PORT COQUITLAM — If you have annually judged our best players by the number of appearances they make in the provincial championship tournament over the course of their high school careers, you’d have missed her.
And as immensely talented as she is, she did not feel the need to have to transfer schools in search of that big-hit program which so many feel is the only thing that defines themselves as student-athletes.
Instead, Nikki Cabuco stayed put at Coquitlam’s Dr. Charles Best Secondary, played her heart out with her high school friends, got elite competition on provincial teams, and trained with a talented club group at VK Basketball.
With all of that collected karma working in her favour, and with a personality that just oozes a passion for the game, how could she not be ready to cap her high school career with a performance that showed she is truly one of B.C.’s best graduating seniors?
Loaned along with host Riverside Rapids guard Tessa Burton to an under-staffed Lower Mainland team in Thursday’s annual Mainland-Fraser Valley Grade 12 all-star game, the kid whose team missed provincials in her Grade 10, Grade 11 and then Grade 12 years, was her team’s most exciting player.
MVPs were not awarded in the Fraser Valley’s convincing 91-67 win, but if they were, the Mainland team’s best was clearly the 5-foot-7 Cabuco, whose energy, steals, defence, smiles and team-high 13 points made her the clear choice.
“I just wanted to play my high school season the best that I could and try to make every game really count,” said Cabuco, “and honestly, I didn’t mind as much (not making provincials) because so many of my other friends made it and I got to watch them play. I also played with them all summer at VK.”
Don’t take that as any kind of lack of competitive urge, because if you were in the gym Thursday, nobody was competing any harder than her.
“For sure, she brings energy, and she brings it all the time,” said Anthony Beyrouti, the Argyle Pipers coach who guided the Mainland All-Stars, and who runs VK Basketball. “That’s her key characteristic. The main thing is, she is fun to watch and she loves the game.”
Watching carefully from the stands were a cache of post-secondary coaches, including the guy who will be her coach at the university level next season.
“She brought what she always brings to the table and that is great energy,” concurred Fraser Valley Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer, who also had a rooting interest in two of the game’s other top players in the form of his daughter Deanna Tuchscherer from Chilliwack’s G.W. Graham, and Jessica Parker from the host Rapids. Both played for the Fraser Valley team Thursday and both will also become Fraser Valley Cascades in the fall.
“Nikki brings a great spirit to the game, and because of that, people all want to play with her,” Tuchscherer continued of the intangibles Cabuco brings in addition to a solid handle, great long-range shooting touch, an attacking mindset on offence and a disruptive, steals-based skill-set on defence.
Compliment her about her ability to get inside the heads of every player she is guarding with her great anticipation and fast feet, and she easily deflects the praise.
“Honestly, with Anthony, we ran a lot of wind sprints so my feet move fast,” she begins with a laugh. “I feel that being able to stay composed is very important. But I also like to do things where (the defence) doesn’t see me coming. One of the best things I do is coming out of nowhere.”
Cabuco was speaking in specifics, yet you could also take those comments and apply them across her entire high school career, which came a fitting end Thursday.
UFV’S FUTURE ARRIVES TODAY
Cabuco, Parker and Tuchscherer as a trio would warrant an A grade as a U Sports recruiting class, but the fact that B.C.’s reigning two-time B.C. Double A MVP guard Maddy Gobeil of South Kam is also a part of that mix just puts it over the top.
“He’s got probably got one of the best recruiting classes in the country for my money,” said Beyrouti.
Coach Tuchscherer, in fact, said after Thursday’s all-star game that a pretty significant moment in the program’s history was set to take place the next day.
“We had most of the group together a couple of weeks ago but Jessica (Parker) was not there,” began the coach. “But I think on Friday we’ll have everyone, and we’re going to go for a little go in practice. I am ecstatic be to be able to start building this thing because we’re going to need the younger kids to step up. I think they’re ready to start pushing the older girls and I hope the older ones are up for the challenge.”
Here’s a complete look at Thursday’s main event via your author’s own notepad scribbles.
As you can see, it was the combined first-half efforts of Walnut Grove’s co-seniors Tavia Rowell and Jessica Wisotzki which helped the Fraser Valley build a big early lead:
NEWSPAPER BOX SCORE
(player points listed by quarters with total)
2019 FRASER VALLEY-LOWER MAINLAND
GIRLS ALL-STAR GAME
(at Port Coquitlam-Riverside Secondary)
FRASER VALLEY 91
Tavia Rowell, Walnut Grove (3-9-2-3-17); Jessica Wisotzki, Walnut Grove (10-0-1-2-13); Emily Instant, Heritage Woods (2-2-4-0-8); Faith Dut, Semiahmoo (0-0-4-4-8); Deanna Tuchscherer, GWG (0-0-5-2-7); Jayden Gill, Bateman (2-2-2-0-6); Jessica Parker, Riverside (4-2-0-0-6); Kyla Smith, MEI (2-0-0-4-6), Hailey Van Roekel, LCS (3-0-0-3-6); Tana Pankratz, Yale (0-3-0-2-5); Janessa Knapp, Brookswood (2-0-2-0-4); Jenna Dick, Brookswood (0-3-0-0-3); Grace Killins, Centennial (0-0-2-0-2)
LOWER MAINLAND 67
*Nikki Cabuco, Charles Best (6-0-7-0-13); Jill Bowering, Seycove (0-2-2-4-8); *Tessa Burton, Riverside (3-0-2-2-7); Yvona Acimovic, Lord Byng (0-4-0-2-6); Olivia Thorpe, STA (0-0-2-4-6); Caili McCabe, LFA (0-2-2-2–6); Pietra Kamstra, Whistler (0-1-0-4-5); Janel Tantengco, Killarney (2-0-2-0-4); Camie Ward, Argyle (3-0-0-0-3); Chelsea Bradshaw (0-1-0-2-3); Kara Moscovitz, Hugh Boyd (0-3-0-0-3); Jalynne Huynh, Bby Central (0-0-0-3-3)
(*-Fraser Valley players loaned to Lower Mainland)
As well, a Future’s Games between the two zones was also played as a prelim on the two-game card.
In that game, the Fraser Valley rallied from a 40-39 halftime deficit to beat the Lower Mainland 94-79.
Abbotsford’s Marin Lenz led the winners with 17 points, while Lord Tweedsmuir’s India Aikens added 13. Arman Dulia of Panorama Ridge and Tara Wallack of Semiahmoo added 12 each, while Teah Best of Fraser Heights scored 10.
Britannia’s Surprise Munie scored a game-high 18 points for the Mainland, while her Bruins’ teammate Shemaiah Abatayo and Maggie Mackay of Lord Byng each scored nine.
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