LANGLEY — The power of three looks to be one of the most important themes for whichever team emerges victorious Saturday night to win the 2018 B.C. senior girls AAA basketball championship.
Walnut Grove has its power trio of Tavia Rowell, Jessica Wisotzki and Natalie Rathler, all Baden BCSSGBA B.C. Top 15 Dream Team selections.
The Kelowna Owls?
Both Taya Hanson and Kennedy Dickie were also selected to the prestigious squad earlier this week, and although the Owls didn’t place three players on that team like the Gators did, they’ve got a player who performed in Friday’s 81-59 B.C. Final Four win over the Semiahmoo Totems like she deserves to be there, too.
We speak, of course, of Kelowna’s 5-foot-11 Grade 11 forward Jaeli Ibbetson, who when it mattered most against an ultra-talented but youthful group of Totems, was a difference maker because of both her physical presence on the floor and her willingness to do all of the little things that create opportunities for her more well-known teammates.
Hanson, who heads into Saturday’s 5 p.m. title tilt against Walnut Grove, as one of the game’s leading potential MVP candidates, had 26 points and 10 rebounds, and as usual, set the pace for her teammates.
And Dickie, a powerful Grade 11 forward, had 25 points and 14 rebounds.
Yet it was Ibbetson, often-times under-sized in her matchups but never overwhelmed by her myriad responsibilities, who was picked Player of the Game after scoring 23 points, grabbed eight rebounds and led her team with 12 free throw trips.
“I love being the post, being able to screen hard and roll to the basket,” says Ibbetson, who has played a vital role in the Owls’ screen-and-roll game with the Arizona State-bound senior Hanson. “I love rolling to the basket and being there for rebounds. I also love being able to pop out for shots.”
Apparently, she loves the game, and all of its most blue-collar trappings.
Name a coach who doesn’t love a player with that kind of appreciation for trench work.
“She is deceivingly strong,” begins Kelowna head coach Darren Semeniuk. “When she gets into her steps as she goes to the hoop, you might think that she gets off balance easily, but she stays strong and she knows how to finish.
“She has come up to work with Taya on those ball screens, and although it’s still not where we want it, I thought today, it definitely pulled Faith up into that action, and that opened up the middle for us.”
Semeniuk is referring to Semiahmoo’s talented 6-foot-3 Grade 11 forward Faith Dut, who finished with nine points and 17 rebounds on Friday.
The Totems were led by the 21 points of Izzy Forsyth.
Come championship tip-off time Saturday, Ibbetson will likely be charged with putting the wraps on Walnut Grove’s Rathler.
It’s going to be tough, but Ibbetson will not back down from a challenge.
“We need to box her out and try our best to get her into foul trouble because she is so strong on those rebounds,” says Ibbetson of Rathler.
The Gators won the first two meetings between the teams, early in the season at the MEI Invitational and in mid-January in the final of the Centennial Top 10 Shoot-Out.
And if Kelowna is going to make it’s third meeting with Walnut Grove the charm, then Hanson, Dickie and Ibbetson are going to have to match the Gators’ power of three.
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