Welcome to Day 1 of the B.C. senior girls Double-A basketball championships.
Please continue to check back on this posting for updates and photos from all eight championship round games:
BY HOWARD TSUMURA
KALAMALKA 56 LAMBRICK PARK 44
LANGLEY — The Kalamalka Lakers just needed a quick pep talk to calm their nerves and stoke their confidence.
And once they found their best headspace, the long-limbed team from Coldstream played a lot more like a team with ice in its veins.
“They were so nervous, I have never seen them as nervous as they were for this game,” related head coach Johnal Lee after the Lakers won a game of swings down the stretch drive with Victoria’s Lambrick Park Pride, winning 56-44 on the strength of a game-ending 10-0 run.
“That’s when myself and (assistant) coach (Dean) Francks told them ‘We don’t care how many shots you miss, just keep shooting.’ It calmed them down and made them feel comfortable.”
It also steeled them for a stretch-drive battle against a well-coached and relentless Lambrick Park team which consistently found ways to regain momentum against the Lakers.
Kalamalka’s switch to a zone defence allowed it to build a 46-35 lead late in the fourth quarter, but Lambrick Park’s response gave it a huge boost, as a zone press fuelled the Pride’s 9-0 run to pull within 46-44.
The Lakers found their best down the stretch, however, going back to its man defence and going on its decisive run in the process.
Sydney Lewis, Kal’s 6-foot-2 Grade 10 forward, led the winners with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while 6-foot-1 senior Lilly Lee added 11 points. Brooklyn Lewis, the 6-foot-1 senior, scored eight points.
Lambrick Park was led by the game-high 22 points of Grade 11 guard Sofia Velasco, and a further 12 points from senior forward Abby Hazard.
The Lakers now face the winner of Wednesday’s York House vs. Selkirk game in a 3:30 p.m. quarterfinal on Thursday.
BY HOWARD TSUMURA
YORK HOUSE 76 SELKIRK 22
LANGLEY — Vancouver’s York House Tigers first stroll through the jungle that is the opening round of the B.C. senior girls Double-A basketball championships went off pretty much without a hitch.
The question is, was it enough to get his team ready for what promise to be something of an epic Elite 8 battle as the No. 3-seeded Tigers face the No. 6-seeded Kalamalka Lakers in a 3:30 p.m. clash Thursday at the LEC Field House?
“The first game… I have been to a lot of these.. I think this is the 20th,” summed York House coach David Prissinotti after the Tigers topped the Selkirk Storm 76-22.
“It’s a game to get the nerves out and get up and down the floor, but it doesn’t seem to matter how you practice. Execution is always sloppy.
Yet credit to the Storm, who brought good dose of speed and determination to the proceedings over the first half.
York House countered with some fine play from its two frontcourt cornerstones.
Jordan Wyder finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds, while Avery Ratcliffe had 12 points and nine rebounds. Senior guard Samantha Mark scored 16 points.
Wyder and Ratcliffe will have to be difference-makers come Thursday against Kalamalka.
In a January exhibition game at York House, the barn-storming Lakers pulled out a one-point win over the Tigers, but Prissinotti stresses that both Wyder and Ratcliffe were missing for that game.
All at once, it adds an extra layer of intrigue.
In its win over Lambrick Park on Wednesday, Kal — with three strong 6-footers in its main rotation, went to a zone and showed how much trouble they could cause with their combination of wingspan and length.
None of that is news to Prissinotti.
“To play against a zone like that without our two interior players, we were just long-bombing from the perimetre,” the coach continued of York House’s January loss to Kal.
“My three perimetre kids, they ran out of gas in that game.”
Selkirk’s Winter Knudsgaard led the Storm with seven points.
SOUTHRIDGE 66 BRENTWOOD COLLEGE 64
BY HOWARD TSUMURA
LANGLEY – Its fourth quarter was one of the best tightrope stretch drives of the opening day here at the 2022 championships.
Surrey’s Southridge Storm and Brentwood College from Mill Bay on Vancouver Island, battling tooth and claw for a berth to Thursday’s Elite 8.
In the end, after the Storm’s Sophia Tapley sunk a pair of free throws with 57 seconds remaining to put here team up by what would hold as the final score, Southridge stayed the course, forcing Brentwood College to turn the ball over on a shot-clock violation with six seconds left en route to a win that had winning head coach Paul Chiarenza reflecting on the long climb his program has made over the past decade.
