ALL STORIES BY GARY KINGSTON (Special to Varsity Letters)
Welcome to Day 1 of the B.C. senior girls Triple-A basketball championships.
Please continue to check back on this posting for updates and photos from all eight championship round games:
SA-HALI 68 ALBERNI DISTRICT 62
LANGLEY – It took 35 years for the Alberni District Armada to develop a team talented enough to return to the B.C. senior girls basketball tournament.
On Wednesday, the No. 11-ranked Armada just wasn’t quite good enough to pull off an upset in their opening game, falling 68-62 to the No. 6 Sa-Hali Sabres in the most entertaining contest of the early draw of the Triple A championship.
“I was just telling the team that’s probably as proud as I’ve been of them all year,” said Armada coach Ryan Broekhuizen, whose club fell to 21-3 on the season. “They put it all out there for me, played some great defence.”
The Grade 11 heavy Sabres had seven double-digit leads only to see the Armada make some stops and battle back to within four or five. But it seemed every time that the Armada closed the gap, the Sabres responded with a huge basket to blunt the momentum.
“When they put the pressure on, we responded,” said Sabres’ head coach Jody Vosper. “When we executed our game plan we were in control, but as soon as we got away from it, they made runs. They’re a very good team.”
Leading 51-47 at the half, the Sabres opened the third quarter on an 8-0 run that included three-pointers from top scores Jayse Matonovich (19 points) and Kalie Saari (18 points).
The Armada again closed to within four when Jordyn Broekhuizen drained a short jumper with 1:36 remaining. But Matanovich responded with another three-pointer eight seconds later. She completed the scoring with a pair of free throws with 1.9 left to clinch the win.
“It was kind of nerve-wracking going back-and-forth, but it was really fun,” said Matanovich, who didn’t hesitate at all on that late three-pointer. “In that case, I was wide open. And I’ve put a lot of hours in in the gym, so I trust myself to make those decisions.”
Both teams were No. 1-seed from their district, Alberni from the Island and Sa-Hali from Thompson-Okanagan. Getting to provincials was a treat for Ryan Broekhuizen, who noted that the 1987 appearance by the Armada girls team was the same year he graduated from high school.
“We missed going by two points, the boy’s team. I’ll never forget it. These girls gave me a chance to come back. Super-stoked. It’s going to be a fun weekend.”
In fact, Vosper said he wouldn’t be surprised at all to see the gutsy Armada win their next two games in the consolation bracket. Sa-Hali, meantime, moves into the quarterfinals on Thursday against the winner of the MEI Eagles-Crofton House Falcons game.
MEI 73 CROFTON HOUSE 34
LANGLEY – In a senior girls Triple A basketball provincials liberally sprinkled with precocious Grade 9 and 10 starters and key contributors, the MEI Eagles from Abbotsford are an anomaly.
Coach Rick Thiessen’s starting five are all Grade 12s, as are three of the six on the bench.
It’s that experience, a talented trio of versatile five-foot-11 stars and a No. 3 ranking that has the Eagles daring to dream of a first title for MEI since 1999, especially after easily dispatching the No. 14 Crofton House Falcons of Vancouver 73-34 on Wednesday evening.
“Oh my, I don’t even want to answer that,” said a cautious Thiessen of whether there was a feeling among the squad that the Eagles could well reach Saturday’s final. “But yes there is. These Grade 12s, if we omit last year (the Covid-enforced cancellation of the tournament) have been to provincials every year.
“Finished as high as fourth in juniors (and sixth in the 2020 seniors). They believe they have the right mix this year.”
MEI struggled a bit early against the hard-working Falcons, experimenting with a few different defensive looks before settling on a hybrid zone that held Crofton House to just 27.7 per cent shooting from the field.
Offensively, the Eagles big three combined for 60 of the 73 points. Makenna Reimer led the way with 23 points, four rebounds and two assists, while player-of-the-game Jazmin Avila contributed 22 points and seven rebounds. Maarijke Meindertsma added 14 points and five rebounds.
The Eagles are a physical bunch, led by the aggressive Avila, who is a bulldog inside and on the boards. MEI outrebounded Crofton House 37-28.
“We wanted to set a tone today, start off aggressive and strong,” said Avila. “We really want to make finals, do whatever we can to work as a team, have fun. We’re pretty excited about our chances.”
Guard Mariella Palma was the only Crofton House player to hit double figures, finishing with 15 points.
