LANGLEY — Welcome to Day 2 of the B.C. girls basketball championships from the Langley Events Centre.
To our treasured readers, thank you so much for all of your support on Wednesday, leaning on us for coverage from the biggest game of the 2022-23 season.
Please come back here throughout the day for live game stories and photos as we update the quarterfinal round and set the stage for Friday’s Final Four semifinals.
TOP HALF DRAW
No. 1 MULGRAVE 63 No. 9 ABBOTSFORD TRADITIONAL 35
LANGLEY — The players didn’t consult their coach when they decided to give each other a little pre-provincials home work.
The assignment: To each watch, from home, last season’s 70-60 B.C. Double-A championship finals loss to the Langley Christian Lightning.
“It was more of our own thing, something the team decided to do,” said Mulgrave Titans’ Grade 11 star Eva Ruse, who scored 17 points in her team’s grinding 63-35 win Thursday in the provincial quarterfinals over the well-drilled Abbotsford Traditional Titans.
“It was so that we could… re-hunger ourselves, re-feel what we felt,” she continued, trying to find the right words just moments after the team’s latest victory. “It was just a way for us to remember how much we want this.”
Go back a one year ago this coming Saturday, and put yourself in the stands at the Langley Event Centre’s Centre Court and there is the 2021-22 Mulgrave, in its first true role a B.C. title-seeking interlopers.
They’ve got a 49-46 lead after three quarters, but as the homework assignment re-confirms, here comes the Lightning with the kind of game-changing, fourth quarter-opening 16-4 run that a veteran team musters from the depth of its own shared experience.
And as young as the grade 11 core of Ruse, Ava Wilson (18 points), Jenna Talib (12 points) and Lucy Xu (seven points) actually is, their shared heartbreak of a season ago has earned them and all of their teammates a notch apiece in their figurative basketball belts.
Teams will scheme to find their weaknesses.
Abbotsford Traditional’s plan? To chew as much time off the shot clock on every possession, starting off the opening tip, reasoning that the more you possess the ball, the less chance the Titans have to score with it.
Credit Traditional’s Titans for their belief, and their first-half success in staying within shouting distance at 32-16 late in the first half. In the end it proved unsustainable over 40 minutes, despite a team-high 18 points from Grade 11 Janeesh Sran.
Just what the winner of St. Thomas More and Holy Cross will have in store isn’t known, but West Van’s Titans know there will be something in store for them… something which will force them to think on their feet.
“We’re full of nerves but we’re also full of hunger.. we want it,” continued Ruse. “Last year we were this close, and it was really hard but that just made us stronger.”
But more hungry than nevous?
“Yes, and that is a very good feeling,” says Ruse.
No. 4 HOLY CROSS 48 No. 5 ST. THOMAS MORE 46
LANGLEY — The B.C. junior girls basketball championships hit the semifinal stage Friday, and as the stakes get higher, the four remaining JV survivors get to experience the thrill of the provincial tournament on the LEC stage.
Two other Grade 9 talents, however, got a bit of a head start on the famed courts of the home of B.C. high school basketball, and on Thursday night at the LEC’s Fieldhouse, St. Thomas More Knights point guard Demica Arnaldo and Isla Iannuzzi of the Holy Cross Crusader looked more like veteran leaders as two very familiar Catholic rivals renewed acquaintances once again.
Sam Isidro’s driving lay-in snapped a tie with under two minutes remaining and lifted Surrey’s Crusaders to a 48-46 win and a spot in Friday afternoon’s 1:30 p.m. semifinal against the No. 1 seed Mulgrave Titans of North Vancouver.
The victory marked the third meeting of the season between the Crusaders and Burnaby’s Knights, with Holy Cross winning all three.
“But this was the closest.. we beat a really good team three times,” said proud Holy Cross head coach Joe Vinluan, in a game in which neither team led by more than five points.
“They are a good team and a scrappy team and No. 4, she’s a wonderful guard,” continued Vinluan of the quicksilver 5-foot-2 Arnaldo, whose team-high 13 points were substantial in as low-scoring and hotly-contested a game as Thursday’s quarterfinal wound up being. “She really knows how to control the game. We knew we couldn’t restrict her from scoring but we just wanted to contain her, get in her grill and not let her look down the floor.”
Of course Holy Cross had its own beyond-her-years prodigy stirring up trouble on the offensive end for the Knights.
Iannuzzi, a 5-foot-7 guard, was both first-half gunner (notching three second-quarter triples) and second-half tempo-setter (seven points, 3-of-4 FT in the fourth).
For his team’s part, Vinluan points specifically to the an arduous season of tournaments in which the Crusaders made the final at the Surrey Firefighters, B.C. Catholics and South Fraser zones.
“So I think they came already built for adversity,” he said of a team which also got 12 points from Isidro, and 11 more from Amy Rokosh. “It’s built in with us… we are a small team that is always fighting and crawling as best we can.”
