LANGLEY — In both the biggest the final game of Marin Lenz’s high school basketball career, the Abbotsford Panthers’ guard knew that her part of the bargain was to figuratively throw everything she had but the kitchen sink at Kelowna’s Okanagan Mission Huskies.
On Saturday, in the B.C. senior girls Triple A final here at the LEC, the diminutive 5-foot-5 guard made good on that with a blistering 44-point performance.
Yet if you watched the contest, you know that while Lenz transcended the best description of gutsy with a flurry of offence that came despite a tender ankle, that the Huskies were themselves dogged enough that the Lenz needed some help to throw that figurative kitchen sink.
Enter Abby’s somewhat anonymous but absolutely essential forward group of 6-foot-2 senior Lindsey Roufosse, 6-foot Grade 9 Chelsey Dulku and powerful but fleet-footed 5-foot-9 Grade 12 Riya Sahota.
While fellow Grade 9 guards Malia Lenz and Lakresha Edwards scored 11 and 10 points respectively in support of eventually tourney MVP Marin Lenz, Abbotsford’s first B.C. girls basketball title since 1984 would likely not have happened without the hard-nosed, shot-altering, paint-suffocating presence of its forwards, who down the stretch drive of the final seven minutes allowed the Huskies just one made field goal.
“It was just a real gritty performance by a ton of different girls,” said Abbotsford head coach Prentice Lenz.
“Lindsey Roufosse, in her Grade 12 year, played a heck of a game inside, challenging shots and grabbing rebounds, Chelsey did a great job down low, too, and Riya did an amazing job when we had to bring in someone else to guard Lily,” continued Lenz of trying to slow OKM’s dynamic Grade 11 guard Lily Pink, who nonetheless finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds. “Riya did a great job on her.”
The trio finished with a combined 25 rebounds, including 11 off the offensive glass, and scored 17 points, yet there was no statistical measure in a standard box score which could measure how they shrunk lanes, took away space and as a result upped the degree of difficulty for OKM scorers like Pink, Makenna Jacklin, Elaina Corrado, Devon Felt and Tatum Wade to do what they do best.
All of that said, the game’s momentum would not shift in Abbotsford’s favour until Marin Lenz’s three-pointer with 4:50 left capped a 7-0 run, giving the Panthers an 81-73 lead.
“Abby is an amazing team and Marin is just unbelievable,” said OKM head coach Meghan Faust. “We gave it everything we could, but late in the game we just struggled to put the ball in the hoop. A few bad decisions, and maybe some nerves because we were used to being up a lot. Coming back is something we’ve only had to do maybe three times this year.”
Prentice Lenz’s Panthers built their confidence up through the season to the point where they were performing at peak efficiency Saturday.
“As the season went along, we had an early season loss to Terry Fox, but then we beat them at the Top 10 tournament,” said Lenz. “We also lost to Semiahmoo and those were our only two losses. As the year went along, the girls really believed that they could do it.”
Now, as Marin Lenz, B.C. girls high school basketball’s Player of the Year, leaves for a university career at an as-yet unannounced school, the Panthers set their sight on next season with a core group that still has three more seasons together.
“We’ve had the best year for our school ever for any basketball team and everything they did was record-breaking,” said Faust. “This is going to hurt for a little bit but I am so proud of how hard the girls fought.”
A core group of nine players, including Pink, Wade (15 points), Jacklin (13 points) and Felt (10 points) returns.
“It’s very sad to say goodbye to this group because they were so special,” said Faust. “But we’re also excited about the group which is coming back next year.”
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