LANGLEY — Welcome to Day 1 here at the 2023 B.C. girls high school basketball championships at the Langley Events Centre.
Please check back here with regularity for updated reports from this tier of play.
TOP HALF DRAW STORIES BY BRAD ZIEMER (Special for Varsity Letters)
BOTTOM HALF DRAW STORIES BY DAN KINVIG (Special for Varsity Letters)
No. 1 MULGRAVE 93 No. 16 SHAS TI KELLY ROAD 19
LANGLEY — It was the top seed against the bottom seed and the result was rather predictable in Wednesday’s opening game of the B.C. Girls Double-A Basketball Championships at Langley Events Center.
The No. 1-seeded Mulgrave Titans of West Vancouver scored 45 first-quarter points and never looked back as they beat No. 16-seeded Shas Ti Kelly Road Grizzlies of Prince George 93-19.
The Titans, who were second at last year’s tournament, look poised to go one better this year. Most of the team has been playing together since Grade 7 and Mulgrave is loaded with some top-level Grade 11 talent. There’s only one Grade 12 player on the roster, forward Mia Ruse, and she’s injured. Her little sister, Eva Ruse, is one of Mulgrave’s stars and she and her teammates scored at will against an overmatched Grizzlies team.
When the Titans missed their shots, they usually grabbed the offensive rebound and took another. They led 45-5 after the first quarter, scoring most of their points on fast-break layups.
Coach Claude Leduc went to his bench in the second quarter and the game became more of a fair fight. The Titans led 58-13 at halftime and stretched it to 83-15 after three quarters.
Leduc said games like Wednesday’s tournament opener offer an opportunity to give his bench players valuable minutes.
“This games are super valuable because everyone gets to play and feel like they contribute, everyone gets to work on those little things because you never know. You could have foul trouble and they might have to go into the game,” Leduc said. “So it’s good experience for them and I was really happy with our bench today.”
Eva Ruse, who was last year’s most outstanding defensive player at the provincials, had 10 points and hauled down a bunch of rebounds in limited minutes. Guard Jena Talib had a game-high 20 points for Mulgrave.
Ruse and her teammates are motivated to avenge last year’s tournament final loss to the Langley Christian Lightning.
“I think we are really motivated after what happened last year,” said Ruse. “It was heart-breaking. We graduated some people but this is the pretty much the same team we had last year. We feel like this is our year. We know what we have to do. Last year, I think we maybe lacked some experience and this year we have that extra bit experience and we have that hunger.”
No. 9 ABBOTSFORD TRADITIONAL 57 No. 8 KALAMALKA 50
LANGLEY— It was the Janeesh and Taneesh Sran show as the twin sisters helped the Abbotsford Traditional Titans recover from a slow start and beat the Kalamalka Lakers 57-50 in the the first round of the B.C. High School Girls Double-A Basketball Championships at Langley Events Centre.
Janeesh Sran led the way with 27 points for the Titans, who trailed by as many as 17 points early in the second quarter. It was her point guard sister Taneesh who assisted on most her baskets.
The Titans couldn’t buy a bucket in the first quarter. They were down 12-0 early and when Kalamalka forward Kiana Warwick converted a lay-in off an offensive rebound at the buzzer, it left the Titans down 19-4 after the first quarter.
But they began to chip away at the Lakers’ lead and after a dominant second quarter Abby Traditional led 27-26 at halftime.
The Titans increased that lead to 43-38 after three quarters thanks to a couple of three-pointers from guard Sukpriya Birdi. But when Janeesh Sran picked up her fourth foul early in the second half, Abbotsford coach Ashyana Kumar was more than a little concerned.
“She is a key part of our team,” Kumar said. “We need her on the floor all the time, defensively and offensively. Without her in the game, it’s a totally different ball game.”
Kumar sat Janeesh briefly, but when the Lakers rallied she quickly put her star player back into the game.
“They are twins but play very different games,” Kumar said of the Srans. “They complement each other well. Taneesh usually brings the ball up the court and Janeesh is usually the one scoring more. They are our main players for sure.”
Kumar said her team’s slow start — it took more than six minutes for the Titans to get their first basket — may have been due to opening-game jitters. She loved the resolve her players showed after the sluggish start.
“We just told them not to give up,” she said. “If we had given up after that first quarter we could have lost that game by 40 points.”
No. 4 HOLY CROSS 63 No. 13 ABBOTSFORD CHRISTIAN 53
LANGLEY — After a lethargic first half, guard Samantha Isidro knew her team needed a spark.
