Welcome to Day 2 of the 2022 B.C senior girls Triple A basketball championships.
Please keep checking back on this posting for live reports from all four quarterfinal clashes.
All Stories by GARY KINGSTON (Special for Varsity Letters)
R.A. MCAMTH 93 COLLEGE HEIGHTS 49
LANGLEY – The R.A. McMath Wildcats have proved they can take care of Prince George at the B.C. senior girls provincials. On Friday, in the Triple A semifinals, the competition will get a whole lot tougher.
After dispatching the Duchess Park Condors 105-30 on opening day, the No. 4-seeded Wildcats rolled over the No. 5 College Heights Cougars 93-49 in Thursday’s first quarterfinal. That likely sets up a semifinal against No. 1 seed Burnaby Central, although No. 8 Valleyview of Kamloops may have something to say about that in a later quarterfinal.
With so many travel tournaments canceled this season because of Covid restrictions, McMath has not faced Burnaby Central.
“We tried to get them in exhibition games, but with all the restrictions it just didn’t work out,” said McMath head coach Jamie Kippan, who was then asked if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
“I really don’t know. We decided this year that all we can do is just do what we can do and let the seedings and the placements of everybody in the playoffs end up where they are. It’s a bit weird playing two teams from the same city in our first two games.”
The Wildcats, who play an up tempo game keyed by rebounding and shot-blocking ace Marina Radocaj and a pressure defence, had the shocked Cougars on their heels early, bolting to a 22-5 lead midway through the first quarter. It was a dominant performance in the paint as the six-foot-two Radocaj and bulldog forward Kee Holweg scored at will from under the basket.
“I was obviously taller than everyone and I could get the rebounds,” said Radocaj, who had a handful of offensive board put backs. “Even the shorter girls on our team hustle all the time and get rebounds too. We battled hard.”
When forward Caitlin Kippan, Hollweg and guard Emma Bradley-Tse started draining three-pointers in the second half, the Wildcats pushed the lead to 81-37 early in the fourth quarter.
“We had a lot of inside stuff early because we were aggressive on steals,” said the Jamie Kippan. “We pushed the ball early, which set a good tone for us. And then we just took what was given to us later on.”
The long-limbed Radocaj was on the top of her game, finishing with 30 points, 20 rebounds, five assists and four blocks. She even drained her only three-point attempt of the contest late in the second quarter.
“She can shoot it,” said Kippan. “Everybody thinks she’s just a big post player underneath, but she’s reality a guard at heart.”
Radocaj, a Grade 11, said she’s been playing in the post most of this season, “but nobody really knows that I used to play guard. And I always play guard for clubs (teams), so I have it in me. When I shoot it and I get the opportunity, I guess it can go in.”
Hollweg contributed 23 points and nine rebounds, while Kippan chipped in with 15 and seven.
Provincial team player Rachel Loukes led the Cougars with 20 points, several on aggressive, driving layups. But she was harried and harassed into making just eight of her 25 attempts.
“We held (Loukes) to a pretty frustrating game,” said Kippan. “She’s a heck of a player and she got her points, but we were able to do enough to get some separation in the score.”
BURNABY CENTRAL 90 VALLEYVIEW 53
LANGLEY – Google basketball shooting slumps and the search turns up a ball rack full of tips and drills to end the misery. Heck, even Steph Curry, perhaps the greatest shooter of all time, is in the NBA record books for the most misses (11) without a make in a single game.
We doubt the Burnaby Central Wildcats senior girls squad had a chance to peruse the Internet at halftime Thursday of the Triple A quarterfinal, but it was raining threes in the second half inside the Langley Events Centre.
After going just 1-of-12 from behind the arc in the first half against Valleyview of Kamloops and taking a tenuous 37-24 lead, the No. 1 seed Wildcats hit four treys in the first five minutes of the third quarter to key a 20-7 run enroute to a comfortable 90-53 victory.
Grade 10 guard Jayla Huynh, who had back-to-back threes in that run, was 4-of-4 from behind the arc after missing all three attempts in the first half.
“At halftime, we just kind of took a step back, just calmed ourselves down and really took our time and focussed on shooting in the second half,” said Huynh, who finished with 15 points and a pair of assists.
“Just keep shooting. They’re going to fall. You can’t hit every shot, but you should take the ones where you’re open.”
Another Grade 10 guard, Ankita Chopra, also hit a pair of third quarter threes enroute to 28-point effort that was matched by Huynh’s older sister Jade, who was a solid 12-of-25 from the field with three assists.
“Each of us picks up each other,” said Chopra. “When we’re not hitting shots, it’s like ‘next shot, next shot.’ You try to go with that mentality. Once we get on a roll, everyone keeps hitting shots.”
That kind of happened for Valleyview as well. After an 0-for-8 effort behind the arc in the first half, the Vikes did hit six treys in the second, but were just 24.7 per cent from the field overall with 23 turnovers as they failed to deal with Burnaby Central’s relentless defence.
In addition to the threes, he Wildcats also got a tremendous effort inside from five-foot-11 forward Sophia Morton, who constantly kept possessions alive with 15 offensive rebounds among her game high 21 boards.
The Wildcats, who prepared for provincials by scheduling a handful exhibitions against Quad A teams, now move on to the semifinals, where they’ll face No 4 McMath of Richmond after those Wildcats beat College Heights of Prince George 93-49.
McMath presents a big challenge – literally and figuratively – for the smallish Burnaby Central Wildcats, particularly in the form of six-foot-two post Marina Radocaj, a dominant force in the paint both offensively and defensively.
“We’re keying on (Radocaj),” said Central head coach Chris Ducharme. “We believe that if we can limit her, put a couple of bodies on her, then we have a good chance. We put points, our issue sometimes is that defensively we don’t work as hard as we should all the time.
