St. Thomas Aquinas' Jessica Clarke poses her way through the Britannia defence and to the hoop in B.C. AA quarterfinal action at the LEC. (Photo by Dan Kinvig property of University of the Fraser Valley athletics 2019. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Girls Basketball

AA FINAL EDITION: Elite 8 quarterfinals reports from the B.C. senior girls Double-A basketball championships

LANGLEY — We’ve gone final with the B.C. senior girls quarterfinal draw!

Today, Varsity Letters was thrilled to have veteran journalist and communication specialist Dan Kinvig join the team. Kinvig, a staple of our B.C. boys basketball Day 1 coverage, has today given our readers the most complete coverage of the B.C. girls AA draw that you will find.

His game reports are below but first, here’s Saturday’s two semifinal game times:

3:30 p.m. — No. 1 South Kamloops vs. No. 5 St. Thomas Aquinas

5:15 p.m. — No. 2 Langley Christian vs. No. 3 G.W. Graham


No. 3 G.W. GRAHAM 59 vs. No. 6 VERNON 44

G.W. Graham stat sheet stuffer Eliza Dueck (left) did a little bit of everything, leading her Grizz past Sarah Crerar and the Vernon Panthers on Thursday night at the LEC. (Photo by Dan Kinvig property of University of the Fraser Valley athletics 2018. All Rights Reserved)

The Vernon Panthers gummed things up in the paint in an effort to slow the G.W. Graham Grizzlies’ Twin Towers, but in the end, Deanna and Julia Tuchscherer still found enough room to thrive.

The Grizzlies’ siblings, despite being the clear focus of the Panthers’ defensive attention, both managed huge double-doubles in a 59-44 victory in the AA quarter-finals on Thursday.

Deanna Tuchscherer, the Grizzlies’ silky-smooth 6-foot senior star, racked up a game-high 22 points to go with 19 rebounds. Younger sister Julia, who plays with such poise at 6-foot-1 that it’s hard to believe she’s only in Grade 9, finished with 14 points and 16 boards.

The win ensured a Final Four trip for the Grizzlies, and they’ll face the Langley Christian Lightning at 3:30 p.m. on Friday (LEC Centre Court).

“As we go through, facing better and better teams, everybody’s planning to play us that way,” said Grizzlies coach Sarah Mouritzen, alluding to the Panthers’ effort to make the paint a high-traffic area. “But we talked a lot about rotating the ball – getting it inside and outside, being able to give them second side and different positions (to touch the ball). Then our outside players needed to start hitting shots, and we were able to do that at key times.”

G.W. Graham led 29-22 at the half, and were able to stretch it to 41-30 midway through the third quarter. Vernon responded with a 5-0 surge, highlighted by a Kelsey Watts three-pointer, to cut the deficit to 41-35, but the Grizzlies’ Sydney Owens drained a triple of her own to give the No. 3 seed a 44-35 lead heading to the fourth.

Deanna Tuchscherer, who played for Canada’s U17 team last summer and will suit up for the Fraser Valley Cascades in the U SPORTS ranks this fall, worked her way through some box-and-one defensive attention from Vernon to make a series of key plays in the fourth quarter.

Catching the ball in the corner, she pump-faked the three-pointer before driving baseline for an and-one layup, putting Graham ahead 54-42 with 2:33 left in regulation. On the ensuing possession, she blocked a Vernon shot and fired an outlet pass to Owens, who was fouled on the fast break and sank both free throws to make it 56-42 and essentially drain the suspense from the proceedings.

Aliza Dueck stuffed the stat sheet for the Grizzlies, posting seven points, nine rebounds and seven assists, and Kennedy Hall chipped in with seven points of her own.

Kelsey Falk (19 points) and Sarah Butler (12) scored in double figures for the Panthers, who were limited to an even 20 per cent shooting (15-for-75) from the field.

“We watched them yesterday, and Kelsey Falk had 36 points, so we knew we had to key in,” Mouritzen noted. “She had 13 in the first half tonight, but just six in the second half, and that was key. They’re a very athletic, physical team, and I thought we did a good job defensively.”