She delivered with a three-pointer on the first possession of the third quarter. Teammate Isla Iannuzzi followed that up with a lay-up after stealing the ensuing inbounds pass and the Holy Cross Crusaders were on their way.
Those two buckets sparked a 16-0 run to start the second half for Holy Cross, who earned a 63-53 win over the Abbotsford Christian Knights in the opening round of the B.C. High School Girls Double-A Basketball Championships at Langley Events Centre.
“I think in the first half we came out a little bit slow,” said Isidro. “We had already beaten this team a couple of times, so I think we were expecting less of a battle than it was. In the second half we were diving on every single ball. We just wanted it more.”
Defence was the name of the game in the first half. Both teams defended tenaciously and points were hard to come by.
The Crusaders led 15-13 after a tightly contested first quarter, but Abbotsford Christian rallied in the second and led 26-21 heading into the halftime break.
But the Crusaders were a different team in the second half. Coach Joe Vinlaun asked more of his team at halftime and it certainly delivered.
“We just needed a little bit more motivation,” he said. “They knew what they had to do and we just needed to motivate them to come out strong in the second half.
They (The Knights) are a hard team to play against. We played them earlier and they played us a lot harder this time as well.”
Vinluan had high praise for Isidro, who led the way with 20 points for the Crusaders.
“She played an excellent game. She played a very smart game. She was very selective in her shots. She is one of our leaders. When she can control the tempo of the game everybody else follows.”
No. 5 ST. THOMAS MORE COLLEGIATE 50 No. 12 BRENTWOOD COLLEGE 44
LANGLEY — St. Thomas More Collegiate seems have its point guard position in good hands for the foreseeable future.
Demicah Arnaldo, a 5-2 Grade 9 student, looks right at home directing the Knights offence. Her lightning-quick speed and terrific ball-handling were one of the keys as St. Thomas More beat Belmont College 50-44 in the the opening round of the B.C. High School Girls Double-A Basketball Championships at Langley Events Centre.
Arnaldo scored a game-high 17 points and dished out plenty of assists as she gave Brentwood College fits with her ability to lead the fast break and dribble her way out of trouble.
Coach Cassie Lauang knows she’s fortunate to have her.
“We are very, very lucky,” Lauang said. “She’s tough kid. She plays defence well, she’s a three-level scorer, there’s nobody who can quite play like her.”
The Knights led by as many as 13 points in the first half, but could not shake Brentwood College. The team with no last name from Mill Bay on Vancouver Island was especially efficient from the free-throw line and had narrowed St. Thomas More’s lead to 22-18 at halftime.
Arnaldo had a terrific third quarter. She led the fast break on numerous occasions and dished off a number of nice assists, creating easy baskets for her teammates as St. Thomas More stretched its lead to 40-32 after three quarters.
Brentwood College made a run in fourth, keyed by back-to-back three-pointers from Grade 12 guard Jensa Napier-Ganley, and had the game tied at 44-44 with about three minutes to go.
But two big inside baskets from Grade 11 forward Lishan Hewitt restored the lead for St. Thomas More.
“I think our ability to switch up offences and defences at any moment was a key for us,” said Lauang. “We can zone, we can go man. There are certain defences we can use at any moment that allow us to match up against top offensive talent.”
But ultimately, it certainly helps to have a game-breaker like Arnaldo, who is playing her first year of senior basketball. She has been playing point guard since taking up the game in Grade 4.
“I think my vision is one of my strengths,” she said. “I am able to get my teammates their shots, get them their opportunities.”
And the Knights are thankful she’ll be doing that for another three years.
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
STORIES BY DAN KINVIG (Special for Varsity Letters)
No. 6 NOTRE DAME 57 No. 11 PACIFIC ACADEMY 44
LANGLEY — For much of the first half, the bright lights of the provincial championship stage seemed to paralyze the Notre Dame Jugglers.
The No. 6 seed in the Double-A draw out of Vancouver were in danger of becoming upset victims, as Surrey’s No. 11 Pacific Academy Breakers dominated early.
The Breakers held the Jugglers scoreless for six-and-a-half minutes after the opening tip, building a 10-0 lead as Grade 10 forward Sarah Ude controlled play in the paint.
Yet after trailing by double digits for much of the first half, the Jugglers found their swagger just in time, rallying in the second half for a 57-44 victory.
“Yeah, I definitely was,” Jugglers sparkplug Maecon Gifonea said with smile afterward, when asked if her squad was battling nerves early. “I felt like there was a lot of pressure on us since we were ranked pretty high.
“We started getting used to how they played, and we started adjusting. We started working as a team, having more chemistry with each other.”
