LANGLEY — In announcing on Thursday the signing of three players from the B.C. Quad-A No. 1-ranked Terry Fox Ravens senior girls basketball team, Fraser Valley Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer was posed a question whose answer would speak best to the total impact of incoming the trio.
If you were coaching a three-on-three team of Alisha Weloy, Lauren Clements and Ana-Maria Misic, what would be their best combined strength?
“I think the first thing that comes to mind would be probably how well-rounded and selfless they would be,” Tuchscherer said of the 5-foot-10 forward Misic, the 5-foot-9 guard Weloy and the 5-foot-8 guard/forward Clements.
“Alisha really likes to defend, and offensively she likes to facilitate,” continued Tuchscherer. “Ana would do all of the dirty work, and then I don’t think either one would be upset if Lauren scores. They would make a very good three-on-three team.”
The Ravens, favourites to win the B.C.’s top-tiered title this coming March at the Langley Events Centre, will kick off a three-day run at the same venue later today (6:15 p.m.) when they face Surrey’s Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers in the opening round of the 2021 Tsumura Basketball Invitational.
Bringing all three Terry Fox players into his program in the same recruiting class can be looked at as Tuchscherer’s stamp of approval on everything about the trio, from their skill, to their coachability, to their growth potential, to their temperament, to their lifelong friendship.
“I think for us, as university coaches, we’re always looking for those kinds of intangibles,” said Tuchscherer. “They’ve won a lot, they want to win, and they put the work in to win. But it’s also interesting that they have played together for so long, that they’re like 17-years-old, and they are still best of friends. They want to be around each other and they love to play with each other. That’s a pretty cool thing to bring into your program.”
Interestingly enough, both Misic and Weloy have garnered their top individual awards for their defensive prowess. Misic was named the top defensive player when an all-Grade 9 Ravens team swept through an undefeated season to win the B.C. junior title in 2019.
Weloy, as part of the 2020 team which finished second to Semiahmoo at the B.C. Quad-A senior varsity championships, was named the tournament’s top defensive player as a Grade 10.
Clements brings a dynamic offensive flair to the Cascades as both a shooter and a driver, and Tuchscherer has called her “a tenacious rebounder.”
Yet as much as bringing in three players from the same high school team may seem like a rarity, it has basically already happened twice in some form under Tuchscherer, and it signalled the start of the most productive era in program history.
For 2009-10, Tuchscher brought in Nicole Wierks and Courtney Bartel from Chilliwack Secondary, then the next season brought in Sarah Wierks from the same school.
Then, in 2011-12, Tuchscherer brought in the W.J. Mouat trio of Kayli Sartori, Katie Brink, Jaslyen Singh.
In its totality, it signalled the start of the first golden age of Cascades’ women’s hoops.
Those six players set a foundation for four straight trips to the Canada West Final Four (2011, ’12, ’13, ’14) and back-to-back trips to U SPORTS nationals (2013, ’14) with a bronze-medal finish in 2014.
Considering the effects of the COVID-cancelled 2020-21 season, one which stopped the eligibility clocks of all its athletes, the Terry Fox group, in effect, gets an extra season with which to grow with and glean from a young but already-seasoned core group.
In fact, you can project ahead, says two seasons, to the 2023-24 campaign. Misic, Weloy and Clements would be much more experienced players as second years, on a team which would include a third-year Julia Tuchscherer, and fourth years Deanna Tuchscherer, Maddy Gobeil and Nikki Cabuco.
“It’s a really a strange time with Covid and how it really changes a lot of the makeup of our teams, but this is a positive for them,” said Tuchscherer. “I am really looking forward to see the three of them jump in with our young core.”
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