Abbotsford's Grade 9 star Malia Lenz (left) prepares to split the defence of Argyle's Holly Brewer (left) and Hope Pearmain on Friday in the AAA Final Four at the LEC. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of 2020. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Girls Basketball

It’s Marin’s world, but Grade 9 Panthers are hardly bit players as Abby tops Argyle in AAA Final Four clash

LANGLEY — On Tuesday, Marin Lenz was named the Player of the Year in B.C. senior girls high school basketball.

If you saw Lenz play on Friday, as the B.C. Triple A championships reached its Final Four, you wanted to give her yet another award: Decoy of the Year.

Yes, she scored 32 points and was the clear catalyst in her Abbotsford Panthers 65-58 come-from-behind win over North Vancouver’s Argyle Pipers.

Yet if she wasn’t the constant threat she is to score at any moment in the game, her team would not have been able to hit its two biggest shots of the contest, shots they needed to win and shots which were delivered by a pair of Grade 9s.

The top-seeded Panthers – who will face No. 2 Okanagan Mission in Saturday’s 2:45 p.m. final — fell behind by 12 points in the second quarter Friday, as the Pipers changed up their zone defences like a traffic lights changes its colours.

“They kept switching, from a 1-3-1 to a 2-3 to a 3-2,” said Panthers assistant coach Elmore Abraham, “and they are such a long team, that it was hard to get our shots off.”

The Panthers relied on patient ball movement, and of course, the inventive ways of the senior Lenz, who met her season scoring average with those 32 points, also adding 12 rebounds, five assists and five steals.

Yet an Argyle team led by determined point guard Holly Brewer and forward Ryann Kristmanson, each of whom supplied a team-high 12 points, just kept finding ways to slow the game and keep themselves within shouting distance.

After falling in a hole, the Panthers didn’t get the lead back until seven minutes remained in the third quarter when one of those Grade 9s, Lenz’s younger sister Malia, knocked down a jumper to make it 35-34 Panthers.

The game, however, hinged on big plays down the stretch drive of its final four minutes as Abbotsford shifted into high execution.

Its Grade 9s Lakresha Edwards and Lenz hit back-to-back threes, Lenz’s falling with 2:30 remaining and putting her team ahead 64-57.

Even though Panthers’ Lindsey Roufosse and Chelsey Dulku each missed a pair of ensuing free throws, the damage was done as Abby closed the game with a Lenz steal and a 7-1 game-closing run.

“Malia hit that big three in the fourth because they were covering Marin coming off the baseline,” said Abraham. “We rotated the ball to her and she knocked it down.”

Edwards and Malia Lenz each scored 10 points in the win, and while Dulku was limited to just four, she too, has had big games for the team down the stretch.

“I love their energy and their competitiveness,” said Marin Lenz of her younger teammates. “It’s great that they can step up in these big moments.

“And it’s an honour when we can see how far we’ve come with all of the hard work and competitiveness we’ve put in over the season,” added Lenz. “Now it’s starting to pay off.”

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