Pacific Academy’s lead was 17-6 at the end of the first quarter, and they maintained a 30-23 lead at the break behind 17 points from Ude.
Notre Dame stepped on the gas out of halftime, opening the third quarter on a 13-0 run to firmly seize the momentum, and they did not let it go from there. The Jugglers’ full-court pressure seemed to wear down the Breakers, and when Pacific Academy got into their halfcourt offence, Notre Dame collapsed aggressively into the paint to limit Ude and the rest of P.A.’s talented forwards.
Grade 11 guard Gifonea ignited the comeback, scoring seven of her team-best 15 points in the third, and Kaitlyn Chan knocked down a pair of three-pointers to help the Jugglers pull away.
Senior forward Ella Ungemach added 13 points for the winners, while Chan and Taylor Cagampan scored 10 apiece.
“During timeouts and stuff, we just said, ‘We can beat them,’” Gifonea explained. “We’ve worked hard in practice, and we started implementing our practicing into the game. That’s what we did.”
Despite Wednesday’s result, the future is incredibly bright for the Breakers. There’s not a single senior on the squad, and this group of underclass athletes will surely be a factor on the championship side of the draw in future years.
Ude finished with 19 points, and Omone Idanwekhai and Mazy Wandzura registered nine points each.
No. 3 PACIFIC CHRISTIAN 58, No. 14 ST. PATRICK 38
LANGLEY — Pacific Christian’s sister-act backcourt was awfully special on Wednesday, sparking the Pacers to victory in their opening-round match-up with the St. Patrick Celtics at Double-A provincials.
Joaleah Tupas-Singh is the prototypical heady senior point guard; younger sister Kealayna – boasting limitless potential in just her Grade 9 year – complements her perfectly with daring forays into the paint and creative finishes at the rim.
The Tupas-Singh sibs were at their best during the game’s most pivotal sequence – a 14-3 surge to close the second quarter, turning a 17-16 deficit into a 30-20 lead at the break. All told, 14 of the Pacers’ 17 points in the second quarter came off the fingertips of the Tupas-Singh sisters.
The Pacers carried that momentum into the third quarter, extending the lead beyond 20 points and cruising the rest of the way, thus ensuring their spot in Thursday’s quarter-finals.
“When you translate from the driveway to the court here at provincials, they’ve played together so long and know each other so well,” Pacific Christian co-head coach John Stewart said of the Tupas-Singhs, who combined for 29 points on Wednesday – 16 for Joaleah and 13 for Kealayna.
“With having three sets of siblings on our team, it’s an outstanding connection that they have. They know where each other are at all times. It’s a beautiful thing to watch, from practices to games. It’s artwork.”
Indeed, familial bonds run deep for these Pacers, as siblings comprise nearly half of the 13-player squad. The Tupas-Singhs are joined by a pair of twin-sister duos: Alem and Tarikua Kuhn, and Ariel and Natasha Copley.
Stewart said that the theme of family has knit the entire squad together.
“That’s our culture,” he said. “It’s a group that has a common goal – they’re 100 per cent bought in. They understand their roles, they understand their responsibilities.
“We work together, and it’s a beautiful thing.”
Eden Kremler was a force in the paint for the Pacers, posting 13 points, and Abi Ellison also hit double figures with 10 points.
St. Patrick’s journey to the Double-A championship is an incredible story in its own right. Due to injuries and low numbers, the Celtics won just one game prior to Christmas, yet were able to rally after the calendar flipped to earn the program’s first provincial berth in 32 years.
“It means everything,” head coach Lance Hurtubise said. “I told the girls before, ‘Anything that we could be doing, I don’t want to be anywhere but right here, right now.’
“We didn’t play our best today – we couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. But we battled in the second half, and we didn’t quit. We’ve got three more games, and that was the message – we’re here to get experience over four days, and finish better than our seed. That’s what we’re going for.”
Kirsten Alojado scored a game-high 19 points for the Celtics, highlighted by a trio of three-pointers, and Gabby Weisser chipped in with eight points.
No. 10 FERNIE 78, No. 7 A.R. MACNEILL 73 (OT)
LANGLEY — It’s said that styles make fights, and in terms of on-court chemistry, the Fernie Falcons and A.R. MacNeill Ravens brought out the absolute best in each other on Wednesday.
Their opening-round clash at the Double-A provincial championships was such an entertaining showcase of uptempo, high-intensity hoops, it was frankly a shame that someone had to lose.
The fans would have gotten their money’s worth had the game lasted the standard 40 minutes, but the two teams blessed the assembled faithful with overtime as well.
