We’re covering the Sweet 16 round here at the B.C. junior girls basketball championships.
Today, veteran and award-winning sportswriter Gary Kingston lends his talents to the team at VarsityLetters.ca with his reports.
Thanks for your patience. We have now completed our coverage of Day 1 at the 2019 B.C. Junior Girls Championships. All the game reports follow below, complete with photos, but first, a look at tomorrow’s championship draw schedule.
TOP HALF DRAW
2:30 p.m. MEI vs. Yale; 4 p.m. — Terry Fox vs. Claremont
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
11:30 a.m. Riverside vs. Okanagan Mission; 1 p.m. — Kelowna vs. Fleetwood Park
By Gary Kingston, Special to Varsity Letters
TOP HALF DRAW
NO. 1 TERRY FOX 96 NO. 17 SEAQUAM 19
LANGLEY — No, that score is not a misprint.
The Terry Fox Ravens’ margin of victory (77 points for those who are math-challenged) was larger than the point total of any of the winning teams on the opening day of the B.C. junior girls basketball tournament at the Langley Events Centre.
Undefeated and rarely threatened this season, the now 32-0 Ravens got the balanced scoring they’re known for with five players scoring between 13 and 19 points. Lauren Clements led the way with 19, while Emily Sussex added 17.
“It’s good for our kids to just get on the floor and get a run in, get the nerves out,” said Terry Fox coach Mike Carkner of the easy victory.
“That was (Seaquam’s) second game (of the day), so they kind of ran out of gas. And we play pretty high tempo. I think we kind of wore them out in the first half.”
Terry Fox was up 47-11 at the break and then limited the Seahawks to just three buckets and a pair of free throws over the final 16 minutes.
Carkner said there’s been no problem keeping his team of all Grade 9s motivated in a season in which they’ve run roughshod over most of the competition.
“It’s just a really nice group of kids and they really love being on the floor and like playing together. Even if the score is a little bit lopsided, they tend to play with a lot of intensity and pretty good quality.
NO. 9 CLAREMONT 47 NO. 8 HERITAGE WOODS 44
LANGLEY — The good news for the Claremont Spartans on Wednesday was that they won twice at the B.C. junior girls basketball provincials, including squeaking out a Sweet 16 matchup with Heritage Woods.
The bad news is that all it got them was a Thursday contest against the powerful, virtually unstoppable Terry Fox Ravens.
Seeded No. 9, the Spartans defeated Hazelton 43-22 in an afternoon game, then hung on late to edge the the No. 8 Kodiaks 47-44 in an evening contest.
“It was stressful,” Claremont coach Kim Robertson said of the win over Heritage Woods. “But it’s exciting to win one like that, a close one when we go into the top eight now.”
The score was tied at 40 with just under three minutes to go when Claremont got a pair of clutch corner shots from two experienced Grade 10s. Six-foot forward Payton Henderson made a two as the shot clock expired and then on the next possession, guard Charlotte Westhaver drained a three-pointer that found nothing but net.
“Payton and Charlotte,” said Robertson. “Composure, that makes a big difference. That momentum was huge.”
Westhaver led the Spartans with 13 points, while guard Sylvi Jenner added 11. Olivia Pero and Rebecca Green each scored 10 for the Kodiaks.
The Spartans now get the undefeated Ravens, who advanced with a 96-19 pasting of Seaquam.
“Going to be a tough game,” said Robertson, whose squad has not faced Terry Fox this season. “I’m looking forward to it. They need to bring everything they’ve got and leave it all on the floor.”
“It would be a really sweet victory.”
NO. 13 MEI 42 NO. 4 ST. THOMAS MORE 30
LANGLEY — Young, but definitely battle tested.
Seeded just 13th among the 24 schools at the B.C. junior girls basketball tournament, the MEI Eagles from Abbotsford figured that their regular-season schedule had prepared them to pull off an upset or two.
After easily dispatching Hazelton 62-22 in an afternoon game, the Eagles faced No. 4-seeded St. Thomas More in an early evening Sweet 16 matchup. Despite some uneven shooting from the field, MEI played clamp down defence in defeating the Knights 42-30.
“Ranking wise, yes (it’s an upset),” said Eagles coach Rick Thiessen. “But this is what I said to our girls ahead of time, we have played the top three teams in the province eight times — (Terry) Fox, Riverside and Yale — so we’re used to these kinds of games where we’ve battled.
