BURNABY — Call it the wow factor of the Wildcats from Burnaby Central.
Grade 11 forward Ankita Chopra’s baseline trey 40 seconds into the proceedings signalled the first of the team’s 15 three-point buckets on the night as the No. 3-ranked ’Cats, wire-to-wire leaders, beat the No. 1 Riverside Rapids of Port Coquitlam 74-61 to capture the Fraser North Quad-A championship title on its own home floor.
Both teams, along with Port Moody’s Heritage Woods Kodiaks — 49-39 winners over Coquitlam’s Dr. Charles Best Blue Devils in the third-place game — have qualified for the B.C. championships, set to begin a four-day run March 1 at the Langley Events Centre.
“They worked tremendously hard defensively,” said Wildcats’ head coach Chris Ducharme of his charges, who in two previous efforts had lost to the Rapids by 16 and 21 points.
“What happened differently last night compared to the other games is we shot the ball,” added Ducharme, as tourney MVP Chopra drilled seven treys, senior guard Jade Huynh six more, and Grade 11 guard Jayla Huynh three more for good measure.
“We punched back,” admitted Riverside head coach Paul Langford, “but they shot out the lights.”
It’s no secret that turning in full games at both ends of the floor make upsets all the more manageable, and on Thursday, Burnaby Central got just such a signature effort, including a second quarter in which it held Riverside to just six points en route to a 34-23 halftime lead.
“The first two games we kept close in the first half but would come out cold shooting in the third quarters and then we’d pay for it in transition defence,” said Ducharme of a 73-57 loss at the Tsumura Basketball Invitational and a 73-52 loss in the finals of the Victoria tournament.
“We lost the third quarter (25-21) but we expected them to come out hard in that quarter like they always do,” he added. “The difference was they were coming from behind and we talked about that at halftime.”
Chopra, who finished with a game-high 26 points, helped lift her team to the win with a 12-point fourth quarter that included three treys.
UBC-bound Jade Huynh hit three of her own in the third quarter and finished with 22 points, while 5-foot-10 Grade 11 forward Vobia Kalome had 12 points to go along with 15 rebounds.
Grade 12 guard Avery Sussex led the Rapids with 16 points, while fellow senior post Natalie Curley and Grade 10 guard Jorja Hart added 12 apiece in the loss.
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