Welcome to Day 3 of the B.C. girls high school basketball championships.
We invite you to keep checking back on this posting throughout Friday for updates from the championship side of the draw.
MEI 53 BROOKSWOOD 52
Story by GARY KINGSTON (special for Varsity Letters)
LANGLEY – A handwritten sign in the Brookswood Bobcats student cheering section read: Goodnite Mennonites.
But it was the Mennonite Educational Institute Eagles (MEI to most of us) who turned the lights out Friday, in a thrilling, down-to-the wire semifinal win over the Bobcats at the B.C. Triple A senior girls basketball championships.
The clock struck midnight for the No. 2-seeded Bobcats with a second remaining as the MEI’s Sidney Giesbrecht stripped the ball from Maya Cameron on a drive, sealing the No. 3 Eagles’ 53-52 see-saw of a win. It touched off a raucous celebration by MEI’s student section and a loud chorus from the enthusiastic trumpet and tuba band.
It was the second steal in the final minute for terrific point guard Sidney Giesbrecht, who was a buzzsaw all game with four steals, four assists, four rebounds and eight points.
The winning basket had come with a minute remaining when Bree Neufeld, the only substitute used all game off the MEI bench, drained a 15-foot jumper. What was she thinking as she prepared to let it loose?
“Don’t miss,” said a grinning Neufeld, shortly after the final buzzer. “That was really going through my head. I mean we worked so well as a team . . . and we’re not finished yet. We worked so hard this season and deserve this. I’m so excited.”
MEI head coach Rick Thiessen was delighted for the Grade 11, who, like Giesbrecht, was quick with her hands defensively in making four steals to go along with her five points and four boards.
“We didn’t have her the last time that we played (Brookswood),” said Thiessen. “This was the first game that she played a lot of minutes. She made a huge difference today.
“Yesterday (in the quarterfinals), she was scared s—less. She said to me ‘Oh, Mr. Thiessen, I’m so sorry. I turned it over as soon as I touched it. Give me another chance.’ She was fantastic.”
Thiessen’s starting five are all Grade 12, so reaching the final in the culmination of their high school careers is huge for a group that Thiessen first coached in Grade 8.
“We lost in the quarterfinal that year by two,” said Theissen. “That has stuck with us. We wanted another chance to make a final and here we are. It’s pretty exciting.”
They’ll face the winner of the Burnaby Central-R.A. McMath semifinal on Saturday evening.In the semifinal, with both teams playing defence as intensely as they had all tournament and the shooters on each side struggling, the game was close all the way.
The score was tied seven times in the first half, when neither team had a lead bigger than four points and it wound up 29-29. MEI went on a mini 5-0 run to start the third before the Bobcats responded with a 12-2 surge. In the fourth, after MEI battled back, Brookswood took a 51-46 lead with four minutes to go. But three Eagles free throws, a driving layup from Jazmin Avila with 1:50 to go and Neufeld’s clutch jumper was the difference.
Avila had a team-high 15 points and 15 rebounds, while Marijke Meindertsma had 13 points and 14 boards as the two MEI bigs had a ferocious battle inside against Shayna Gill, Brookswood’s SFU-bound six-foot-two post.
“Yeah, I’m a little banged up,” said Meindertsma. “It’s a tough battle with Shayna. She’s an awesome post.
“But I’m so proud of this team. I’m super excited about going to the final. A dream come true.”
Brookswood head coach Chris Veale called the loss “a jagged pill to swallow.
“They outrebounded us 44-36 and in that last sequence that they scored their (winning) bucket on, they got four rebounds in a row. There it is. We didn’t execute real well today. We didn’t shoot the ball very well.”
Cassidy Buchanan was the only Bobcat in double figures with 18 points.
R.A. MCMATH 80 BURNABY CENTRAL 64
Story by STEVE FROST (Special for Varsity Letters)
LANGLEY — The No. 4 seed R.A. McMath Wildcats scored 28 first quarter points and never looked back upsetting No. 1 seed Burnaby Central Wildcats 80-64 to advance to the final of the B.C. senior girls Triple-A championship on Saturday.
The high-scoring Wildcats from Richmond reached 50 points before the end of the first half showcasing an offence capable of scoring from anywhere on the floor Friday afternoon. McMath used its length to create mismatches and opportunities, driving to the rim, creating second chance points and getting to the line against the under-sized No. 1 seed.
Scoring points is nothing new for the No. 4 seed R.A. McMath, who scored 93 and 105 points in earlier tournament wins. Against Burnaby, McMath led 28-9 after the first quarter, 50-27 at the break and held a 20-point lead for most of the second half.
“It seemed like this game was won in the first quarter,” said McMath head coach Jamie Kippan. “We got off to a great start and our shots fell early. The first seven or eight minutes of the game was really the key for us.”
“They have some really good shooters and they are a pretty quick team so we were focused on what we were doing defensively,” said Kippan. “We know we can score so it was all about a defensive focus for us.”
McMath dominated the first half, scoring 25 second chance points and 26 points in the paint. They out-rebounded Burnaby 29 to 21 and held the Wildcats to 10-of-44 shooting.
“We wanted to limited their looks and take shots away on the outside, becaUse we had the size inside to defend whatever they took to the hoop,” said Kippan. “We made life hard for them on the outside. We knew they would take the shots so the key was forcing them into misses.”
Burnaby Central shot poorly from the field, connecting on just 22-of-80 shots (27.5%) compared to McMath who shot 41.6% from the field (32-of-77).
Four players scored in double figures by halftime for McMath, with 6-foot-2 forward Marina Radocaj finishing with a 22-point, 10-rebound double-double. The long and athletic grade 11 student and product of Canada’s Under-16 program, shot 9-of-19 from the field. She collided with a Burnaby player with eight minutes left in the game and sat on the bench with an ice pack on her head. Kippan said she’ll be able to play in the final.
McMath guard Kee Hohlweg had a monster game on both ends of the floor, grabbing 18 rebounds and scoring 15 points on 7-of-17 shooting.
McMath guard Emma Bradley scored 15 points, and forwards Teagan Ng and Caitlin Kippan had 13 points apiece.
Guard Ankita Chopra had 25-points, going 3-of-8 on threes, and dynamic point-guard Jade Huynh scored 16 points to carry the offence for the Burnaby Wildcats
“We are not disappointed, we are just proud of how far we have come and what we are able to accomplish this season,” said Huynh. “I think we might have felt the pressure, we’re just not used to this stuff, this atmosphere. There were no spectators in the regular season, so we weren’t used to crowd and fans cheering.”
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