By Aly Laube
(Special to VarsityLetters.ca)
LANGLEY — For the underdog North Surrey Spartans, facing Burnaby’s St. Thomas More Collegiate Knights here on the opening day of the 2018 B.C. junior girls basketball championships was the best case scenario.
After winning 63-39 earlier in the day against Prince Rupert’s Charles Hays Rainmakers, the No. 13-seeded Spartans moved on from the qualification games and into Sweet 16 round play against a Knights’ team seeded No. 4 in the 24-team draw.
It was that game that they knew would give them the opportunity to succeed in what they came to accomplish: earning the respect of the B.C. basketball community.
“We’re not really known around here and we don’t really have the respect that others team do so it makes us want to work that much harder,” says Sahara Mand, a guard for the team.
“We’ve heard a couple teams say, ‘North Surrey doesn’t belong here,’ and we want to prove them wrong and say no. We have done that so far. We’re at provincials. Now we’re moving on to play Mount Baker, so that’ll be a tough day but we’re going to keep working hard.”
Three of her teammates—guard Sara Uppal, forward Esha Deol, and centre Keri Brar—nod in agreement as Mand explains what got them through a constantly high-tension game.
After what felt like an achingly low-scoring first two periods for the Spartans, they were forced to turn their game around and were quickly confronted with tie after tie. Finally, after making several baskets in the second half of the last period, they dominated the court and notably raised their chance at winning.
The four players say that they managed to do so through refusing to give up, encouraging one another, communicating, and working hard to rebuild their confidence as a team.
Their coach, Sabi Mand, also feels that respect is at the heart of what drives the North Surrey Spartans. But for him as a coach, that respect plays primarily into his relationship with his players.
“I respect the girls and I guess the girls will give the same respect back to me. Respect is a two-way street. I have a lot of faith in the girls when they go onto the floor,” says Mand, conceding that they occasionally “face some of the challenges that [they] haven’t normally seen in our regions, especially coming into provincials.”
Urging his team to focus on their perimetre game, to keep the ball moving, and to trust one another is what he says he did to help usher them towards the upset victory.
“They all work together,” the coach continued. “Nobody thinks they’re better than the other person. Even for one of our girls, if she’s not doing well or she’s struggling with something, there’s always a teammate willing to come in and give a little support and do what needs to be done.”
On their jerseys, the members of the North Surrey Spartans wear the motto of the Toronto Raptors, a team they can relate to on a number of different levels.
“They’re the only Canadian team and we are also underdogs in our league because we don’t get the respect,” said Sahara Mand. “Neither do the Raptors. They’ve come so far and no one still respects them. We took this from them because we feel like we’re in the same position.”
The North Surrey Spartans will be playing the Riverside Rapids, who defeated the Claremont Spartans to face them, Thursday at 11:30 am.
In other second-round games played Wednesday:
KELOWNA OWLS 48 DUCHESS PARK CONDORS 34
The Kelowna Owls will be celebrating a win tonight and playing against the Walnut Grove Gators at 4 p.m. tomorrow.
The Duchess Park Condors player with the highest point score of the game was Karynn Hampe with 10 points, closely followed by Courtney Bouwman with 9.
For the winning team, the highest scorers were Katrina Fink with 14 points and Japleen Chahal with 13.
WALNUT GROVE GATORS 53 ST. JOHN BREBEUF BEARS 48 (OT)
A game that was tied into the final minute of the last period led to a thrilling win for The Walnut Grove Gators, who will be playing The Kelowna Owls at 4 p.m. tomorrow.
The winning team scored a basket in the immediately after the final seconds of the fourth period and took it into overtime at 49-46. In overtime, The Walnut Grove Gators scored four more points and won with 53.
The top-scoring players for the Walnut Grove Gators were Juliana Jacobs with 15 points, Holly Harrison with 13, and Fania Taylor with 11.
For St. John Brebeuf Bears, Ashley Smith was their second-highest scorer with nine points and their highest scorer was Marijke Duralia, who scored a monumental 22 points.
MOUNT BAKER WILD 55 RIVERSIDE RAPIDS 44
Mount Baker Wild will be playing at 11:30 a.m. against the North Surrey Spartans tomorrow after beating the Riverside Rapids by 11 points.
Ashley Giesbrecht of Mount Baker Wild made baskets in every period, leaving the game with 16 points to her name. So did Kiara Ker, who scored even higher with 19 points. Josie Mackie, who scored nine points, was the third most-scoring player for Mount Baker Wild.
For the Riverside Rapids, the only player to score higher than six points was Katia Tarry, who finished with 15.
NORTH SURREY SPARTANS 45 ST. THOMAS MORE COLLEGIATE KNIGHTS 34
The North Surrey Spartans beat the St. Thomas More Collegiate Knights 45-34 in today’s game and will be moving on to face Mount Baker Wild tomorrow at 11:30 a.m.
The winning team’s highest-scoring players were Sara Uppal with 11 points, Sahara Mand with nine, Esha Deol with eight, and Keri Brar with seven.
For The St. Thomas More Collegiate Knights, who were given the no. 4 seed, the players who scored the most points was Bella Gaspar with 13 points, followed by Tatiana Yau and Olivia Becher each with six.
PENTICTON LAKERS 49 PACIFIC CHRISTIAN PACERS 44
After narrowly winning by five points, the Penticton Lakers have made it out of the qualifying games and will be playing in the championship bracket tomorrow.
Jaden Yamamoto scored 13 points for the Penticton Lakers and Sophie Brydon scored nine, with every other player on the team scoring less than Brydon.
The Pacific Christian Pacers had one notably high-scoring player, Adaiah Tupas-Singh. She scored 21 points—over a dozen points higher than the second-highest scoring player on the team, Kailey Demetrius.
Tomorrow, the Penticton Lakers will compete against the Fraser Heights Firehawks at 2:30 p.m.
FRASER HEIGHTS FIREHAWKS 42 BROOKSWOOD BOBCATS 37
Now in the championship bracket, the Fraser Heights Firehawks defeated the Brookswood Bobcats and will be facing the Penticton Lakers tomorrow at 2:30 p.m.
The victorious team had several players who scored in the double digits: Neelam Rai with 14 points, Teah Best with 13, and C.J. Dacanay with 10.
In contrast, the Brookswood Bobcats had one double-digit-scoring player: Kelsey Lalonde, who earned 14 points.
Quinn Jasper, also of the Brookswood Bobcats, scored eight points, while none of her teammates who took a shot scored above four.
BURNABY SOUTH REBELS 36 WINDSOR DUKES 29
With seven points above the Windsor Dukes, the Burnaby South Rebels will be competing with the Yale Lions tomorrow at 1 p.m.
Laini Glover was the player who scored the most baskets for the team, leaving the court with a total of 17 points to her name.
Her teammate Kristen Cajalne was the second-highest scorer for the Burnaby South Rebels with seven points.
For the Windsor Dukes, Kayleen Flewelling earned the most points for her team with 14 followed by Gabbie Francis with 10.
YALE LIONS 59 LORD TWEEDSMUIR PANTHERS 43
The Yale Lions came out with a remarkably high score for their game against the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers, having 17 points each scored by Lily Borseth and Kyleigh Boldt and 13 scored by Marissa Rodde.
The Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers’ highest-scoring players were Samantha Ogbeiwi, Brooklyn Deol, Anna Bodnar, and Taya Suttill with eight points each.
The Yale Lions will be playing against the Burnaby South Rebels tomorrow at 1 p.m.
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