Langley Chrsitian’s Makenna Gardner, in a hard-hitting, physically-draining contest, finds some rare open floor Friday as she chugs up the floor against St. Thomas More’s Gigi Gaspar. LCS won to earn a spot in Friday’s Final Four. (Photo by Dan Kinvig property of University of the Fraser Valley athletics 2018. All Rights Reserved)

LANGLEY — Say this for the Langley Christian Lightning moving forward in the B.C. AA tournament – if they weren’t battle-tested before, they certainly are now.

The Lightning punched their Final Four ticket after weathering a teeth-rattlingly physical quarter-final bout with Burnaby’s St. Thomas More Knights, prevailing by a 66-49 score.

For 40 minutes, every rebound was contested, every screen was rock-solid, and rare was the possession that a player did not hit the hardwood for one reason or another.

It didn’t add up to beautiful offensive basketball – neither Langley Christian (29.4 per cent) nor STM (24.3 per cent) managed to shoot 30 per cent from the field. But the Lightning built a double-digit lead in the first half and defended it the rest of the way. They move on to face the winner of Thursday’s late game featuring G.W. Graham and Vernon in the semifinals on Friday (3:30 p.m., LEC Centre Court).

“It was extremely physical,” Lightning coach Danielle Gardner noted afterward with a wry chuckle. “I’m just happy with our perseverance and poise. We worked hard throughout – we knew it was going to be a tough game, and we were ready to battle.

“We just hit key shots at key times. People stepped up and played hard for us – we got some offensive rebounds, and we came out on the good side.”

Second-seeded Langley Christian raced out to a 19-9 lead at the end of the first quarter, and extended the margin to 38-22 at the break.

The Knights kept battling, but the Lightning were able to keep them at bay. A mini-surge for STM midway through the fourth quarter got them back to within 11 points at 55-44, but that was as close as they would come.

Langley Christian’s Hailey Van Roekel went 4-for-8 from beyond the arc on her way to a game-high 19 points, and Makenna Gardner battled through a tough shooting night (2-for-14 from the field) to post 15 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and four steals. Ava Krepp (12 points) also scored in double figures, and Lainey Shelvey (seven points, 12 boards) kept several fourth-quarter possessions alive with huge offensive rebounds.

Knights Grade 11 guard Gigi Gaspar poured in a team-high 18 points, and Emma Stewart-Barnett chipped in with nine points.

No. 1 SOUTH KAMLOOPS 76 vs. No. 8 SEYCOVE 59

South Kam’s Maddy Gobeil was a mighty force in her team’s Elite 8 win over Seycove, scoring a game-high 38 points. (Photo by Dan Kinvig property of University of the Fraser Valley athletics 2018. All Rights Reserved)

LANGLEY — Maddy Gobeil and the South Kamloops Titans flexed their collective muscles on Thursday afternoon, earning a second straight blowout win to open the B.C. AA championship tournament.

Gobeil, the Titans’ senior point guard, authored an eye-popping stat line in her team’s 76-59 quarter-final victory over North Vancouver’s Seycove Seyhawks, racking up 38 points (14-of-20 from the field) to go with 13 rebounds and five assists.

“Pretty much every game, that’s what we get from her,” South Kamloops coach Del Komarniski said of Gobeil, who will suit up at the U SPORTS level next fall for the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades. “Doesn’t matter the opponent or the moment – she brings 100 per cent intensity every time, and 100 per cent heart. You couldn’t really ask for more from your senior leader point guard.”

The reigning B.C. champion Titans, coming off a 90-26 triumph over David Thompson in their opener on Wednesday, seized control early and never let go. They led 30-14 at the end of the first quarter, 46-22 at the half, and stretch the margin beyond 30 points in the third. Gobeil, the 2018 AA tourney MVP, was in the middle of everything, mixing powerful drives to the hoop with accurate shooting from beyond the arc (3-for-6).

Olivia Morgan-Cherchas, South Kam’s 6-foot-6 UBC-bound centre, had an efficient performance, posting 14 points (6-of-7 from the field), nine rebounds and four blocks, and Kendra McDonald added a double-double (14 points, 10 boards) for the winners.

