Welcome to Day 1 of the B.C. senior girls Quad-A basketball championships.
Please continue to check back on this posting for updates and photos from all eight championship round games:
BY DAN KINVIG (Special for Varsity Letters)
ABBOTSFORD SENIOR 84 FLEETWOOD PARK 47
LANGLEY — On first glance, the Abbotsford Senior Panthers appear to be a team poised to peak in 2023.
But just because this squad is comprised primarily of Grade 11 athletes, don’t presume they’re just happy to be at the Langley Events Centre this week for a learning experience.
These youthful Panthers have the collective ability to dangerous in the here and now. The Fleetwood Park Dragons found that out on Wednesday, as the Panthers sprinted past them 84-47 in the first round of the B.C. 4A championship.
Abby Senior boasts outstanding size, starting three players six feet or taller – Naomi Unger (6’4”), Nyah Vermeulen (6’1”) and Chelsey Dulku (6’0”) – and they pounded the Dragons on the boards by a 29-18 margin. Their length as a group complements an explosive three-level scoring star in Lakresha Edwards (a player of stature in her own right at 5’10”), who went off for 22 first-half points on Wednesday on her way to a 30-point night. Vermeulen contributed a huge double-double to the Panthers’ cause, with 27 points and 12 rebounds.
Afterward, Abby Senior coach Elmore Abraham noted that while his group is indeed young, Edwards, Vermeulen and Dulku were Grade 9’s on the Panthers’ 2020 B.C. championship squad at the 3A level. That experience – two years ago though it was – benefits the group as they step onto the provincial stage this week.
“They’re almost veterans at this point, because they’ve been here before,” Abraham said. “I’m hoping that they pull the rest along.
“Because of COVID, it was a short time frame to get this group together. It’s about getting them together to play as a cohesive team, to play as one. Right now, some of them know what to do and some don’t.”
So far, so good for the Panthers – the sixth seed advances to face the Terry Fox-West Vancouver winner in the quarter-finals.
Speaking of youthful up-and-comers, Fleetwood Park got a heroic performance from Grade 9 guard Saavyn Maan, who racked up a team-best 20 points. Trinity Mayencourt added seven points, and Brinda Venkiteswaran scored six for the Dragons.
BY DAN KINVIG (Special for Varsity Letters)
TERRY FOX 77, WEST VANCOUVER 32
If there’s a team in the 4A field that knows what it takes to make a deep run at the Langley Events Centre, it’s the Terry Fox Ravens.
In 2019, when the Ravens’ current crop of seniors was in Grade 9, they capped an undefeated season by winning the B.C. junior championship. In 2020, playing up on the senior team as Grade 10s, they made a run all the way to the 4A final where they fell to a powerhouse Semiahmoo Totems squad.
After a one-year COVID hiatus, this senior-laden Ravens cohort is back at the LEC, and their collective experience and poise shone through as they cruised past the West Vancouver Highlanders 77-32 in the first round on Wednesday.
The Port Coquitlam squad built a 44-16 lead at halftime and cruised from there, holding the Highlanders to single-digit scoring in each of the four quarters. A balanced attack saw four Ravens score in double figures – Lauren Clements and Cerys Merton posted 14 points apiece, Ana-Maria Misic had 13 points and nine rebounds, and Taylor Matthews scored 11.
“Sometimes we still get a little nervous,” Clements admitted with a chuckle. “But we’ve played here before, and we’re pretty comfortable here. It’s really great to be here, and it’s a good opportunity.
“We worked really hard on defence tonight. It started at the defensive end first, and then we got into our offensive motion, sharing the ball and playing as a team.”
Julia Robledano and Emily Sussex chipped in with eight points apiece for the Ravens, who out-boarded the Highlanders by a 38-23 margin.
Leading the way for West Van were Ashley Chio (eight points), Sophia Ahern (seven) and Giorgia Zen (six).
YALE 75, SOUTH DELTA 58
As he watched his team’s comfort level and poise build with each passing minute on Wednesday evening, Yale Lions head coach Bobby Braich realized his youthful squad was growing up before his eyes.