“We have some plans that we’re going to try to execute and we’ll see how they go. We’re going to throw a lot of stuff, a lot of different defences and one might work.”
BROOKSWOOD 66 VERNON 41
LANGLEY – Brookswood Bobcats head coach Chris Veale doesn’t want to think it, certainly would never say it out loud. But sometimes basketball games are really over at half time.
That was the case on quarterfinal Thursday at the senior girls Triple A championships, when his No. 2-seeded squad built a huge 46-13 advantage after 20 minutes of play over the No. 10 Vernon Panthers.
Then it’s all about getting rest for your starters, emptying your bench and turning loose your Grade 10s for that crucial tournament experience. And for the trailing team, it’s about just playing for pride.
“I told them to just go out and earn a little respect in the second half,” said Vernon coach Dave Tetrault, whose team came out flat after upsetting Robert Bateman of Abbotsford on Wednesday. “I said don’t worry about the scoreboard. Just play hard, go possession by possession and earn a little respect.”
The Panthers, who made just five baskets through two quarters, did that by outscoring the Bobcats 28-20 over the final 20 minutes, but wound up on the short end of a 66-41 score.
“Vernon’s a very good team,” said Brookswood head coach Chris Veale. “I don’t think they had a very good day and that happens in sport. Whether we helped that, or it was just a bad day for them. They struggled to make some shots.”
The big lead allowed Veale to get 15 players into the game and he’ll have the most rested of the four semifinal teams after key starters Cassidy Buchanan (18 points, 10 rebounds, three assists), Shayna Gill (15 points, six boards) and Jamie Rettig (12 points on four three-pointers) played little more than a half.
“I’ve been there enough times and I’ve seen how it goes as a player and a coach,” said Veale, who was an assistant coach on Brookswood three-peats from 2004-2006 an 2014-2016. “The last thing you want to do is burn out in that fourth game (the championship final) the most.
“So I’m very cognizant of protecting that. But at the same time I think the girls have to find their rythym in the tournament too. It’s that fine balance.”
Buchanan admitted with a sly smile after the game that “we’re ready to go” for a semifinal matchup against either MEI or Sa-Hali. Against Vernon, “we wanted to just give it to them right at the start, get a good lead and show everybody that we’re to play and we don’t mess around.”
Veale said his tournament-high roster of 15, which includes five Grade 10s, is a testament to the culture of basketball at Brookswood.
“It is a culture. I know there’s been some really strong teams come through. Semiahoo, (the Quad A provincial winner in 2019 and 20) was unquestionably one of the strongest teams that came through, but where is your team today. Where was their team before that.”
Brookswood runs a mentor program that features three-player groups – a Grade 12, a Grade 10 and a Grade 8 or 9. “They call them their little buddies. They text them after games, like ‘Hey I heard you did well.’”
“It’s important. If you’re not building the future – that’s like a life thing.”
Buchanan says all the girls supporting each other “creates these awesome connections and it makes everyone want to step up and play better and better. It’s just a good overall environment.”
And it’s got them within a game of playing for another provincial title.
MEI 61 SA-HALI 46
LANGLEY – It had been a mostly forgettable game for the MEI Eagles scoring leader Makenna Reimer.
Suddenly, it was ‘Don’t Forget About Me.’
In the space of 35 seconds, midway through the fourth-quarter Thursday, a pair of audacious and spectacular three-pointers broke open a close game and put the senior girls team from Abbotsford on course for a 61-46 win over the Sa-Hali Sabres to earn a place in Friday’s Triple A provincial semifinals.
Reimer had just three points in a dreadful first half that had the No. 3-seeded Eagles trailing by a point, 25-24, in large part because of cold shooting, too many turnovers and early foul trouble. The No. 6 Sabres from Kamloops were sniffing an upset.
“Both our bigs had three fouls in the first quarter and so we had to just get through,” said MEI head coach Rick Thiessen. “Get to the half with a reasonable gap. I said at halftime, ‘Look, we can play now.’ And we did.”
A 16-4 run to open the third quarter by the Eagles started to blunt those thoughts, but Sa-Hali was still within nine with five-minutes remaining. Then, on back-to-back possessions, Reimer drilled a silky three-pointer as the shot clock expired and another, a ridiculous bank job off glass, seemingly from Abbotsford, to basically clinch the win.
“Pretty big threes,” said Thiessen. “I mean the banker, honestly. But that’s what you need. Sometimes you hit those, sometimes you don’t. Here we did.”
Reimer finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and four of the Eagles 26 turnovers. Marijke Meindertsma and Jazmin Avila each added 12 points and combined for 14 rebounds as the Eagles beat the Sabres 43-25 on the glass.
Temi Aina led the Sabres with 21 points, several when she went around or through defenders on speedy drives. But the Sabres as a team shot just 22.9 per cent from the field, not nearly good enough, especially when Reimer found her stroke.
The pre-tournament seeding chart held form this week as the top four all made it to the semifinals. The Eagles will face No. 2 Brookswood Bobcats of Langley, who won three of the team’s four meetings this season.
“The one time we beat them was the only time we were fully healthy,” said Thiessen.
The Bobcats won the last meeting, in the Eastern Valley final, by four. But the Eagles were without injured starting point guard Sidney Giesbrecht and rotation forward Bree Neufield and then lost forward Jolene Bitter during the game to a concussion early. Bitter still hasn’t returned.
“We feel like it’s our turn,” said Thiessen. “We’re quite confident that we have a good chance. But they’re a great team.”
And unlike the Eagles on Thursday, the Bobcats were also able to rest several starters in an earlier quarterfinal win.
“Oh, my,” said Thiessen. “So, Is that going to hurt us? I guess we’ll find out.”
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