Welcome to Day 3 of the B.C. girls high school basketball championships.
We now have reports from both of Friday’s semifinals.
TERRY FOX 83 OKANAGAN MISSION 76
LANGLEY — One of the greatest single-game scoring performances in the history of the B.C. high school girls basketball championships put an exclamation mark on the sentiment that, just in the nick of time, the Terry Fox Ravens have found their long-missing spark.
Ravens’ senior guard Lauren Clements poured home 45 points, ninth-best all time and 10 off the all-time record of 55 set in 1980 by Faye Zwarych of the Vernon Panthers, as the No. 3-seeded Ravens defeated Kelowna’s No. 2-seeded Okanagan Mission Huskies 83-76 in the second of two provincial Quad-A semifinals Friday night at the Langley Events Centre.
Terry Fox will now face its crosstown rivals, the No. 1-seeded Riverside Rapids, in Saturday’s highlighted 7:30 p.m. championship final.
The Rapids beat the No. 4 Walnut Grove Gators of Langley 76-60 in an earlier semifinal.
“It has been such a tough two years, but we have such grit and I have always said that about this team,” said Terry Fox coach Teena Frost.
“They compete,” she added, “and when the moment is big, they become bigger.”
Nowhere was that more apparent than in watching the 5-foot-7 Clements over a first-half in which she shot an amazing 14-of-24 for 34 points and staked her team to a 45-37 lead that was the very launching point for the team’s victory.
And it was not a performance based on three-point bombing.
Instead, it was a lesson in the beauty of good, old-fashion regulation buckets.
Yes, she hit two triples and went 7-of-12 from the stripe, but those 16 other baskets came from every other part of her arsenal: Establishing position in the post, driving straight at the heart of the defence, using a runner whose release point seems to be just above her hip, as well as a variety of half-hooks… you name it.
And with every make, Clements helped lift the Ravens’ confidence, in essence, showing her teammates that they, too, could become even bigger than the moment at hand.
It was so stirring, in fact, that the first thing the head coach of the losing team did, seconds after the final horn, was pay homage to Terry Fox’s No. 9.
Asked where it was that the game got away from her OKM Huskies, coach Meghan Faust said: “Oh man, well Lauren Clements had the best game I have seen a player have. It was like every shot went in for her and she just worked. That was tough. We had to adjust our defence in the second half.”
Clements herself was quick to boil it down to simply seizing the moment.
“I was just going hard,” she explained. “It’s the semifinals. I knew it was an important game so I just thought mentally I had to go hard and work hard and play how I play.”
Yet as she continued to find success, her sense of the moment was how surreal it actually.
“In the first quarter, after I went for like five lay-ups in a row, I started to get my confidence,” she explained. “That was the first time I’ve felt that confident. I just kept scoring more and more and more and I was thinking to myself ‘Wow, I can’t believe I am making all these shots.’”
OKM indeed changed their defence in the second half, and Clements went 4-of-10 over the final two quarters, for 11 points.
Yet she was a constant thought in the minds of the Huskies, a fact that opened things up for others.
Chief among them was Ana-Maria Misic, the 5-foot-10 swing guard/forward who scored 10 of her 13 points in the second half, including seven over the final three minutes as the Ravens held back a Huskies’ team on a desperate mission to save its season.
Taylor Matthews scored nine points for the winners, yet she and teammate Alisha Weloy most distinguished themselves with the level of defence they played against an OKM team loaded with offensive talent.
The Huskies put four players into double figures, led by athletic forward Kanani Coon with 19 and dynamic guard Tatum Wade with 17, 12 of which came in the second half.
Stella LaGrange and Elana Corrado each scored 12 in the loss.
“The girls dug deep, and when they got down by 14 (54-40 in the third quarter), we thought this was going to be trouble, but they fought back like they always do,” Faust said of her charges.
The Huskies would battle back to within three points on four occasions down the stretch before a Misic three made it 77-69 with 2:50 left.
“My players worked their butts off, and this one is going to hurt,” Faust said. “But I couldn’t be prouder of the effort they put in. And congrats to Terry Fox. That was a fun game to coach, for sure.”
The Ravens will be playing the Rapids for the fifth time this season when the they play the season’s final game Saturday (7:30 p.m.).
Riverside has won all four previous meetings.
RIVERSIDE 76 WALNUT GROVE 60
STORY BY GARY KINGSTON (Special for Varsity Letters)
LANGLEY – With a Grade 9 and a Grade 10 in his starting five, longtime Riverside Rapids head coach Paul Langford concedes he wasn’t sure about his Quad A girls basketball team.
Were Jorja Hart and Avery Sussex up to playing crucial roles?
“They’ve been scaring the s— out of me because they’re a year ahead of schedule,” said Langford after the pair were the Rapids’ leading scorers Friday in a 76-60 semifinal win over the Walnut Grove Gators at the provincial finals.
“They were very good.”
The uber-talented Sussex had 32 points, five rebounds, three assists and, crucially, eight steals as she displayed her instinctive feel for defensive basketball Hart contributed 17 points. Each hit a big three-pointer in the final three minutes after the Dragons, who had trailed by as many as 17 early in the fourth quarter, rallied to get within seven.
“Going into the final is a great accomplishment,” said Sussex, a five-foot-eight guard with a silky shot and a determination to get to the basket. “We’re looking to have a great finish to the year.”
With both teams struggling from the field early, shooting less than 22 per cent, the Rapids, the tournament’s No. 1 seed, found themselves trailing 24-23 midway through the second quarter. But Sussex, Hart and Grade 12 Venica Davignon (14 points, 10 rebounds) started to find their rhythm and Riverside began to pull away, taking a 36-25 lead at the halftime break.
While Sussex and Hart will likely be back at provincials, this is it for Davignon. Making the final probably means much more to her, especially if it turns out to be Port Coquitlam rival Terry Fox in Sunday’s championship game.
“A lot,” said Davignon through a beaming smile when asked just how much it meant. “I remember when I was playing back in Grade 10, we were playing a game against Terry Fox in a (tournament) final game. So to be able to see them again, now in a provincial finals, it means everything.”
Langford, who has been at the Riverside helm for 24 years, said he’s delighted for Davignon and fellow Grade 12 starter Brooke Kendal.
“They’re the last of our five-year kids because they don’t allow Grade 8s to play at our school anymore, so Venica and Brooke are kind of special. I coached them as 10-year-olds in softball . . . I’ve been with them a long time.”
Langford took Riverside to the provincials in 2008 and 2009, finishing second both times.
“The first time we lost in overtime and I lost my point guard. I tell this story a lot. I was driving home and I go ‘I’ll never go to the final again.’ Then the next year, Christina Collins single-handedly put us in the final again. We lost (69-53 to Handsworth.) But I thought maybe I’ll go every year. And I haven’t been back since.”
Walnut Grove easily won the rebounding battle, 57-36, in the semifinal and got an outstanding game from Kiera Pemberton. She scored 36, many on electrifying drives through the paint where she spun past defenders in a blur, and pulled down 23 boards.
“She’s a monster, unbelievably great,” said Langford. “But we did some good stuff, held them to 60. It wasn’t pretty, but I’ll take a win.”
And now, after nearly a quarter of a century at Riverside, he’s hoping to finally get the ultimate win on Saturday.
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