For the first half of the Lions’ 4A provincial tournament opener vs. the South Delta Sun Devils, they’d looked out of sorts, struggling with turnovers and shot selection in a game that had little flow either way.
The Abbotsford squad emerged for the second half nursing a modest 33-27 lead, but broke the game open with a 24-11 third quarter and went on to win 75-58.
“We started one Grade 10, four Grade 11’s, two years off, haven’t been in a prime-time thing like this…” Braich said afterward, ticking off the factors that produced his team’s uneven start before giving way to their fantastic finish. “We were just a better unit in the second half than the first, and I think we just settled into our stride.
“It’s nerve-wracking for young kids,” he continued, reflecting on the implicit pressure that comes with playing on the provincial stage. “You give them hugs, you tell them you love them, you tell them not to worry, you support them, sometimes you yell at them a little bit. You just don’t know what’s impacting them. You don’t know who they’re seeing in the stands – you’ve got a college coach here, maybe mom and dad for the first time, grandma comes . . . I get it. But there’s nothing more rewarding for a coach to see a kid knock a shot down and they’re up on their toes all excited because they hear the fans cheering. This is the payoff.”
South Delta, the South Fraser zone champs making their first appearance at senior girls provincials in 17 years, hung with the Lions throughout the first half. Mackenzie Campbell led the way for the Sun Devils with 10 points, while Maggy Curtis’s drives to the hoop were Yale’s most reliable source of offence – she had 15 points at the break.
In the second half, back-to-back triples from Jay Hildebrand and Samara Mason helped the Lions extend the lead to 43-30, and they generated a series of turnovers off their press to push the margin to 57-35 late in the third quarter.
In the fourth, Yale answered every Sun Devil surge with a drive to the rim from Curtis or Mason, and they were never seriously threatened down the stretch.
Curtis, the Lions’ dynamic Grade 11 point guard, finished with a game-high 24 points and seven rebounds. Mason came off the bench to score 13 of her 16 points in the second half, while Hildebrand went 4-for-8 from downtown to account for all 12 of her points. Caleigh Reimer added 11 points for the Lions.
Campbell had an outstanding shooting performance for the Sun Devils, going 5-for-5 from beyond the arc on her way to a team-best 21 points. Kaija Rutledge (13 points) and Kira Denney (12) also scored in double figures for South Delta.
OKANAGAN MISSION 98, NORTH PEACE 17
The last time the Okanagan Mission Huskies were at the Langley Events Centre in March, they came within a whisker of a provincial championship.
That was at the 3A level back in 2020, when the Huskies dropped an 85-77 decision to the Abbotsford Senior Panthers in the championship game.
When they walked into the LEC on Wednesday, prior to their 4A tournament opener vs. the North Peace Grizzlies, they were greeted with retrospective clips of that game up on the big screen.
“Our players like to joke that they have a bit of PTSD,” Huskies head coach Meghan Faust said with a chuckle. “When we came in and saw the video of Abby winning and beating us, it was a little bit like, ‘OK, right, we remember that pain and we never want to feel that again.’ So we’re determined to do whatever it takes to not feel that pain.”
So far, so good for OKM – the No. 2 seeds in the 4A draw blitzed the No. 15 Grizzlies 98-17 to punch their ticket to the quarter-finals, where they’ll face Yale on Thursday evening.
The Kelowna squad opened a 29-7 lead in the first quarter and expanded it to 44-9 late in the second. North Peace’s Meghan Stobbe energized her squad just before the break, draining a buzzer-beating three-pointer, but the Huskies continued to roll in the second half.
Senior forward Ryley Bullock fashioned a monster stat line for OKM, registering 29 points, seven rebounds and five steals. Tatum Wade (16 points) and Maya Sandhu (11) also scored in double figures, while Kanani Coon hauled down a game-high 14 rebounds.
Alyssa Gallant posted six points and seven rebounds for the Fort St. John-based Grizzlies, and Stobbe finished with five points and four boards.