“We’ve been on the other end of that game four times in a row,” said Chiarenza. “We were 0-4 in the first round of this tournament in my 10 (Double-A) years at Southridge.
It takes a lot of belief to be able to say ‘fifth time the charm’ but a berth in the Elite 8 against the winner of the Mulgrave-St. John Brebeuf game is an opportunity for the Storm to achieve as they never have.
The win came against an immensely talented and well-coached Brentwood team, but one that had played just a handful of games heading into February after a late finish to the volleyball season and a bout of COVID didn’t allow them to play their first full game until Jan. 14.
Chiarenza theorized that Brentwood’s lack of play likely gave it a seeding number (10) that did not represent how good it actually was.
“I knew as soon as I saw the draw that they weren’t making it easy on us,” he said. “(Brentwood) hadn’t played anybody, and if you don’t, you usually get penalized with your seed. I knew they were big and that No. 11 (guard Miranda Navarro Perez) is one of the most poised kids I’d seen anywhere.”
To Brentwood’s misfortune, however, they missed five straight free throws at a critical juncture of the fourth quarter.
Southridge’s Yasmin Bath, who batted fouls all game, played the entire fourth quarter with four, and was sensational for the winners as its lone senior.
Bath finished with a game-high 18 points. Tapley and Grade 11 guard Camille Hare each scored 15 in the win, while Rianna Brar added 18.
Jensa Napier-Ganley scored 17 points, Navarro Perez 15 and Ruby MacDougald 14 for Brentwood College, the only high school in B.C. without a nickname.
Chiarenza hoped the successes of this season’s team, coupled with a culture that celebrates the virtues of the truw student-athlete would continue to fuel growth through the program.
“When I got to Southridge they were a low-level Single-A team with six players and all of them had their minds on Harvard before basketball,” he said. “So to be able to build something to this point, where No. 24 (Nicole Lofing) on our team, is an 8th grader, and her family and her chose Southridge because they wanted her to play basketball? Then for other girls to hear that and learn that they are a part of something special, and then to see them get rewarded for it in a game like tonight…”
MULGRAVE 73 ST. JOHN BREBEUF 28
LANGLEY — It may not have been apparent to anyone watching the final game of Day 1 at the B.C. senior girls Double A championships, but West Vancouver’s Mulgrave Titans weren’t without their share of anxiety in the hours leading up to their tip-off against the unflappable play-in winners from Abbotsford’s St. John Brebeuf.
“We’re young and we were a little nervous,” said head coach Claude Leduc after the Titans rolled to a 73-28 victory, “but the girls came out and worked hard.”
The Titans, the No. 2 seeds, obviously shed the butterflies early, building a 41-13 halftime lead and setting up a quarterfinal clash Thursday (3:30 p.m.) against Surrey’s Southridge Storm.
And in a tourney filled with young teams, the Titans certainly qualify as one of the best of that ilk, starting four Grade 10s who combined for 49 points Wednesday, led by point guard Ava Wilson who hit five threes and finished with 21 points.
Shooting guard Jenna Talib added 11 points, 6-foot-2 centre Eva Ruse another 12 and 6-foot-1 guard Lucy Xu five points.
Mia Ruse, a Grade 11 6-foot forward, scored 10 points.
As far as Leduc has seen, his team, despite its youth, has been able to play to their skill level without letting the in-game jitters, brought on by inexperience, spoil their performance.
He also knows that the provincial draw will be something of final arbiter.
“I was a little worried about that coming in,” he said. “We talented but we’re young. Is that inexperience going to show and come through? It hasn’t all season. The physicality piece… we’re learning that senior ball is different from junior ball. So they’re wrapping their arms and their heads around that.”
Leduc had to hand kudos to the mindset of St. John Brebeuf, who were outmatched from the start but put on a display of energy and belief that was rare and appreciated by those who respect the game.
“They battled and they worked hard and they never gave up” said Leduc. “Fighting, fighting, fighting. I wish that all of my girls did a little bit of that.”
BY DAN KINVIG (Special for Varsity Letters)
LANGLEY CHRISTIAN 94 SHAS TI KELLY ROAD 12
LANGLEY — 8:30 a.m. seems like an unnaturally early hour to be playing a basketball game, but the Langley Christian Lightning came out on Wednesday morning with an energy that suggested they may have been on a Starbucks IV drip overnight.
