LANGLEY — There was a season of unprecedented growth within her roster, and as the calendar turned to a new year, there seemed to be hints everywhere that great things were possible.
By Friday, as the 2018 B.C. senior girls AA basketball championships reached the Final Four here at the Langley Events Centre, G.W. Graham Grizzlies head coach Sarah Mouritzen saw all of it come to the fore at the perfect time.
An historic first-ever berth in a B.C. girls senior varsity basketball championship game appearance.
“Tonight was our first time in the semifinals and now it’ll be our first time in the final and it’s awesome because the girls have worked so hard for this,” said Mouritzen after the No. 3-seeded Grizz used a big second-half spurt to put distance between themselves and the No. 2 Britannia Bruins of Vancouver, en route to an eventual 66-53 win.
Deanna Tuchscherer, the 6-foot-1 Grade 11 post who has been playing on the senior varsity since the eighth grade, finished with 17 points and 17 rebounds in the win.
Forward Sydney Fraess and guard Jaya Bannerman, two other veteran presences, scored 15 points, with Fraess grabbing 12 rebounds. And yet another stalwart, guard Eliza Dueck, had 10 points.
The Bruins had battled back to within 60-53 when post Malena Mokhovikova scored on a sharp runner with 1:38 remaining.
But from there, a Fraess lay-up, and a pair of free throws apiece by Bannerman and Julia Sprott effectively put the game away.
“We were able to get fast breaks early and that created the tempo we wanted,” said Mouritzen. “Britannia plays great defence, and they are smart defenders. And we knew if we got into a half-court game with them, that they would double and triple down all over Deanna. So we needed to get the pace we wanted, so that Jaya could run and spread the ball out more.”
Mourtizen, when asked about the point guard Bannerman, who now hits treys, is shooting at about 90 per cent from the stripe over the provincials and who grabbed eight rebounds Friday, admits she’s seen a transformation.
“Jaya has always been athletic, with quick hands and feet,” the coach said of the recent Trinity Western signing. “But over the summer she worked her butt off, and now she’s an inside-outside talent, a multi-dimensional player. That outside game of hers has changed everything.”
The Grizzlies will now face the South Kamloops Titans in Saturday’s 3 p.m. provincial final.
It will be the first meeting between the two teams since they jousted at the Tsumura Basketball Invitational in mid-December.
South Kamloops won convincingly in a game in which both G.W. Graham’s Tuchscherer and South Kam’s Olivia Morgan-Cherchas, the two opposing posts and friends, were off performing in front of Basketball Canada brass.
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