“We have confidence. And our size was a huge advantage today. That was the difference maker. Knowing we had battled all season against really good teams and been competitive. We knew we were due to win a game like this.”
A mostly Grade 9 squad, with a couple of Grade 8s also on the roster, MEI got 14 points from standout five-foot-10 forward Jazmin Avila and a strong game on the boards from six-foot post Gracie Corneau, who chipped in with seven points.
“We have great patience to work it inside because we’re bigger than most junior teams,” said Thiessen. “We try to use our height advantage as much as possible.”
The win sets up a quarterfinal matchup Thursday with the Yale Lions, who won all four regular-season contests.
“That’s beautiful,” said a grinning Thiessen. “Every game has been around 10-12 points (margin). We’re hoping to beat them this time.”
NO. 12 YALE 59 NO. 5 PACIFIC CHRISTIAN 40
LANGLEY — There’s an old adage in sports that you shorten your bench at crunch time.
For Shannon Finnie, coach of the Yale Lions junior girls basketball team, a short bench is all she’s got.
Despite having just six healthy players, the No. 12-seeded Lions won twice Wednesday at the Langley Events Centre, including a 59-40 upset victory over No. 5 Pacific Christian of Victoria in a Sweet 16 contest.
The Lions lost top scorer Jayden White to a knee injury before the tournament, further deplenishing a lineup that had earlier lost players to a number of different circumstances.
“We lost one to hockey,” said Finnie. “She got moved up to a different tier. Another one, for personal reasons, had to pack it in. And we lost one to rugby. We started off with 11, but we’re down to six.”
Those six are proving, however, that there’s no quit in these Lions. Five-foot-eight guard Julie Dueck was a deadly sharp-shooter against Pacific Christian, scoring a game-high 26 points.
“She played very well,” said Finnie. “She was very confident in her shots.”
Forward Marissa Rodde added 14 points for the winners.
“I knew we had the ability to play well,” said Finnie. “We’re short numbered, so a lot of it depends on how we do in terms of foul trouble. We hope for the best and hope they’re taking care of themselves. It should be a little bit easier now that we don’t have two games tomorrow.”
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
No. 2 KELOWNA 83 No. 15 BELMONT 38
LANGLEY — In a season where victories have sometimes come easy for the Kelowna Owls and maintaining intensity through 32 minutes has been a challenge, the hope was that provincials would create a sense of urgency.
In that respect, coach Robin Espenberg was delighted with his junior girls squad’s opener at the Langley Events Centre.
The No. 2-seeded Owls ran roughshod over the No. 15 Belmont Bulldogs in an 83-38 spanking.
“I’m exceptionally happy with the way it went,” said Espenberg after the Wednesday afternoon triumph. “The girls came out with a lot of energy early and they kind of kept their foot on the gas right to the end.
“We didn’t lose focus. We struggled with that a little bit throughout the season. I couldn’t be happier with the way they started.”
While the Owls had a bye into the Sweet 16 — Belmont advanced with a 42-28 victory over Sa-Hali of Kamloops in the morning — Espenberg said his squad was ready to go.
“We managed to get a morning shoot today, which is nice to just loosen up.”
Six-foot-one forward Paris Kirk led the all-Grade 10 Owls with 17 points, while forward Shiah Holmes added 14.
While Espenberg trots out the old “one game at a time” line, there is little doubt that the Owls would love to match up in the championship game with the No. 1 seed and undefeated Terry Fox Ravens.
“We’ve only played them one time (this season). We lost that game, but I was exceptionally happy with the way it went. We were within five points after three quarters and, unfortunately, we let one of their girls get rolling and she hit a few threes in our face in the last quarter.
“I also feel like we didn’t show them a lot of our game. I sure hope we get another shot at playing them before the tournament is over.”
NO. 10 FLEETWOOD PARK 61 NO. 7 YORK HOUSE 52
LANGLEY — A summer gym rat became a roaring serpent in winter Wednesday as powerful guard Keerat Sidhu keyed a terrific fourth quarter from the Fleetwood Park Dragons.
The Surrey school shook off a dismal 22-point first half to earn a 61-52 victory over the York House Tigers in a Sweet 16 game at the B.C. junior girls basketball tournament at the Langley Events Centre.