When it was all said and done, it was the Falcons clawing out a 78-73 triumph.
“I’ve never played a game like this before,” the Falcons’ Kadie Anderson enthused afterward. “It’s so much fun. It’s so much better than the games than the games we get at home. It was amazing.”
The two main characters in this drama both wore No. 11 – Anderson for the Falcons, and Kim Tiu for the Ravens.
Anderson, Fernie’s heart-and-soul Grade 11 point guard, had her calf cramp up in the first half, and it appeared to worsen as the game wore on. Forced to the sideline after a third-quarter collision and subsequent cramp flare-up, Anderson got back into the game and made a bevy of clutch plays down the stretch. She finished with a team-high 29 points, and had to be helped off the court by two of her teammates after the final buzzer sounded.
Tiu’s performance, meanwhile, was simply astonishing. The sharpshooting senior point guard was unstoppable – particularly in the fourth quarter and OT – en route to a 46-point night.
“She is one heck of a player,” Fernie head coach Jen Kennedy said of Tiu. “I tried to find film on her but there’s nothing online. Word on the street was she scores 30 or 40 per game, so she was our focus. We tried our best on her.”
The Ravens ended the first half on a 5-0 mini-surge to take a 34-31 lead into the half, but the Falcons were sharp in the third quarter. They out-scored MacNeill 20-11 in the frame, and were able to extend their margin to 10 points early in the fourth.
The offence dried up suddenly for the Falcons, though – they couldn’t seem to get a layup to fall down the stretch – and Tiu began to steadily lead the Ravens back. She drained a midrange bank shot and an acrobatic and-one layup to cut the deficit to 61-60 with 1:47 left in regulation. Anderson answered with a steal and a pair of free throws at the other end to make it 63-60, but Tiu dribbled to her left around a screen and drained a pull-up three-pointer to knot the score, setting the stage for OT.
The extra session saw standouts from both sides foul out – Shila Rasoul and Hanna Mann for MacNeill, and Summer Musschoot for Fernie.
Tiu drilled two more triples to keep her team afloat – the second one drew the Ravens level at 71-71 with just over a minute left in OT. After Anderson and Tiu exchanged 2-for-2 performances from the free throw line, Fernie’s Cassie Fahselt came up with a pair of crucial plays. First, she found Taylor Witbeck with a breakaway pass that gave the Falcons a 75-73 lead, and after a Raven timeout, she stole the ensuing inbound pass, helping Fernie nail down the win.
Fahselt finished with 20 points, and Musschoot added 17 for the Falcons.
Rasoul registered 15 points for MacNeill, while Mann chipped in nine points.
“We didn’t know how this was going to go,” Kennedy said. “This is our first year in the 2A, and we usually only play in Alberta so we don’t know anyone and I don’t think anyone knows us. We kind of come in blind, but we’re so grateful to be here.”
No. 2 LANGLEY CHRISTIAN 67, No. 15 LAMBRICK PARK 39
LANGLEY — The hometown Langley Christian Lightning have been a fixture at the Double-A provincial championships in recent seasons.
Yet their experience this year is somewhat unique, as they come in – for the first time – as defending champions.
They wore that mantle with flair on Wednesday, rolling past the Lambrick Park Lions 67-39 in their opener at the LEC Fieldhouse.
“I think there’s hunger to want to do the best we can,” Lightning head coach Danielle Gardner said afterward. “It’s fun coming here, fun playing at the LEC, and being that it’s in our back yard, it’s fun for our fans.
“I don’t think it changes anything, coming in as defending champs. That was last year, this is this year – it’s a new squad, and you just want to go out and do the best that you can. Each game, just lay it all out on the court and see what happens.”
So far, so good for Langley Christian.
Gardner felt her squad was working out a few nerves in the early going, but the Lightning nevertheless led 18-9 at the end of the first quarter.
They certainly hit their stride in the second, pitching a defensive shutout for the entirety of the frame and taking a 40-9 lead into halftime.
They cruised from there, with 10 players hitting the scoresheet paced by Colette Van der Hoven with 19 points. Grace Bradshaw (10 points), Georgia VanderWaarde (nine points) and Payton Brunoro (eight points) also chipped in offensively.
The Victoria-based Lions, making their fourth straight provincial appearance, are a youthful group to say the least, with just two seniors – Preslie Mace and Taylor Milliken – on the roster.
Dynamic Grade 11 point guard Macy Hogg posted a team-best 20 points on Wednesday (all in the second half), while Milliken scored 13.
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