By Gary Ahuja (Special for Varsity Letters)
LANGLEY — The Interior or Vancouver Island … where will this year’s championship trophy travel to? That is the question as the 2020 Junior Girls Basketball Provincial Invitational Tournament concludes.
Kelowna’s Dr. Knox Falcons have their sights set on capturing the title while Victoria’s St. Michaels University School Blue Jags have designs on taking the trophy on a ferry ride to the provincial capital. Regardless of which team wins, it will be the first title for either program.
The teams will take to Centre Court at Langley Events Centre on Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m., the first of four championship finals.
In Friday’s semifinal round, the Falcons were in tough for a second straight game as they battled the fifth-seed Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs.
In the quarterfinal round the day before, Dr. Knox needed a strong fourth quarter to push past a tough M.E.I. Eagles squad. Leading by five after three, the Falcons opened the period with an 8-0 spurt to create enough separation for the 51-40 victory.
Reegan Bond scored eight of her team-high 18 points in the fourth quarter and Amelie Guignard added 17. Churchill was led by 15 points from Claire Huang and a dozen from Stefanie Hart.
Dr. Knox is a middle school which only goes to Grade 9 so Falcons coach Lisa Nickle wasn’t surprised the moment may have caught up to her young squad.
“I think because of their youth, that was a reality for us. We were tight yesterday, we were tight today at the start,” she said. “I think we needed to be tested and it will only make us stronger.”
The coach – a little teary-eyed – was full of praise for her squad.
“We didn’t give up. When the ball wasn’t going int, we could have just shut her down, but we didn’t. We had resiliency and we just kept pushing.”
On the opposite side is St. Michael’s University School, whose previous best was eighth place way back in 1996.
“It is still sinking in,” admitted coach Lindsay Brooke after her team avenged their only loss of the season, defeating the Kelowna Owls 44-35. Kelowna beat the Blue Jags back in early January.
The semifinal was close throughout with the teams trading small leads through the first three quarters. But after Kelowna pulled to within a point to begin the fourth, the Blue Jags scored 11 straight points, including a pair of triples from Makena Anderson. Anderson and Lauren Rust each had 16-point games to lead the team.
“It was a tight game and our MO is tough defence. I think we knuckled down and played lights-out defensively,” Brooke said. “We struggled offensively, a bit tight, but our bread and butter is our defence and we proved it tonight.”
Kelowna was led by eight points apiece from Phoebe Molgat and Mekhila Brown.
The Owls will battle the Bulldogs in the bronze medal game.