Grove Gators and their path through the sudden-elimination environment of the B.C. senior girls AAA championships.
Alas, the Gator faithful had plenty to cheer about Thursday as Wisotzki played one of the best games of her career, scoring 30 points, grabbing 13 rebounds, and using her blend of size and athleticism to confound the schematics of the Bateman offence by guarding all over the floor.
“I thought Jess was unbelievable tonight,” said Grove head coach Darren Rowell. “She stepped up to that notch that we need her to be at. We hope (B.C. Player of the Year) Tavia (Rowell) pulls up behind, and Sophia (Wisotzki) has been great. Ro (Taylor), too, with 15 rebounds, and her Grade 9 sister Fania, you can’t sleep on her because she is playing well and getting to the rim.”
Rowell scored 20 points, Sophia Wisotzki added 14, Fania Taylor had 10 while Ro Taylor had 15 rebounds.
Of course with Bateman star Jayden Gill such an omnipresent threat, coach Rowell couldn’t help but be ecstatic with the way his team defended, holding the Wolves to just nine points while scoring 28 themselves in a game-changing second quarter.
“Gill is really good, she’s such huge energy for them, she is their motor,” said Rowell whose team led 56-24 at half, “so we tried to focus on shutting that down.”
Their first-ever trip to provincials has been enlightening for the Robert Bateman team, and other than their early slip, head coach Dan Village liked what his team brought this week.
“We did take a big step,” he said. “Today, we knew were in tough. We wanted to be as competitive as we could because (Walnut Grove) is a powerhouse. “I was a little disappointed with our second quarter, but this was a learning experience for those 11s and 10s. And I am happy that are Grade 12s battled it out.”
Gill, the Trinity Western-bound senior, was the team’s only double-figure scorer with 16 points to go along with 12 rebounds.
Rowell has deep respect for its Final Four foe Brookswood (8:45 p.m. Friday).
“They are tough to play against because they are good at disrupting you and taking you out of your flow,” said Rowell. “They are a really nitty-gritty and tough team.”
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