By Aly Laube
(Special for VarsityLetters.ca)
LANGLEY — When Kelowna Owls and Walnut Grove Gators junior girls basketball teams faced off on Thursday in the quarterfinal round of the B.C. junior girls basketball championships at the Langley Events Centre, they both had impressive senior teams to take inspiration from.
While the Owls and the Gators both put up a tough fight, with the Owls nearly catching up and overcoming a third quarter lull, it was the Gators that pulled out a 64-56 victory.
While Gators coach Jim Darby says that the team doesn’t “rely on one or two players to carry the load every game,” there were two particularly high scorers during their game against the Owls: Holly Harrison with 21 and Fania Taylor with 16.
“We’re encouraged to do just as well as they do,” adds guard Amara dePradine of the senior varsity, which is led by star players Tavia Rowell, Jessica Wisotzki and Natalie Rathler. “There’s a lot of expectations as well. We want to live up to their greatness, their level, so that pushes our team to do better.”
Their intensity, passion for the game, and encouragement from the bench are some of the techniques they learned from the seniors, but they only have themselves to thank for refusing to panic when the Owls started gaining on them in the last period.
“It would be really easy to get stressed and let them take the lead but we kept calm and took back control,” says Harrison.
“I think our best think about today is that we hustled really hard,” says DePradine, who scored 10 points.
Darby feels like strong defence is the reason why the Gators were able to sweep the Owls off of their feet in the second half of the game.
“At Walnut Grove, there’s a tradition of excellence,” he says. “All of the kids see one another being successful so they want to be successful and that’s what the school’s all about, whether it’s a sport or academic.”
The winners of the game are now one step closer to proving their potential as first-rate senior players a few years down the line. Friday at 6:30 p.m., the Walnut Grove Gators will be facing Cranbrook’s Mount Baker Wild in the semifinals.
(Editor’s note — The senior girls AAA teams from Walnut Grove and Kelowna also advanced to Final Four round play on Friday. Walnut Grove faces Abbotsford at 3:30 p.m. and Kelowna meets Semiahmoo at 5:15 p.m. in games being played on centre court. Walnut Grove’s juniors then play Cranbrook’s Mt. Baker Wild in a 6:30 p.m. in the LEC Fieldhouse.)
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