The massive undertaking that is each season’s annual Telus B.C. senior and junior girls basketball championships brings 56 teams from all over our province to the Langley Events Centre.
The action begins bright-and-early Wednesday, and in honour of the next four days of spirited competition, we bring you some of the stories behind the stories.
Here’s 10 to ponder while you wander from gym to gym taking in the spectacle:
JUST CALL HER SAV
Panorama Ridge’s star forward Savannah Dhailwal has the most mis-pronounced first name in the entire 32-team senior varsity field this week.
You might have thought it was simply pronounced like it sounds, but it’s actually SAVAN-nah.
Explains Sav, as she is know to her friends: “My mom (Naveen) just created it. Before I was born, they thought they were getting a boy and they were going to name him Savan. But it was a girl, so my mom just added the ‘nah’.
A NEW HOUSE OF WINDSOR
How about Claire MacDonald?
When a new season dawned in the fall, the student at North Vancouver’s St. Thomas Aquinas was without a team to play for, owing to the fact that the Fighting Saints’ program had to fold due to a lack of players.
She’s not the superstar player you read about each week, but rather someone who plays the game for the love it.
Thankfully, she found her fit with the Windsor Dukes, and with head coach James Legault leading the team into the Big Dance as a Double-A wildcard entrant, this is a story with a happy ending.
Along with players like Madison Legault and Devon Woods, the 5-foot-5 MacDonald can bring her hustle-factor to games on the highest stage.
FINDING HER VOICE
Ask coaches about the absolute transformation players can go through in their lifespan as high school basketball players, and you’re at once reminded of all that is great about our game.
In Kelowna, Immaculata Mustangs head coach Andrew Gini has seen just such a change take place over the seasons in starting point guard Kate Johnson.
The fourth of the Johnson family to come through the program, she was, back in the ninth grade, a quiet young player without an identity after being cut during provincial team tryouts.
“Kate has proven to everyone who may have thought she wasn’t going to be great,” says Gini, “and now has become one of the top players in the province and a true point guard. She is a passionate leader in practice, off the court, in huddles, timeouts, half-time and during games. She is talking constantly trying to help her team win. When what we need done on the court is being said and done by our point guard, it’s means a lot.”
With the same impact at her level that Russell Westbrook carries at the NBA level, Johnson has become a force in her senior year, averaging 24 points, 10 rebounds eight assists and three steals per game.
BROKEN BUT UNBOWED
If you happen to catch Kelowna’s Okanagan Mission Huskies in action this week, cast an eye to you program and find the number that Jenna Robinson is wearing and consider how much she has gone through just to potentially see some spot minutes on the floor at the LEC.
Last season, she shot out the lights as a Grade 9, but just five games into the current campaign, she went in for a lay-up, and broke her leg as she came down on the floor.
“Doctors can’t even explain what happened,” says OKM coach Meghan Faust. “She has been such a trooper on the sidelines of every practice and game even though it kills her not to play. She is a true heart-and-soul player, putting the team first always. We’re hoping she’ll have recovered enough to play a few minutes in provincials.”
SURPRISE! BRIT IS BACK
East Vancouver’s Britannia Bruins have always celebrated the multi-cultural backgrounds its players have brought to the roster. This season, that mixing pot is once again chalk full, providing a point of pride reflective of a team which has always strengthened it bond by learning about each other’s varied upbringings.
Reports head coach Mike Evans: Three Chinese-Canadians, one half-Chinese-Canadian, one Filipino-Canadian, one Nigerian-Canadian, one African-Dutch-Canadian, two Aboriginal-Canadians, one Russian-Canadian.
That’s a list of 10 players, and to boot, the Bruins also have what has to be the best first name in the entire province this season.
Surprise Munie is a super quick, defensive-minded ninth-grader.
PANTHER WITH PERSPECTIVE
Brianna Falk is the kind of student-athlete who lets you know that you can help take care of the world for future generations and still find time to take to the court and average a near double-double.
At home, the Vernon Panthers’ 5-foot-10 swing forward has helped coach her school’s junior girls and Grade 8 boys teams.
Abroad, she spent three weeks last year volunteering at an African orphanage and this spring will be in Guatemala, helping install a water filtration system in a remote village while also running sports camps where she is sure to instruct the native youth on proper box-out form.
“And she has to pay for a portion of these trips herself,” says Vernon head coach Lonny Mazurak. “She just has a wonderful outlook on life and she has a large heart.”
This week, though, she’s donating her 20-point, eight-rebound average to the Panthers cause of a title drive.
The No. 1 seed in the Double A pool, last season’s finalists from North Vancouver’s Seycove Secondary, have brough true significance to the art of eating cookies.
“We have continued with our weekly tradition of Victory Cookies,” says Seyhawks head coach Darcy Grant. “Each time one of our girls teams wins, we buy cookies for the whole program to celebrate our success throughout our Grade 8-12’s.”
The seniors also love their traditional late-season team building.
Each year, the week before provincials, the entire team takes in a Simon Fraser Clan women’s game atop Burnaby Mountain, dining at local restaurant Anton’s.
It’s not the traditional act of breaking bread, but it’s clear this is a family that does everything together during its season and loves the dining hall.
Panorama Ridge head coach John Sowerby is going to be the busiest coach over the next four days at the Langley Events Centre.
Not only is Sowerby the head coach of the Thunder senior girls team, but also the coach of the Earl Marriott junior girls team, which is part of the field competing for a B.C. JV title.
That guy you see sprinting down the back hallways from centre- to fieldhouse- to south-court?
Chilliwack’s G.W. Graham Grizzlies are about an hour’s drive each day from the LEC, but as head coach Sarah Mourtizen says “We stay in a hotel in Langley to get the full experience.
“We make team dinners and breakfasts in the hotel each day with the help of parents and it’s a great bonding time for the team.”
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Prince George’s Botham family have had their share of uneasy dinner conversations during this basketball season.
Mandy Botham coaches the College Heights Cougars team which has qualified for the provincial Double A tournament, along with younger daughter Lauren. Meanwhile, older daughter Sydney plays for the defending B.C. Double-A champion Duchess Park Condors.
This season, both have qualified for the Big Dance.
“The two schools have been battling back and forth for supremacy in girls basketball in Prince George for the last five years,” Mandy laughs. “It makes for some tense dinner-table discussions and some awkward car rides home. We’re all fiercely competitive, but I am definitely the most competitive.”
Here’s to a potential meeting at some point during the week?
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