The Eagles will meet almost a near image of themselves in Thursday’s quarterfinals when they face the equally physical, No. 6-ranked Sa-Hali Sabres. The Kamloops squad beat Alberni District Armada 68-62 in its opener.
“I thought the officiating today was outstanding,” said Thiessen of the game against the Falcons. “We need those kind of officials to play physical. We play clean, but we play hard. We’ve got a big team and we want to use that.”
Get ready for a tough, bruising battle against Sa-Hali.
VERNON 68 ROBERT BATEMAN 44
LANGLEY – The Vernon Panthers are a fixture at the B.C. senior girls basketball championships. Seventeen consecutive appearances are a testament to the program’s staying power.
But while they’ve been good enough to represent the Okanagan, they’ve never cracked the top three at the provincials. Coming into the 2022 championship ranked No. 10, they’re likely in tough to reach that high this time, but a 68-44 opening day defeat of No. 7 Robert Bateman Timberwolves on Wednesday has at least given them hope that they can pull off something special.
Inspirational all-court dynamo Kaitlyn Budgen, a Grade 12 point guard, scored a game-high 18 points, while pulling down five rebounds and contributing two assists and three steals.
“She’s tough, she’s gritty, she’s a gamer, she had an awesome game,” said Panthers’ co-coach Dave Tetrault.
Budgen says the key against the ‘Wolves was “to just show we can play against all of these teams here. Just play our game and it would end up working out.”
The Panthers got a huge lift this season when six-foot-post Lauren Hoard, who played basketball as a Grade 8 then quit to concentrate on volleyball, decided to return to hoops. A tough, hard-nosed presence inside, Hoard had 14 points and 10 rebound against Bateman.
Tetrault said Hoard has helped reinforce a defensive mindset that works to deny the opposition good looks and to crash the boards.
“She’s a great athlete, she’s tough, she had a good game, too,” said Tetrault, who added that it didn’t take much convincing to get Hoard to return to basketball. “She came out, started having a good time. We just said ‘whatever you want Lauren, it’s all good.’”
Bateman could never get a consistent run going, committed 22 turnovers and was outrebounded 39-23. Point guard Eshnaa Gill led the team with 15 points, but was just six-of-16 from the field and committed seven turnovers.
Budgen, Maddy Hackman, who had nine boards and two blocks, and Beth Butler all had sisters graduate from Vernon two years ago. That’s part of the reason for the tradition of excellence at the school.
“Family ties run deep,” said a smiling Tetrault. “We love that.”
As to how far this year’s squad can go, Tetrault says simply that “everything from here on out is just gravy.”
BROOKSWOOD 40 SALISH 42
LANGLEY – The Brookswood Bobcats senior girls basketball dynasty looks to be back in solid hands.
After three consecutive Triple A titles from 2014 to 2016 and a third-place finish in 2019, the Bobcats failed to qualify for the 2020 tournament. But after a lost season in 2021 to Covid restrictions, Brookswood is back in 2022 as the No. 2 seed.
On Wednesday’s opening night, Brookswood played a solid team game in easily getting by No. 15 Salish Wolves of Surrey 70-42.
Grade 12 starters Sahnya Gill (12 points), Cassidy Buchanan (11), Emily Povey (10) and Jamie Rettig (9 points, all on three-pointers) staked the Bobcats to a 35-point lead after three quarters. That allowed head coach Chris Veale to substitute freely and Brookswood finished the final six minutes with a quartet of Grade 10s on the floor.
“Once you get up that comfortable (margin) – put that in quotes because I’m never comfortable – then the other kids (get in the game.) I like when the starters come off and they’re the biggest cheerleaders.
“It’s funny because I was looking at (the fourth quarter) and going ‘Hey, is this going to be our starting lineup next year.”
Gill, a six-foot-two post, was a huge presence and helped key an 8-0 run to start the third quarter with two steals leading to a pair of free throws and a three-pointer from Rettig.
As instinctive a player as there is at the Triple A level, Gill altered shots, stepped in front of passes and ran the floor like a guard. Unfortunately, accurate stats were not available as the new stats crew had trouble with the courtside computer system.
But Veale didn’t need a stat sheet to know what kind of presence Gill, who is headed to SFU next fall, had.
“That’s something we’ve talked about with her, come in and make an impact right away. Defensively, she can really change shots. We’re working on the blocking and fouling stuff, but as she gets more mature in her game, she’ll figure all that stuff out. Offensively she gives us a lot.”
