LANGLEY — Welcome to Final Four Friday here at the 2023 B.C. girls high school basketball championships.
We will have live reports on today’s two semifinals.
Check back through the course of the day as we post reports as quickly as we can based on writing, photographic and broadcast demands. Your patience is appreciated!
No. 3 PACIFIC CHRISTIAN 48 No. 2 LANGLEY CHRISTIAN 46
LANGLEY — There was a moment just past the midway mark of the third quarter when it looked like a season’s worth of accumuated hoops karma was has just about run dry for the run-and-fun, crash-and-bang Pacific Christian Warriors of Victoria.
Trailing by 14 points at that juncture of the game, and to the defending B.C. champion Langley Christian Lightning, any thoughts of a rally seemed like asking for a miracle.
Well, in the semifinals of the B.C. senior girls Double-A basketball championships, where miracle can happen only when accompanied by belief, a huge one transpired on the South Court of the Langley Events Centre.
Fueled by its high-energy sister duo of guards Joahleah and Kealayna Tupas-Singh, and the physicality of Eden Kremler and Sophia Wang, the Pacers somehow turned the tide and beat the Lightning 48-46, punching its ticket to Saturday’s championship final, a first for Pacific Christian in their history as a Double-A program.
On the road to falling arears of the Lightning 35-21 midway through the third quarter, Langley Christian had been playing suffocating defence.
Yet quite suddenly, all of the Tupas-Singh sisters’ near-misses started to fall, the 5-foot-9 Kremler started hitting threes in addition to her expect-no-mercy defence, and the tide simply turned.
Pacific Chrisitan went on a miraculous 23-2 run to lead 44-37 with exactly seven minutes left to play, then hunkered down to ride out the storm.
“Honestly, it was like our coach always says… you need skill, team work and magic,” said Kremler. “I think it just takes a little of all of them.”
The Pacers had a lot of the first two throughout the tourney, yet that last one, the magic, was undeniably on their side.
“Family won today,” we are never out of it because we are so much for each other,” said co-coach Jen Stewart. “We have good basketball IQ, but you know, so does Langley, they are a fantastic-coached team. I just feel like today, our family won.”
The contrast of winning versus losing on this lofty a stage is dramatic in almost every instance, regardless of the score, yet it was especially pronouncd as the final horn sounded.
After putting together a 7-2 run with 5.8 seconds remaining to pull within 48-46, the Lightning were awarded possession of the ball off of a tie-up.
Grace Bradshaw, the talented Grade 11 guard who returned this season after two seasons of inactivity following a torn ACL, drove down the floor to put up what could have been the winning shot as time expired. Yet upon the shot’s release she crumpled to the ground, favouring her formerly non-injured knee.
While your faithful writer was conducting interviews at the doorway of the Pacific Christian locker room, Bradshaw was taken into Langley Christian’s neighbouring locker room via wheelchair.
There was no word as to the extent of Bradshaw’s injury at the time of this story’s publication.
Reflecting on the play of her sister-act backcourt, coach Stewart praised the overall impact the Tupas-Singh sibs bring to the team.
“It’s actually a light from within,” she said. “You see them smile, and that is belief. I am telling you, they believe in their teammates, they make other people better, and they are not just for each other. They just have a way of igniting everybody.
Senior Joahleah scored 12 of her 17 in the second hal, while Grade 9 Kealayna had eight points in a game where she could have scored 20.
Kremler, the cousin of former Mt. Douglas and Simon Fraser football star Gideone Kremler, brought her usual level of physical play but also stroked a trio of triples and finished with 12 points.
Langley Christian was led by the 13 points asnd nine rebounds of senior post Leah Aukema. Grade 9 guard Payton Brunoro had 10 points while
Grade 11 forward Shaylah Black had five points and 11 rebounds.
No. 1 MULGRAVE 85 No. 4 HOLY CROSS 36
LANGLEY — Bring up the phrase ‘One Year Wiser’ around Mulgrave Titans’ head coach Claude Leduc, just moments after his top-seeded West Vancouver team made good on its bid to return to the championship game, and affable Leduc is an open book on all the ways his players have used last season’s loss to Langley Christian as a way to win its first B.C. senior girls Double-A basketball crown.
“I think the girls girls are just more focused and experienced and used to the physical, tough style of basketball we got by playing in all of those Quad-A tournaments,” he said after the No. 1 seed Titans toppled Surrey’s No. 4 Holy Cross Crusaders by a resounding 85-36 count in the second of two Double-A semifinals.
“I think our girls have a bit of swagger now… they know they can play,” added Leduc of last season’s largely Grade 10 team which took a lead into the fourth quarter but wound up falling 70-60 to Langley Christian. “Today’s game was a classic case of that. They worked hard on both ends of the court. I could tell during our pre-game talk on the bus how much they wanted it. They are doing the right things, saying the right things, getting their sleep… they are largely Grade 10s and 11s but they are all acting like seniors.”
The Titans were simply unstoppable against the Crusaders, opening the game on a 15-0 run and never looking back.
It’s core Big Four sizzled throughout, led by Jenna Talib who scored a game-high 24 points. Shooting guard Lucy Xu hit five triples on the way to 21 points, forward Ava Wilson added 20 more, and forward Eva Ruse 14 points and 15 rebounds.
Mulgrave never let Holy Cross’ quality get a chance to shine through, as Crusaders battled hard coming off an emotional all-Catholic rivalry squeaker on Thursday night in the quarterfinals against arch-rival St. Thomas More.
“When we went into this game, I told the girls ‘Don’t take your foot off the gas pedal because these Holy Cross girls work hard and battle and keep coming and coming. We knew. In the past we’ve had games like this blow up in our face.”
Isla Iannuzzi, the Crusaders’ Grade 9 standout, led the team with 10 points. Amy Rokosh added seven.
And now, as the Titans get ready for Saturday, Leduc will have a provincial tournament reunion of sorts with the co-head coach of the team Mulgrave will face, the No. 3-seeded Pacific Christian Pacers of Victoria.
Back in their days as Single-A head coaches, Leduc’s Titans faced the Pacers on the championship side of the draw.
Leduc respects the the way the Pacers play, and watched as they upset the defending B.C. champion and No. 2 seed Langley Chrisitan in the day’s first semifinal.
John Stewart and I we go way back to our ‘A’ days,” smiled Leduc of the longtime Pacers’ coach. “We’ve played a lot of basketball games against each other.”
What did he see in the Pacers on Friday?
“They are feisty, the sisters,” he said of senior guard Joahleah Tupas-Singh and her garde nine sister Kealayna who have been dynamic and dangerous agaiunst every team they have faced.
“They have some real athletes and they want it. They upset a great Langley Christian team and we won’t take them for granted.
“They are going to come out here tomorrow and try to knock us on our asses.”
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