Clinging to just a one-point lead, 37-36 after three quarters, Fleetwood Park rode some determined work from Sidhu, a Grade 10, and some hot shooting at the free throw line to defeat York House in a mild upset.
Sidhu, who was scoreless in the first half, knocked down a three-pointer early in the fourth to put the Dragons up 43-38, then converted on a couple of driving layups a minute apart to increase the lead to 50-42. She later forced a mid-court turnover that led to a layup by fellow guard Janelle Almariego that bumped the advantage to 10 points.
“She’s a very committed player,” Dragons’ coach Pam Reynolds said of Sidhu. “She’s the one that’s texting me in the summer, asking me to open the gym so I’m really happy for her.”
Given what was at stake in the sudden-elimination tournament, the Dragons also showed great composure at the line in the final four minutes, making nine of 11 free throws.
“Our girls did a really good job,” said Reynolds. “We’ve been having a rough time at the line all year and I think all that practice paid off.”
Mantoz Brar, who was four-of-five from the line in that stretch, finished with a team-high 11 points.
NO. 3 RIVERSIDE 55 NO. 19 BROOKSWOOD 41
LANGLEY — It’s a measure of where the Riverside Rapids believe they are in B.C. junior girls basketball that what turned out to be a somewhat routine 55-41 Sweet 16 win over the Brookswood Bobcats can be reason for concern.
The Rapids jumped out to a 12-0 lead and led 14-5 after the first quarter. The gritty Bobcats did shake off early shooting troubles and pulled to within eight of the No. 3-seeded Rapids early in the fourth quarter before the Port Coquitlam school pulled away at the end.
“It was our first game of the tournament and they had an extra game this morning,” Rapids coach Desha Puri said of Brookswood’s 66–35 win over College Heights. “So we were just not here. We’ll hope for a better day tomorrow.”
Puri said that despite that 12-0 run to open the game she still felt her girls took a while to find their rhythm.
“Especially being in this kind of environment, not playing (before) on this court, being the first game of provincials. They’re still just 14-15 years old and mentally it’s just a different game, different atmosphere. Having that first game in the morning is definitely an advantage.”
In the absence Wednesday of top player Venica Davignon, Riverside was led by its dynamic Grade 10 backcourt tandem of Maria Kim and Franscine Basiga. Basiga had 21 points, while Kim, who made several strong drives into the paint added 17 points.
Laila Galvez led Brookswood with eight points.
No. 11 OKANAGAN MISSION 59 No. 6 ARGYLE 31
LANGLEY — The mission is clear for the Okanagan Mission Huskies. Play the kind of tight, suffocating defence that forces opponents into bad decisions and turnovers and then run them hard in transition.
The Huskies, who opened the 24-team B.C. junior girls basketball tournament with a 59-31 demolition of Sir Winston Churchill in the 8:30 a.m. game Wednesday, shut down another Lower Mainland school in the Sweet 16 round later in the afternoon.
No. 11 seeded Okanagan Mission upset No. 6-seeded Argyle 47-20, holding the Pipers, who had a first-round bye, scoreless for a 10-minute stretch in the first half and to just seven points in the second half.
“No, it wasn’t a surprise,” said Huskies’ head coach Lisa Nevoral. “We’ve been concentrating on defence all year. We change up our defences all the time. We have some really quick guards and agile posts and so we’re able to trouble some teams.”
One of only two squads in the tournament without a Grade 10 player — top-seeded Terry Fox is the other — the Huskies feature a two-post tandem of 5-foot-10 Stella LaGrange, a Grade 9 and 5-foot-11 Kanani Coon, a Grade 8, that can dominate on the boards inside
LaGrange, who is quick enough and skilled enough to bring the ball up court, scored 16 to lead the Huskies offence, while Coon added 15.
“Stella has been a leader on our team,” said Nevoral. “She works her butt off all the time, gets rebounds like a machine. When we have team talks, she’s the one who’s vocal, a real leader. She really works at the game and you can see it out there.”
The Huskies road an early 15-0 run to snap a 4-4 tie and were rarely threatened after that.
“Two of our rudders of our team are transition and defence, so if we can leap on a team . . . “ said Nevoral. “We knew this team hadn’t played (earlier), so we knew they were going to have nerves. It’s always good to jump on a team like that.”
Kate Walton and Sade Maillet led Argyle with five points each.
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