Brookswood now advances to the quarterfinals on Thursday where the Bobcats will face the No. 10 seed Vernon Panthers, who upset No. 7 Robert Bateman of Abbotsford 68-44 on Wednesday.
BURNABY CENTRAL 91 CARIHI 51
LANGLEY – Jade is a popular stone sometimes referred to as the stone of luck and happiness. Carol Boote, a crystal healer, says it is a stone that “gives you all the courage you need to raise your own vibrations, tap into your dreams and welcome wonderful things that want to come to you.
Jade Huynh, a dynamic five-foot-three guard for the Burnaby Central Wildcats, certainly had good vibrations Wednesday morning. She welcomed wonderful things and had a dream game in the opening contest of the Triple A senior girls basketball tournament at the Langley Events Centre.
The Grade 11 Huynh went a career-high eight-of-10 from three-point range en route to a 30-point, six-assist performance in the No. 1-ranked Wildcats 91-51 victory over the No 16 Carihi Tyees of Campbell River.
“This is my first time at provincials and I think I was just really excited,” said Huynh, who has a silky shot and is deadly from the corner. “First game, I was ready.”
Burnaby Central head coach Chris Ducharme was delighted by his star guard’s performance.
“Jade is going to do what she does. In the last five games, she’s averaged 23 (points) a game.”
Huynh wasn’t alone in finding net from beyond the arc. Fellow guard Ankita Chopra (23 points) went 4-of-5 from beyond the line and the Wildcats as a team were a terrific 15-of-22 on three-point attempts
“We live or die by the line,” said Ducharme. “We have all season.”
The Tyees put up a far better performance than most expected out of a No. 16 seed, in large part due to the gutsy game from relentless guard Elana Skalik, who poured in 34 points. No other Tyee had more than eight.
“They never quit, that’s the great thing about the girls,” said Carihi head coach Todd Barnes of his underdog squad. “They work hard. We’re a little behind in some of the skill development that you saw on the floor. Some of those girls on the other side shot the lights out of the house. They’re a good team . . . nice shooters.”
Nice shooters led by a glittering piece of Jade.
VALLEYVIEW 63 PITT MEADOWS 52
LANGLEY – The form chart for a battle of the eighth and ninth seeds at the senior girls basketball provincials says it should be a tight game.
No. 8 Valleyview Vikes of Kamloops and No. 9 Pitt Meadows Marauders played it exactly that way Wednesday on the opening day of the Triple A championship before the Vikes pulled away in the final three minutes for a 63-52 victory.
Pitt Meadows led only once at 14-13 in the first quarter and trailed by five points or less the rest of the way before the Vikes’ Jaime Horsman’s first of two from the free throw line made it 55-49. Player-of-the-game Tlell Schreiner grabbed the miss on Horsman’s second and put it back for an eight-point advantage with 2:54 remaining.
“The girls just dug in there and continued to work hard,” said Vikes’ head coach Karen Horsman. “Our shots were finally going in . . . and they dug down when they had to and pulled off that win.”
Valleyview led 27-22 at the half and you might be tempted to call it a defensive battle. But the fact is both sides shot terribly, missing the basket entirely on three-point attempts and failing often on gilt-edged chances inside.
With the stat keepers admittedly also having “a bad game,” we can’t tell you the actual shooting percentages, but it was ugly.
Schreiner had several of those misses on layups but did recover to score 12 of her game-high 21 points in the second half, a couple of baskets on beautiful back door cuts and a couple more of offensive rebound putbacks after aggressive work on the boards.
“She’s always been there for us throughout the year,” said Horsman of the five-foot-six Grade 12. “I’ve coached her since Grade 8. We made a joke of it back then and in Grade 9 of her not being able to make those layups. She’s doing it this year, not only making the layups, but doing the and-ones. She’s pulled us through many times.”
Schreiner says she’s taken the attitude after a frustrating miss that there’s always another shot.
“Unless I’m missing 50 in a row . . . it’s like the Wayne Gretzky quote ‘you miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take.’ So I just keep going and eventually they’ll go in.”
Six-foot post Jaya Saroya added 16 points for the Vikes and was huge on the boards, though her actual rebound totals were not available. Valleyview will meet No. 1-ranked Burnaby Central in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
Jordyn Hopia had 18 points for Pitt Meadows.
R.A. MCMATH 105 DUCHESS PARK 30
LANGLEY – You can’t teach size. But you can teach a commitment to fast break basketball.
The R.A. McMath Wildcats from Richmond used both to their advantage Wednesday, beginning what they hope is an extended run in the championship bracket at the Triple A senior girls provincials with a dominant 105-30 victory over the Duchess Park Condors.