Faust says her squad, like so many at the B.C.’s, enjoys a family-type atmosphere. Extending that metaphor, rather than hotelling it on the trip to provincials, the Huskies rent a house for the duration of the tournament each year.
“It’s an Airbnb, a massive house,” Faust said. “It’s got a pool table, a games room, a karaoke bar, tons of bedrooms, hot tub, pool, fire pit outside.
“It’s incredible – a lot of laughs together. It’s something we look forward to every single season. It’s just such a family atmosphere. They’re all sisters, and I’m their mom!”
RIVERSIDE 92 BELMONT 32
LANGLEY — The No. 1 seeds were in their element Wednesday as the 72nd annual B.C. senior girls Quad-A basketball championships opened with an 8:30 a.m. tip.
“We didn’t know that we were going to get this game but we have always practiced early in the morning at Riverside,” said Rapids’ coach Jeremy Neufeld following a 92-32 win over the No. 16-seeded Belmont Bulldogs of Victoria.
“So when we saw the draw, we were happy about it.”
They played like it.
Led by its star Grade 10 guard Avery Sussex, who scored 15 of her game-high 28 points in the opening quarter, the Rapids roared out to an 11-0 lead and held a 32-2 advantage after the first quarter.
Alexis Hart, a Grade 11 guard, was especially dialled in over the opening half, and she added 23 more points for the winners.
Post Natalie Curley had 10 points, and and Grade 9 guard Jorja Hart another nine.
With its only loss on the season coming against Double-A No. 1 Langley Christian, the Rapids appeared every bit the juggernaut, and despite its youth, a squad not prepared to look past anyone.
“We try to tell the girls that what they have done in the season was good.. it was a great accomplishment,” said Neufeld, whose Rapids will face the winner of the Kelowna-Claremont game in Thursday’s quarterfinals. “But this is a new season and were 0-0. Yes, it’s one game at a time.”
Jordan Rioux, the Bulldogs’ senior guard and scoring leader, paced her team with 14 points, while Grade 11 guard Mikayla Eadie added eight points.
CLAREMONT 79 KELOWNA 65
LANGLEY — There was a moment with just under a minute remaining in the third quarter when Maya Creswick put up a three-pointer that caromed, fell, rolled and swirled before finally deciding to fall through the basket.
It wasn’t the definitive moment for Creswick and her Claremont Spartans, but in a game in which the Victoria squad constantly attacked the rim and just generally played an ultra-inspired 40 minutes, Creswick’s hoop was perhaps a sign of favour from the basketball gods above.
The No. 9 Spartans, who ultimately rolled to a 14-point win over the No. 8 seed Kelowna Owls in opening round play Wednesday, admitted afterwards that, due to floods and the pandemic, they knew virtually nothing about the traditional powers from the Thompson Okanagan.
Yet in its own way, from the Spartans perspective, that wound up being a good thing because they simply played to their own strengths.
And all of that starts with the head-down, motor-on dribble-penetration game of its 5-foot-6 Grade 11 guard Adia Pye.
“She is a rare kid, she can get to the rim, not always the right way, and not always the way coach says, but she makes her way to the rim,” veteran Claremont head coach Darren Reisig explained with a slight chuckle.
“She’s strong, she’s a good rebounder, can go left and right, and she is a tough one to stop.”
That’s the best part of Pye’s game.
She doesn’t do it by the book, but she knows how to get it done.
“The shot is kind of a work in progress, so I prefer the layups,” Pye said afterwards. “But we passed the ball so well today, and it was so exciting because we won playing a team game.”
Pye went 8-for-24 against an Owls’ team that knew of her skills, yet the beauty of it all for Claremont, was that even with the dangers of a high-volume 33 per cent day from the field, the guard was still causing havoc by getting to the free throw line where she finished 9-of-12.
Olivia Boulding, picked B.C.’s No. 2 senior girls volleyball player by B.C.’s Canada West coaches, added 15 points for the winner.
