LANGLEY — For the first few days of the 2019 Tsumura Basketball Invitational, Makenna Jacklin did a really good job of convincing herself that she’d lost her jump shooting mojo.
Perhaps it had fallen off the team bus somewhere along the ride down from Kelowna, likely never to be found again?
“But as soon as the ball touched my hands, I said ‘This is my moment,’” the 6-foot Grade 11 forward with the Okanagan Mission Huskies explained in the aftermath of championship victory Saturday evening on the floor of the Langley Events Centre. “I said ‘I’ve got to do this for my team.’ Then, when the ball left my hands, I knew it was going in. I knew we were winning.”
Trailing by a point with 20.3 seconds remaining to East Vancouver’s Britannia Bruins in the TBI title tilt, OKM head coach Meghan Faust called for time, then drew up a play to give her coldest three-point shooter a chance to win the game and the tournament.
Who does that?
“She came off the court at one point, looked at me and said ‘I’m having a terrible game,” relayed Faust of Jacklin. “I had a couple of other shooters available, but I thought Mak was ready. Then she goes in, she hits that big three… she nails it, and it brought her to tears.”
Jacklin later rebounded a miss by the Bruins with just 8.7 seconds remaining which likely would have sent the game to overtime, was subsequently fouled, then hit a free throw to cap an 88-85 victory.
And that’s not even the whole story.
“That shot is the only three-pointer I made the whole weekend, but that’s the one that counted,” gushed Jacklin, whose modest eight-point night didn’t capture of the full flavour of her contributions which also included big rebounds and shot-altering defence. “I was really feeling down on myself because I wasn’t making shots. I was shooting and shooting and it wouldn’t fall. So I said to myself ‘This is my moment.’”
WRITING A NEW CHAPTER
Without getting too dramatic, it’s no stretch to say that TBI 2019 has been one of the most eye-opening moments in recent B.C. girls high school basketball history.
Eight schools from the most recent Quad-A Top 10 rankings were a part of the field, yet none was able to crack the 20-team event’s top three.
Let that sink in for a second.
This is certainly not to say that by the time many of the same teams gather here in March for the B.C. championships that those same eight Quad-A teams — the Riverside Rapids, Terry Fox Ravens, Kelowna Owls, Brookswood Bobcats, Heritage Woods Kodiaks, Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers, Walnut Grove Gators and Yale Lions — won’t be vastly improved outfits..
Yet by no means did Triple-A No. 1 Okanagan Mission, and the Double-A quartet of No. 1 Langley Christian, No. 3 Britannia and No. 4 St. Thomas More have some kind of monopoly on early-season readiness.
They too, have just as much ceiling for improvement, yet they’re already good enough to get in the same line as the aforementioned Quad-A powers, all behind unquestioned No. 1 Semiahmoo which did not take part in TBI.
In fact, based on their track record here at the LEC, it’s pretty hard not to call Okanagan Mission and Britannia the Nos. 2 and 3 overall teams in the province at this moment with Langley Christian at No. 4. Triple-A No. 2 Abbotsford, which also did not take part in TBI, is looking the part of a power.
A SURPRISE FOR SURPRISE?
Coming into Saturday’s final, the big question was going to be how the Huskies would go about trying to slow Britannia’s explosive senior guard Surprise Munie, who had shown a habit of taking over games when it mattered most as the Bruins knocked off Quad-A foes Riverside, Yale and Kelowna on the way to the final.
While not deploying a traditional junk triangle on the Bruins, OKM did assign Grade 11 forward Lily Pink to guard Munie, and its senior point guard Melaina Corrado to guard Britannia’s senior point guard Shemaiah Abatayo.
Although Pink did pick up a second early foul which forced her to leave the game for a spell inbetween the first and second quarters, the move paid off.
Stifled early, Munie didn’t get into a groove until the fourth quarter where she scored seven of her team’s final 10 points, finishing with a modest 16, but remaining dangerous to the final buzzer.
Same with Abatayo.
She scored a team-high 19 points, yet had but one three-pointer over the final 8:50 of the game.
That’s because the Huskies played terrific stretches of defence, including one in which they kept the Bruins from a sinking a shot from the field for a span of 9:40 between the halves.
In the end, with Munie and Abatayo demanding every ounce of their attention, it proved to be just enough.
“I thought they played really good defence,” said Britannia head coach Mike Evans of OKM’s 14-4 run over that same stretch of play. “I don’t know if it was because we were tired or not, but we had so many shots rim out. I have to hand it to (OKM), though, because they scored a bunch of points right at the half to go up by 10 (29-19), and then they scored the first basket of the second half.”
Interestingly enough, the last six points of the first half and the that first bucket of the second were all scored by Pink, who made a habit of hitting big shots all night, finished with a game-high 25 points, and was later named Tsumura Basketball’s 2019 MVP, joining a pretty exclusive club which most recently includes Sienna Lenz (Abbotsford, 2016), Jessica Wisotzki (Walnut Grove, 2017) and Tavia Rowell (Walnut Grove, 2018).
“I’ve had her since Grade 9 and she’s just developed into an unstoppable force for us,” Faust said of Pink, a 5-foot-10 Grade 11 with uncommon stride and balance, and an incredibly soft touch around the glass. “She is our scorer and no matter what, she finds a way.”
Pink scored seven of OKM’s first nine points for a 9-0 lead, filled it up just before halftime, closed out the third quarter with a brilliant lay-in off a spin-move in the paint, then capped her night with a big lay-in for a 53-47 lead in the fourth quarter.
“I just go out there and play how I play,” said Pink. “And I have Melaina to help me out with those great passes. But it also felt good to get the chance on defence to try and stop Surprise. She is a great player and everybody had to help out.”
Elana Corrado had seven points, Melaina Corrado six, and Devon Felt five.
Post Lagi Vaa added 10 points for the Bruins, seven of which she scored consecutively late in the third quarter, kickstarting a 19-4 Bruins’ run which gave Britannia a 45-44 lead 1:10 into the fourth.
TEARING DOWN THE TIERS
One of the week’s more memorable moments came after Okanagan Mission secured its berth in Saturday’s finale following a Friday semifinal win over Langley Christian.
“During the game, the refs asked me where Okanagan Mission was,” began Huskies’ Melaina Corrado. “They didn’t even know where we were from. I told them Kelowna. I hope they remember.”
It’s a theme that in many ways, carries over to the overall TBI weekend just completed.
For far too long, top-end tournaments have based their invitation lists largely by tier, with an accepted ‘never the twain shall meet’ mentality between the bigger and smaller member schools.
What TBI 2019 drove home in ways no one could have possibly imagined when the event tipped off Wednesday, is that at the very top end of competition in this province, great basketball teams will no longer be determined simply by the quantity of A’s in their tiering number.
It’s not like small has never beaten big before, but never en masse like this.
After this weekend, that is something we’re all sure to remember.
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