The top seeds in the AA draw were sharp from the opening tip-off in their opener against the Shas Ti Kelly Road Grizzlies of Prince George, starting the game on a 24-0 run to drain any suspense from the proceedings en route to a 94-12 victory.
Lightning head coach Danielle Gardner noted afterward that given what high school hoopsters have endured over the past two COVID-altered seasons – most notably, no provincial championships were held in 2021 – energy and motivation were not an issue whatsoever.
“It’s just exciting,” Gardner said. “Everyone’s so happy to be here, and so excited that provincials are happening after not having anything last year. It’s just great to be playing.
“For everyone here, that’s the excitement. That’s what gets you ready to play – just that we get this opportunity.”
Lainey Shelvey lit the fuse for the Lightning, scoring 16 of her game-high 20 points in the first half on her way to player of the game honours. Taelor Coxford added 17 points, and Sydney Bradshaw’s 12 points came entirely on shots from beyond the arc.
Breanna Day and Danni Thompson, with four points apiece, led the way for the North Central zone champion Grizzlies.
“Your first game (at provincials), after two years, you’re just trying to get jitters out,” Gardner noted. “You’ve got a lot of kids who haven’t been to provincials, so that’s all new. It’s just about getting playing, getting touches on ball, and playing hard together.”
The Grizzlies, for their part, were celebrating some history simply in making their return to the B.C. championships. The last time the senior girls basketball team at Shas Ti Kelly Road qualified for the B.C.’s was in 1991 – 31 years ago, more than a decade before any of the current crop of players were born.
“We’ve got a gritty group of girls who worked really, really hard,” Grizz head coach Randy Strybos noted. “We unfortunately lost one of our better players (Jenny Graham-Smith) due to COVID on Monday, so we were coming down a little bit shorthanded. But the girls aren’t quitting . . . a hallmark of this team, and a point of pride, is that we work from the opening whistle to the last horn, and we’re going to keep doing that. It’s just a joy to coach this group, and it was a real victory for us to get out of our zone this year. Our school and our community are really proud of this group.”
Langley Christian is, in Strybos’s estimation, “the team to watch, for sure.”
“They’re an excellent team, well-coached, really good attitudes,” he said. “They played a fantastic game today . . . we know they go a little bit harder than that, so the sportsmanship was excellent.
“They’re a real nice team to play against. It was a real pleasure for us.”
BY DAN KINVIG (Special for Varsity Letters)
ST. THOMAS MORE 65 ABBOTSFORD TRADITIONAL 53
LANGLEY — Points were at a premium in the second game of the day in the AA gym, as the St. Thomas More Collegiate Knights and Abbotsford Traditional Titans were entrenched in a gritty defensive battle.
The two teams stayed within one possession, one way or the other, for most of a closely contested first half. Ultimately, though, the Knights’ relentless pressure allowed them to pull away after halftime for a 65-53 win.
“We’re a very defensive-minded team – we’ve got a lot of scrappy players, a lot of hustlers,” noted Kyra Anagnostou, the Knights’ sharpshooting Grade 11 guard. “Defence is what we try to focus on . . . we really try to wear teams down.”
That’s what seemed to happen in the second half, as STM – running a 1-2-2 zone press for much of the game – was able to extend a five-point halftime lead (32-27) to 20 points early in the fourth quarter.
Anagnostou poured in a team-high 22 points, highlighted by four three-pointers, and Ava Giovinazzo helped the Knights pull away, scoring eight of her 11 points in the third quarter. Sophia Wong chipped in with 11 points, and Nikolina Prtenjaca added 10 for STM.
“I think that in the first half, we were maybe a little nervous,” Anagnostou said with a chuckle. “We had to shake off the nerves playing at LEC, and it’s being livestreamed! We were all super-excited. So I think in the third quarter, we really tried to calm ourselves down and focus on our goals for the game.”
Ashleen Dhillon led the way for the Titans, racking up a game-high 26 points, and Priya Sangha scored 12.
It’s been a season to remember for the Abby Traditional program, which qualified for provincials at both the senior and junior girls levels – both accomplishments were firsts in school history. This group of seniors has been trailblazing at the school for years – during their Grade 9 season, they won the silver medal at Grade 9 provincials.
