Welcome to Day 2 of the 2022 B.C senior girls Quad A basketball championships.
Please keep checking back on this posting for live reports from all four quarterfinal clashes.
All stories by HOWARD TSUMURA
WALNUT GROVE 88 SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL 79
LANGLEY — There are games that cement a player’s baromtere of greatness, and for Walnut Grove’s electrifying Kiera Pemberton, Thursday’s B.C. Quad A quarterfinal clash against Vancouver’s Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs was just such a moment.
It wasn’t just the game-high 42 points she scored in carrying Langley’s Gators to an 88-79 win over the Bulldogs and into Friday’s Final Four against the No. 1-seed Riverside Rapids of Port Coquitlam.
It was first, the near-tangible loss her team experienced when she was forced out of the lineup late in the first half after picking up her third foul.
And then it was the galvanizing response her teammates had to her absence when she was finally able to return and lead the kind of stirring comeback that has made B.C. girls high school basketball such a consistent heart-stopping delight.
Stats are one thing, presence is another.
For a large stretch of Friday’s game, both Pemberton, the 6-foot Grade 11, and running mate Fania Taylor, the 5-foot-9 senior, were forced to play leading, physical roles while each carrying four fouls.
And while Taylor fell victim to her fifth attempting a block with 1:05 remaining, Pemberton carried on, continuing her battle with Churchill superstar senior Marah Dykstra until the latter also fouled out, her title dreams dashed despite a 28-point, 11-rebound performance.
It was that kind of night.
“They’ve never been in foul trouble before,” Walnut Grove head coach Darren Rowell said of Pemberton and Taylor, the latter finishing with 21 points and 12 rebounds. “And when we lost (Taylor), we were in a lot of trouble, but all of the kids showed their character and they came back and they gutted it out.”
The game was a classic.
Just 5:25 before the half, Pemberton was whistled for her third foul and forced to exit the contest.
At the time, the Gators were leading 32-23, yet her departure coincided with an 14-0 Churchill run capped by a Louise Dykstra lay-in for a 37-23 lead.
The run was snapped by a Taylor triple, yet the durable and dynamic Gators’ guard would then pick up her third foul and also leave the floor.
To compound matters for Churchill, Marah Dykstra hit a three-point hoop at the halftime buzzer and the Bulldogs charged off the floor with a 44-35 lead, ending the half on a 21-3 run.
It was enough of a shot to the collective solar-plexus that many don’t recover.
But the Gators just kept fighting.
With a second left in the third quarter, however, Taylor stepped up and drained a triple, cutting Walnut Grove’s deficit to 69-63 heading into the final 10 minutes, setting the stage for a fourth quarter battle.
With 4:38 left in the game, Pemberton’s spinning lay-in in the paint put her team ahead 77-75, keying a 9-2 run that had her team leading 84-77 with 32 seconds remaining.
Walnut Grove’s short bench meant that it was all hands on deck, and in that manner, the Gators got huge minutes in blue-collar roles from the likes of Juliette Rousseau, Robyn Schroeder and Abby Adams, the latter doing an impressive job of shadowing Dykstra throughout the latter stages of the game.
Tia Rowell hit three big treys for the Gators and finished with 10 points while Rousseau added nine.
For the Bulldogs, Emily Zhang added 14 points, Stefanie Hart 13 and Amber Hemrich 10.
“Now we feel like we have some momentum,” said coach Rowell. “We’re looking forward to Riverside tomorrow night. They are a great team, obviously, so well-coached, but you know what? We’re going to give it a go.”
TERRY FOX 94 ABBOTSFORD 51
LANGLEY — If you noticed a little extra spark in the step of the Terry Fox Ravens senior girls basketball team on Thursday, you were not alone.
“It was super cool to see that every kid on the team had a a smile on their face,” said Ravens coach Mike Carkner after the PoCo squad brought their trademark 2020 energy to the party in the opening quarter.
The No. 3 seeds rode that wave all the way to the end in a surprisingly decisive 94-49 win over Abbotsford’s No. 6-seeded Panthers.
“We’ve had a really tough emotional ride this season,” continued Carkner.
And while the smiles were easy to spot, so too was the energy the team brought, albeit within some very interesting and creative ways early in the contest.
Did you notice it?
The Ravens had 5-foot-5 point guard Cerys Merton, for large stretches of a game-opening 18-3 run, guarding Abbotsford’s tallest player in 6-foot Chelsey Dulku.
The strategy was designed, in part, to play off of Merton’s lightning speed, and the hope from the Fox camp, was that Merton would be able to disrupt Dulku enough, but still be able to come with double-team help on the Panthers’ talented guard Lakresha Edwards.
“Yes, I was the guarding the biggest player on the floor, being the smallest player myself,” said Merton, who clearly seemed energized by her role and was able to team with the talented Lauren Clements as the team’s co-scoring leaders. “You don’t see 5-5 guards marking a big.”
That run, generating turnover after turnover, came on the shoulders of an ambitious three-quarter court zone press in which the Ravens set a primary goal to pressure the ball-handler, and let the rest play to their nature as a smaller, athletic, up-tempo team.
With the likes of Taylor Matthews, the team’s top defender, as well as Alisha Weloy, the schematic shone to the point where one sage hoops observer remarked: “It let Fox be Fox.”