Danica Fontana was a second-half force in the loss for the Knights, eigght of her 12 points in the fourth quarter.Kyra Anagnostou added 10 points for the Fraser North champs.
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
No. 3 PACIFIC CHRISTIAN 75 No. 6 NOTRE DAME 70
LANGLEY — Notre Dame put on a three-point shooting show worthy of NBA All-Star Weekend, but in the end, it was rival Pacific Christian Academy’s ability to grind it out inside that pulled the No. 3-seeded Pacers to a 75-70 win over East Van’s No. 6 Jugglers and their spot in Final Four Friday.
“We found our inside game and we felt today was one on the inisde for us, not the outside which is so often our M.O.,” said Pacers’ co-head coach John Stewart.
That’s because after Pacific Christian’s bread-and-butter transition game, fuelled by the likes of its Tupas-Sungh sisters, Grade 12 Joaleah and Grade 9 Kealayna, ignited the tempo to start the second half with an 11-2 run and a 54-35 lead, the Jugglers threw all manner of changing defences their way in an attempt to slow the pace and spark an uprising of their own.
It, was in fact, so successful that they pulled to within 73-70 of the Pacers with 1:07 remaining on a banked three-pointer from Emily Chan, one of six triples she would drain on the day en route to a 22-point outing.
The offence for the winners was carried by Abbi Ellison with 25 points, Joaleah Tupas-Singh with 23 points, and Kealayna Tupas-Singh with 10 points.
Yet against the physical Jugglers, matching that interior presence was worth its weight in three-pointers, and for that the Pacers looked the likes of Eden Kremler, Peyton Bryden and Sophia Wang, a trio who combined for 10 points but whose true value could be found in the way they contestested the Notre Dame front court, including stand-out leaper Ella Ungemach.
Kremler, especially, embodied that physical mindset, seemingly checking for blood every time she picked herself up off the floor.
“She is 100 per cent heart all the time,” said Stewart. “She is 100 per cent heart on legs. There is no stop. She’ll run through a wall for you and then ask what it was made of.”
Ellison proved herself to be a go-to jump shooter, hitting a trio of threes and a seemingly even larger number just inside the arc.
“She got a few threes yesterday and got comfortable in the Fieldhouse, and today she was able to relax and her three-point shot has been huge for us,” Stewart added.
Notre Dame’s Chan sisters combined for 40 points, with 22 from Emily and 18 more from Kaitlyn.
Maecon Gifonia added 19 more. In total. The trio hit 13 threes.
No. 2 LANGLEY CHRISTIAN 87 No. 10 FERNIE 59
LANGLEY — She came back from a torn ACL, and spent two seasons trying to remember who she was…a scrappy 5-foot-8 guard capable of leading her team to great things.
On Thursday, matched in a dual of offence and defence with Fernie’s spectacularly-unknown scoring machine Kadie Anderson, Langley Christian’s Grace Bradshaw finally put her past behind her, and in doing so looked forward to the Friday Final Four with a wide-eyed smile.
“It’s great to be back,” the 5-foot-8 Grade 11 Bradshaw said, after scoring a team-high 31 points as No. 2 White Rock
Christian came through with an 87-59 win over Fernie’s No. 10 Falcons.
Bradshaw’s version of “back”? To her it’s best defined as having spent the vast majority of this 2022-23 season working off a lot of rust and getting used to the bulky brace she has had to wear as part of her recovery.
That skilled yet scrappy player she has always known herself to be?
Well, she was mucking about in the paint, diving on loose balls, stepping up to the free throw line and hitting five triples for good measure.
Next, it’s a Final Four Friday date at 11:45 a.m. against the No. 3 seed Pacific Christian Pacers.
Ask Lightning head coach Dani Gardner about Bradshaw’s return to the action this season, and she so eloquently puts it all in perspective.
“We all have ups and down but the fact that you are back playing… play with joy and just enjoy it,” said Gardner. “I told her ‘Give yourself some grace’. I said ‘Your name is perfect right now, so give yourself some Grace. Just be kind to yourself.”
Poetic and perfect, it’s the advice Bradshaw has carried.
While disappointed she was unable to play with her older sister Sydney, now a freshman at Trinity Western, on the road to last season’s B.C. championship victory, she is relishing everything coming her team’s way as they attempt to traverse the unpredictable rigours of the 2023 provincial tournament.
“I think my team has helped me become who I am,” Bradshaw added.
“It’s back,” she said of her knee. “It’s back, I’m back, and it’s great to be back.”
Thursday’s shoot-out between Bradshaw and Anderson was something to watch. The pair guarded each other, with Anderson finishing with 38 points, nine more than she scored the night before in the Falcons OT win over Richmond’s A.R. MacNeill.
Anderson sunk six treys over a contest and scored 27 of her 38 in the second half.
Colette Van der Hoven scored 20 of her 24 in the first half for the Lightning. Shaylah Black added 16 and Grade 9 Payton Brunoro a further 12.
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