“This group has been unbelievable,” head coach Aman Virk said. “We taught all these kids in Grade 8, and we stayed with them despite not being at the same school. I’m a teacher in Delta, my assistant coach (Gurinder Dhillon) is at a different middle school in Abbotsford.
“This year we’re fortunate to have a bit of a program where our junior girls have also qualified (for provincials) for the first time. Happening independently is one thing, but happening concurrently is unbelievable. We’re a choice school, so we don’t get a lot of kids that stick around – we get kids that go to the other big-name schools in Abbotsford. But this group chose to stick around, and we’ve had them for five years. Despite not being a very big team, they do an unbelievable job of competing and playing with heart.”
BY DAN KINVIG (Special for Varsity Letters)
NOTRE DAME 99 A.R. MACNEILL 29
Playing at the B.C. high school basketball championships is an opportunity to be savoured – particularly so for graduating seniors like Bernadet Leda.
The dynamic Notre Dame Jugglers guard came into the final tournament of her high school career determined not to waste a moment or leave anything to chance, and that sense of urgency and purpose shone like a beacon on Wednesday.
Leda was dominant from the opening tip vs. Richmond’s A.R. MacNeill Ravens, racking up 17 points during an incredible first quarter that saw her team stake out a 31-11 lead. She would end up with a game-high 27 points as the Jugglers cruised to a 99-29 victory.
“It’s my senior year, and a lot of it for me is, I want to end with no regrets,” explained Leda, who will begin her post-secondary basketball career in the fall with the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades.
“I feel like that’s just a thing for all seniors, where it’s the last tournament of the year and you want to end on a bang. You want to do all you can, because this is a one-time experience.
“A lot of it, too, is that I wanted to fulfill the role I was given this year, which was to help this team as a leader and grow in myself as a leader. That’s really all it was.”
With Leda leading the way, Notre Dame was able to turn tough defence into transition offence throughout a first half that left no doubt about the final outcome.
Jenna Lavigna chipped in with 17 points for the Jugglers, Ella Ungemach scored 12 of her 16 points in the second quarter, and Vivan Chan added 12 for the winners.
“Our identity as a team, what we love to focus on, is on defence,” Leda said. “Our best offence comes from good defence.”
Shila Rasoul, with nine points, and Monica Lo, with six, were the top scorers for the Ravens, the South Fraser zone runners-up.
BY DAN KINVIG (Special for Varsity Letters)
MICHAELS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL 76, COLLINGWOOD 25
LANGLEY — The old maxim says that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
But as the St. Michaels University School Blue Jags would attest, the former can be extremely influential on the latter.
The Blue Jags’ campaign at the B.C. AA championship got off to a scorching start, in the form of a 23-2 game-opening run in their first-round clash with the Collingwood Cavaliers. Full-court pressure across all five positions, leading to scoring opportunities in transition, fueled the SMUS surge, and they went on to win 76-25.
In the aftermath, head coach Lindsay Brooke was quick to point out that her team didn’t play up to its potential offensively, yet the defence was there for 40 minutes.
“We’ve got a lot of competitive athletes – not all basketball players,” she noted. “But we’ve got a lot of soccer and rugby players, and that’s how we have to play – full-court, intense defence.
“To be honest, it was a bit of a struggle offensively. We didn’t finish very well – we had a lot of easy layups that we couldn’t convert on. But we got out to a good start, and we were able to manage things from there. . . . Our players did a good job individually on their checks, and that gave us a nice big cushion.”
The Cavaliers answered the Blue Jags’ initial intensity with Grade 10 guard Reese Tam leading the way – she drained back-to-back off-the-dribble treys to spark a 10-0 Collingwood run bridging the first and second quarters that got the West Van squad back to within 23-12.
SMUS was able to push the lead back to 35-14 by the halftime break, and they put the hammer down in the third quarter, blitzing Collingwood 19-0 in the frame to take a 59-14 lead to the fourth.
They cruised from there, and Makenna Anderson finished with a game-high 21 points en route to player of the game honours. Avery Geddes, the Blue Jags’ precocious Grade 9 point guard, scored 16, and Amanda Adams and Charlotte Hardy contributed 12 points apiece.
Collingwood’s Tam paced her squad, scoring 13 hard-earned points.
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