The Wildcats, featuring four key players five-10 or taller, including star Grade 11 Marina Radocaj, a six-foot-two Canadian under-16 national teamer, used a stout, long-armed defence to limit the Condors to just 25 per cent shooting while building a 63-16 half-time lead.
McMath’s six blocks, seven steals and 13 defensive rebounds keyed a fast break that led to several easy baskets.
“We’ve gotten a lot better at that in the last month, month and a half,” said head coach Jamie Kippan. “We’re really learning to push the ball and when to push it properly. It gets us a lot of baskets.”
The versatile Radocaj, who is equally at home in the paint or as a distributor on the dribble, had a game-high 25 points, six assists, seven rebounds and two steals. Forwards Caitlan Kippan and Kee Holweg were the perfect complements with 23 and 17 points, respectively.
“We’ve got a lot of players that score from a lot of places,” said Kippan. “We’re pretty offensively gifted.”
No kidding. After averaging 89 points in three games in the Richmond championships, the Wildcats won their seventh consecutive city title with a 103-51 win over Steveston-London, then dispatched Surrey’s Salish Secondary 108-37 in the final of the South Fraser championship.
“We just have to have the mentality that everyone is a worthy opponent and we have to not go down to their level, just play like we always play,” said Radocaj of her team’s ability to keep the collective foot on the gas.
Aleksandra Babic, who at five-foot-10 was the only Condor player with any size, led Duchess Park with nine points and eight rebounds.
Radocaj, who also attended senior provincials in her Grade 8 and 9 seasons, said the No. 4-ranked Wildcats have the ideal team to make a run at a B.C. title this season, with a nice blend of experience, size, speed and skill.
“We have a huge opportunity, more than any other year. We’ve worked hard. I really think we can win this year.”
COLLEGE HEIGHTS 83 JOHN OLIVER 50
LANGLEY – The speed is the first thing that jumps out at you when watching Rachel Loukes.
The five-foot-11 guard/forward with the College Heights Cougars runs the floor with the pace of a gazelle, pushing the ball at every opportunity, finishing with flair and drawing contact for trip after trip to the free throw line.
Loukes, a Grade 11, who will play with B.C.’s U-18 team this year, had a game-high 37 points Wednesday on 11-of-15 shooting from the field and 13-of-14 from the charity stripe as the No. 5-ranked Cougars won their opening game comfortably at the 3A provincials, 83-50 over the John Oliver Jokers of Vancouver.
Loukes, who is coached by her six-foot-four father, Wade, jokes that she probably gets her speed from her mom, a former volleyball player. But she also said that her take-it-to-the-rim style was refined over the summer when she was the lone girl playing in the otherwise all boys Northern Bounce league in Prince George.
“A lot of competition there,” said Rachel. “It definitely helped a lot because it was a lot more aggressive driving in. Changing back to girls after that was kind of lighter pressure. It’s always been a key factor of my game. I like to stay on the perimeter and drive in.”
Loukes also led the Cougars in rebounds with eight and would have had significantly more than one assist if her teammates had been better at converting would should have been easy baskets given her sublime passing.
The win improved the Cougars to 17-0 on the season, although they did play all their games in Prince George this season, including a handful against junior boys teams.
“I think I was the most nervous out there, even though I’ve been down here a few times coaching Duchess Park (of Prince George) in the past with my older daughter,” said Wade Loukes. “The good thing is we had eight girls who were down here for junior provincials in 2020, so having that experience really helped.”
Grade 12 Sophia Fuller added 17 points and six rebounds for the Cougars, who started a Grade 9 (Lorenn Caceres, eight points) and got key minutes off the bench from two other Grade 9s.
“I’ve got three Grade 9s and a Grade 10 that have never really traveled that much,” said Wade Loukes. “What helps is the leadership from Rachel and from Sophia and the other Grade 12s. They really encourage them and there’s a lot of positive confidence there.”
The No. 12 Jokers, who played a lineup that featured several diminutive, cat-quick guards in the five-foot to five-foot-four range, got 12 points from Rachel Forrester, 11 from Jenalyn Deprado and 10 from Jennyfer Deguzman.
“They’re really scrappy, they’re fast. They pushed us,” said Wade Loukes. “They were pushing us backwards and forwards, just a fun team to play.”
The win made it even more fun for the Cougars, who now advance to face No. 4 McMath Wildcats of Richmond in a quarterfinal Thursday morning.
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