Seycove’s Emma Bradshaw shot it well from distance, counting four three-pointers among her team-high 19 points. Sofia Bergman (16 points) and Maddy Coffin (10) also scored in double figures, and Jill Bowering hauled in a team-leading nine rebounds.

The Titans clash with the No. 5 St. Thomas Aquinas Fighting Saints in Friday’s semifinals (5:15 p.m., LEC Centre Court), and Komarniski called them “a good-looking team.”

“We haven’t seen them this year on the floor, but we’re looking forward to the match-up and I’m sure it’s going to be a great game,” he said. “They’ve got some good inside play and some good perimeter players – a good balanced team. They’re disciplined, and I like how they play. It’ll be a good challenge, for sure.”

St. Thomas Aquinas’ Brooklyn Monks (centre) looks to dish during its quarterfinal win over Britannia on Thursday at the LEC. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of 2019. All Rights Reserved)

No. 5 St. Thomas Aquinas 72 vs. No. 4 Britannia 66

The relationship between the St. Thomas Aquinas Fighting Saints and the Britannia Bruins could rightly be described as a rivalry, but there’s not a shred of the ill will often associated with the term.

“The kids are very fond of one another,” STA coach John Prescott explained in the aftermath of his team’s white-knuckle 72-66 victory over the Bruins in the provincial AA quarter-finals on Thursday afternoon.

“A few of our kids have played with a few of their kids throughout the years. When they were in Grade 8, they were on a zone team that won the BC Summer Games. And we’ve been playing club stuff together since they were in Grade 5 and Grade 6. It’s a tough game for both of our kids, because we enjoy competing against each other so much, but we’ve known each other for a long, long time.

“I guess you could say we’re rivals, but we’re very respectful rivals.”

That respectful rivalry played out in fascinating fashion on the LEC hardwood on Friday. The two teams offer a contrast of styles – North Vancouver’s Fighting Saints have great strength in the paint 6’3” Jessica Clarke and 6’0” Gemma Cutler, while the East Van-based Bruins counter with a speedy guard-oriented approach led by Surprise Munie, Shemaiah Abatayo and Iftu Taju.

Befitting their mutual familiarity, neither team was able to gain any significant separation in the first half. Britannia led 13-12 at the end of the first quarter, and it was STA holding a 32-31 advantage at the half following a buzzer-beating corner trey from Britannia’s Taju.

The Fighting Saints found some traction to open the third quarter, reeling off a 10-0 run capped by Cutler’s fast-break layup. But the Bruins were going nowhere – they gradually eroded STA’s edge, with Munie spearheading a successful full-court press and Jasleen Bahia draining a pair of huge triples.

Munie’s steal and subsequent layup tied it up at 61-61 with less than three minutes left in regulation, but a Caelan Prescott free throw followed by a huge baseline jumper by Pasley VanderMye restored the Saints’ lead, and they were efficient from the foul line down the stretch to seal the win. They move on to face the South Kamloops-Seycove winner in Friday’s semifinals (5:15 p.m., Centre Court).

Throughout, amidst the intensity and physicality of the game, the respect between the two teams was evident. Opposing players picked one another up off the hardwood, and the STA and Britannia coaching staffs shared a warm post-game greeting.

“We have an enormous respect for Britannia,” said Prescott, whose team avenged a loss to the Bruins in the Lower Mainland championship game. “You see them coaching a basketball game which is great, but the work that all three of those coaches (Mike Evans, Trevor Stokes and Mitra Tshan) do on the east side of Vancouver is spectacular. What we do on the basketball court pales in comparison.

“We knew the game was going to go back and forth, and what we stressed before the game was composure. We needed composure in championship times. And that’s what we did. We were composed, and we handled a good run from them and were able to push back and hold our own against a very good, athletic team.”

Clarke racked up 22 points and 21 rebounds to lead St. Thomas Aquinas, alongside strong contributions from Olivia Thorpe (17 points), VanderMye (16 points) and Cutler (eight points, nine boards).

Munie poured in a game-high 23 points, while Abatayo (13 points) and Taju (12) also scored in double figures.

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