“I mean, Cerys was unbelievable,” said Carkner of the UBC-bound point guard. “And it was fun to see her playing with a smile on her face.
Despite its struggles against top-seeded Riverside this season, Thursday’s win against a very talented Abby team suggested that perhaps it’s the rarified stage of provincials which will bring them back to their peak.
“I mean obviously we had a little bit of a slow start but we’re in provincials now,” mused Merton. “The games we have lost are in the past. We can’t go back and fix the games so now we have to really focus on getting a win. We’ll do everything in our power to win.”
Clements, the UFV signee, continued to play tremendous two-way basketball, scoring a game-high 22 points to go along with seven rebounds.
Merton. who hit four threes, scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and the box score also credited her with 11 steals.
Matthews had 16 points.
For the Panthers, Edwards led the way with 21 points while Nyah Vermeulen had 14.
Terry Fox now advances to the Final Four on Friday, tipping off in the day’s final game (8:30 p.m.) against the winner of the Okanagan Mission.
OKANAGAN MISSION 75 YALE 53
LANGLEY — Coming off a cancelled season, and then one compromised by the unforseen, the Okanagan Mission Huskies were a basketball team needing the answer to a million dollar question.
Despite its inability to play a regular season filled with the province’s toughest question, could they come down from Kelowna and somehow find a way to have their lethal combination of athleticism and power hoops reach the kind of March peak every team seeks.
“I didn’t know, it’s so hard to know,” explained Huskies head coach Megan Faust, whose No. 2-seeded team, at the very end of its season, got the chance to travel south over two weekends to play double headers against both No. 1 Riverside and No. 3 Terry Fox.
“If we weren’t able to come down here those two weekends, I think it might have been a different story for sure,” added Faust.
The Huskies lost three of those four games, splitting with the Ravens, yet it was enough to keep them hungry, something that really showed in the first half.
OKM led 38-27 at the break, yet their edge in inside domination was clear.
Twenty of the team’s 30 total rebounds over the first two quarters came off the offensive glass, and when all was said and done, forward Kanani Coon had totalled 21 points and 20 rebounds.
“Kanani definitely pulled down the boards,” said I thought (Shae) Faitala (18 points) had an excellent game, and Stella (LaGrange) (8 points, 15 rebounds) and Tatum (Wade) (7 points) are always solid on defence. Just happy that everybody got to go in there and contribute as a team,” continued the coach.
Yale had been looking like a team on the rise, yet Lions’ head coach Bobby Braich made no excuses for the loss.
“They have athletes, and speed to attack the rim so,” said Braich of OKM. “They get up and down the court, and we’re not quite there with the team speed. They are seeded No. 2. They are a good team. We got beat by a solid basketball team, so full credit to them. But I love my team.”
The Lions were led by the 19 points of Samara Mason. Jay Hildebrand scored 10 points and Maggy Curtis nine.
The Huskies will now face the Terry Fox Ravens in an 8:45 p.m. Final Four contest Friday.
When asked what the ideal headspace for her team needs to be this week, Faust said: “Hungry to win, not afraid to lose. Hungry for that one that got away two years ago, which still haunts us… so staying hungry all the time.”
Back in 2020, playing as a Triple-A team, OKM lost to Abbotsford in the B.C. final.
RIVERSIDE 90 CLAREMONT 48
LANGLEY — They are the No. 1 team in B.C.’s largest tier, and they are playing as well as they have all season.
Many would call them the leading lights of the B.C. senior girls basketball world, yet PoCo’s Riverside Rapids seem a star-studded bunch completely unaffected by their success.
“Look at the goofs,” Riverside coach Paul Langford said lovingly, pointing from his spot courtside to the second level of the South Court complex at the Langley Events Centre where the Rapids, fresh off a 90-48 quarterfinal win over Victoria’s Claremont Spartans, were huddled together, laughing and waiving back at their coach as he was being interviewed while they waited to have their Final Four video introductions filmed by the LEC’s electronic arts team.
“I sort of can’t explain this group,” continued Langford of a roster that includes star Grade 10 Avery Sussex, who scored a game-high 23 points in the Rapids win. “They are so unique. They are pretty good. But to be honest, it’s the least amount of coaching I’ve had to do.
“You do a lot of other stuff, but you don’t really coach these guys. They know how to play and they are doing it right.
“I can get in their way, but you sort of have to let them be who they are.. which is a bunch of different pieces that fit together.”
On Thursday, the Rapids earned their Final Four trip on the shoulders of a 58-26 halftime lead.
Senior Venica Davignon added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the winners, while Grade 11 forward Natalie Curley had 12, and senior guard Brooke Kendal and Grade 9 guard Jorja Hart 11 apiece.
Claremont post Iva Kalabric finished with 14 points and 19 rebounds in the win, while Sierra Lise added 15 points and Adia Pye another 11.
Reflecting on both the current events of the world and the love he and his team have for basketball, Langford admitted he was conflicted.
“I am having a hard time with the war going on right now,” he said of the conflict being waged in Eastern Europe. “And I am so happy that we can play basketball again. We’ve met some great expectations already. I didn’t know (at the start of the season) if this team was going to the semifinals. So it’s an honour just to get there.”
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