By ALY LAUBE
(Special to VarsityLetters.ca)
LANGLEY — Like many teams at the B.C. Junior Girls Basketball Championships, Surrey’s No. 15 seed Fraser Heights Firehawks—who won a quarterfinal game against the No. 7 Penticton Lakers 55-43 on Thursday at the Langley Events Centre—call themselves a family. But for three of the players and two of the coaches, that label has a more literal meaning.
Coaches Wayne Best and Roger Rai are parents to three of the players: Teah Best, Neelam Rai, and Karishma Rai. While an injury sent Best to the bench early, it was the Rai sisters who took over for her by scoring 12 points apiece. C.J. Dacanay scored a game-high 16.
With the Lakers now knocked out of the championship bracket, the underdog Firehawks will face Abbotsford’s Yale Lions in an 8 p.m. semifinal on Friday.
“To be honest, I was really anxious but I knew my team could do it even though they were pretty anxious as well because they know I’m sitting,” said Best. “But when I’m injured I can’t really help it. I’ve just got to cheer.”
For Neelam, their success came down to keeping the ball moving and staying enthusiastic.
“We had a positive bench and positive people outside on the floor so it’s a really big impact when everyone’s positive on and off of the bench,” she said.
Karishma adds, “I think we attacked the hoop more. We created space, we were all calm, and no one was really anxious. We just all worked together.”
As three coaches daughters on the same team, Teah, Neelam, and Karishma truly feel the pressure to do their best during games. This has resulted in “a very complex dynamic” between the trio.
“We all have our strong assets in and out of the court but we’re all family at the end of the day, so that’s what really brings us together, especially since we’re all coaches kids but we work extremely hard,” she said.
“I just think we work harder because of it,” Best explains. “We have to be role models for everyone else.”
Firehawks coach Wayne Best lamented that his daughter had to sit out, and he appreciates the Rai sisters’ hard work that showed during game, but he also wanted to draw attention to Dacanay’s skills and drive.
“She was shooting the lights out. She got us that lead. It was her will to want to get us there that actually gave us that separation,” said the coach.
Thursday’s four championship-bracket quarterfinal games:
MOUNT BAKER 63 NORTH SURREY 45
The North Surrey underdog team who won against the St. Thomas More Collegiate Knights on Wednesday took a hard loss to Mount Baker Wild on Thursday morning.
Josie Mackie, a dominant forward for Cranbrook’s Mount Baker Wild, hustled to make baskets throughout all four quarters, but it was Kiara Ker who really secured the team’s place in the semifinals with 15 points scored in the second half of the game and 25 points in total.
Sara Uppal, a guard for the North Surrey Spartans, scored high in the first half of the game and earned a total of 19 points from start to finish. Spartans forward Esha Deol scored 13 points for the team as well.
Tomorrow at 6:30 p.m., Mount Baker Wild will compete against The Walnut Grove Gators in the semifinals.
WALNUT GROVE 64 KELOWNA 56
In the final game of the quarter finals, the Kelowna Owls faced off against the Walnut Grove Gators and won 64-56. Both teams come from schools with highly successful teams placed in the top three rankings for the seniors championships.
The top-scoring players for the Walnut Grove Gators were Fania Taylor with 16 points and Holly Harrison with 21 points. The Kelowna Owls’ top-scoring players were Katrina Fink with 18 points and Japleen Chahal with 21 points.
Tomorrow, the The Walnut Grove Gators will be playing against Mount Baker Wild at 6:30 in the semifinals.
FRASER HEIGHTS 55 PENTICTON 43
No. 15 Fraser Heights Firehawks defeated the No. 7 Penticton Lakers on Thursday.
The Firehawks, led by veteran coach Wayne Best, advanced quickly thanks to high-scoring players Neelam Rai and Karishma Rai with 12 points each and C.J. Dacanay with 16.
The Penticton Lakers’ top player was Jaden Yamamoto with 12 points.
With the Lakers now knocked out of the championship bracket, the Fraser Heights Firehawks will be competing against the Yale Lions at 8:00 p.m. tomorrow.
YALE 49 BURNABY SOUTH 43
On Thursday afternoon, Abbotsford’s Yale Lions defeated the Burnaby South Rebels to win their spot in Friday’s semifinals.
The Yale Lions steadily made baskets throughout the game with Kyleigh Boldt scoring 19 points, Jayden White scoring 12, and Lily Borseth scoring 10.
The three highest-scoring players for The Rebels—guard/forward Awek Deng (13), centre/forward Laini Glover (16), and point guard Zyre Aspires (7)—collectively got 36 points for their team, with Deng having the most and Aspires having the least.
The Lions will be moving on to play The Fraser Heights Firehawks tomorrow at 8:00 p.m.
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