BY GARY AHUJA, Special to Varsity Letters
It’s the No. 1 seed Terry Fox Ravens against the No. 2 seed Kelowna Owls in Saturday’s 1 p.m. championship final on the LEC’s Centre Court.
Here’s a look at how both teams fared in their Friday semifinals:
TERRY FOX RAVENS 67 MEI EAGLES 26
LANGLEY — In the penultimate game of their quest for a perfect season, the Terry Fox Ravens displayed a rare case of the nerves.
This was a team which had crushed the competition in their first two games of the tournament, scoring 96 points in the opener and then another 76 points for their encore performance. So it must have been a shock to the team as it took them nearly half the first quarter to score and they managed just six points in the eight-minute period.
Ravens coach Mike Carkner said his team has never had a start like this.
“I think the kids were a bit nervous,” he admitted, something that had to come as a surprise considering his team is now 34-0 following their 67-26 win over the MEI Eagles (Abbotsford).
But while the shots may not have been dropping for them offensively, the Ravens didn’t panic, nor did they stray from the game plan.
“The one thing with this group is they compete so hard, their compete level is just so high even if we are not making shots, or not being very efficient offensively, their compete level keeps us in games and eventually gets us going,” he said. “And we are pretty confident in what we are able to do and once they got their legs going, their nerves under control, we started looking a lot better.”
Up 6-4 after one quarter, the real Ravens took flight, pouring home 30 points in the second quarter and another 22 in the third.
Lauren Clements had 17 points and Cerys Merton chipped in with a dozen to lead the Ravens while Makenna Reimer had a team-high 10 points for MEI.
It’s not too often a losing coach is okay with a defeat but for MEI’s Rick Thiessen, he said he would not have believed you at the start of the season had you said his team – the No. 13 seed — would be playing for a bronze medal at provincials.
“This is fantastic for us. I can’t be unhappy, our girls battled as hard as they could,” he said. “We are super proud of the girls. Terry Fox is just a very, very skilled and talented team.”
“It was huge for us just to be in the Final Four.”
Up next for the Ravens and their quest for a provincial title and perfect season is a showdown with the No. 2 seed Kelowna Owls, a team Terry Fox beat in their one and only meeting this season.
Both coaches of the championship tilt expressed compliments towards one another with Espenberg espousing the Ravens’ depth, athleticism and great coaching, while Carkner talked about the Owls’ length, physicality and the fact they are a well-coached squad.
Kelowna is also an all-Grade 10 squad while the Ravens roster is strictly Grade 9’s.
KELOWNA OWLS 67 MEI EAGLES 26
LANGLEY — Blazing hot starts in the first and third quarters proved enough of a difference for the Kelowna Owls to hold off the Riverside Rapids and punch their ticket to the championship game at the Junior Girls Basketball Provincial Invitational Tournament.
The Owls reeled off a 10-1 run to start the game and after the Rapids cut the lead to one point at the break, 26-25, Kelowna came out of the locker room and put the game out of reach, thanks to a 13-3 run. In fact, Kelowna held Riverside to five points in the quarter in a 56-44 victory.
“The girls came out flying with a lot of energy and everything just seemed to be clicking,” said Owls coach Robin Espenberg. “We let them hit a few shots and stopped defending, so we made a couple of adjustments. But we knew it was going to be a fight, we knew Riverside was going to be tough.”
Needing a spark, Riverside turned to Maria Kim and the Grade 10 guard struck for 10 of her game-high 19 points, but the team could not make a dent in the double-digits advantage.
“Kelowna just came out with a ton of energy and we couldn’t match them at the start. But we battled every time, we weathered the storm and kept our composure and they worked really, really hard to come back and I couldn’t be more proud of them right now,” said Riverside coach Desa Purhi.
“Our shots just weren’t dropping during the second half and that happens, and Kelowna is a big team.”
Espenberg loved his team’s effort and hustle on the night, and even kept reassuring his team when they fouled the Rapids.
Offensively, the Owls used a balanced attack with five players finishing with between five and 16 points. Shiah Holmes was player of the game for Kelowna with a team-high 16 points.
As great as the points, Espenberg was equally impressed by the Grade 10 forward’s overall game.
“When she keeps her focus, she’s a force on both ends.”
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