Reegan Bond led her Owls, the 5-foot-9 guard scoring a game-high 29 points to go along with 11 rebounds. Kennedy Day added 14 in the loss.
WALNUT GROVE 93 SEAQUAM 48
LANGLEY — Like Tavia Rowell and Jessica Wisotzki before them, the Walnut Grove duo of senior Fania Taylor and Kiera Pemberton is proving that great things indeed come in pairs.
“Absolutely, 100 per cent,” agreed Gators head coach Darren Rowell following his team’s 93-48 win over North Delta’s Seaquam Seahawks on Wednesday when asked if his current guard could hold its own against the program’s not-too-distant gold standard from 2017-19.
“We are just so fortunate to have such a dynamic pair of kids who compliment each other,” continued Rowell, after the Grade 11 Pemberton poured home a game-high 40 points and the senior Taylor put up another 29, the duo accounting for all but 24 of Walnut Grove’s total output.
Tia Rowell scored 11 points for the winners.
Fourth-seeded Walnut Grove will next face the Sir Winston Churchill-Heritage Woods winner in a Thursday quarterfinal.
Coach Rowell seemed especially delighted that as the season has progressed, he’s seen his dynamic duo become more and more like each other.
“As the year has gone by, they have become more similar,” Rowell began. “Fania started the year a better shooter and since, Kiera’s shooting has improved. And, Kiera started the year a better slasher and lately, Fania has become a much more effective slasher herself.
“They are sort of a 1A and 1A,” smiled Rowell. “They can hit it, they can drive it, and they are both very unselfish. They look to kick the ball to open kids. It’s been awesome.
Seaquam, making it’s first B.C. appearance in 30 seasons, took the first big step in the resurgence of its program but were in tough against one of the elite teams in the province.
Jasmine Sidhu led the Seahawks with 12 points, Amar Thiara added 11 and Nyssa Sunner scored nine points.
SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL 70 HERITAGE WOODS 44
LANGLEY — Getting to the quarterfinal round at the B.C. senior girls basketball championships is always reason to celebrate, yet no provincial draw is the same for every team, and sometimes its figurative terrain can turn treacherous in a hurry.
There was no denying the swirl of just such an undercurrent Wednesday in the moment’s after Vancouver’s Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs dispatched Port Moody’s Heritage Woods Kodiaks in the Quad-A championships’ opening round.
“I won’t say I am not pleased, because any time you win at provincials, it’s a good moment,” said SWC’s veteran head coach Simon Dykstra, “but we definitely have to play better tomorrow, that’s for sure.”
And that’s because the Bulldogs, ranked at No. 5 in the last provincial poll, will face No. 4 ranked Walnut Grove in a game worthy of Final Four hype just one day after a bevy of 50-point-plus spreads populated the Sweet 16 worlds at all three tiers here at the LEC,
On Wednesday, it was once again the play of 6-foot-2 forward Marah Dykstra that carried the day for the ‘Dawgs.
The coach’s daughter, Dykstra put of game highs of 21 points and 14 rebounds to go along with six assists as Sir Winston Churchill gained its separation on the strength of a 21-8 second quarter.
Claire Huang added 13 in the win while Grade 11 forward Kate Mean led the Kodiaks with 14 points and five rebounds.
“Ross had a really good plan against us,” Dykstra said of Heritage Woods head coach Ross Tomlinson, “and he took away a lot of our momentum. Their girls played really well, really scrapped against us and so I feel like we dodged a bullet a bit.”
Trying to slow down the duo Walnut Grove duo of Fania Taylor and Kiera Pemberton will be a completely different story Thursday.
In totality, coach Dykstra knows that he will need a more balanced level of production through his lineup.
“It’s like we’re striving for balance, and to make things work for the whole team but Marah kind of put us on her back a little today,” said the coach, “so I am hoping we get secondary or third scoring tomorrow or we’ll be done.”
The Gators and Bulldogs have met twice this season, with the Gators winning both game by an average margin of victory of around 10 points.
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