LANGLEY — At every turn along a season-long journey, just when you thought the moment would become too big for them to comprehend, they would confound their audience.
On Saturday, at the biggest stop of them all — the 2019 B.C. Junior Girls Basketball championship game — it happened again.
Port Coquitlam’s No. 1-seeded Terry Fox Ravens, a team made up exclusively of ninth graders, not only beat the No. 2-seeded Kelowna Owls 76-36 in the title game, they did it by playing a style of basketball which succeeds only when played with the full conviction of their self belief.
The Ravens pressed, disrupted, trapped and transitioned with such utter confidence, that afterwards, coach Mike Carkner had trouble finding the words.
“Incredible,” said Carkner, who along with coach Teena Frost first brought the group together in a small, local elementary school gymnasium. “Today, these kids, they played the game of their lives, and for a group of Grade 9’s, that poise was tremendous.”
In fact the way Carkner figured it, besides the fact Kelowna’s players were all a year older, they also had the size advantage, so the level of aggressiveness and tempo his team brought was going to be paramount.
“These girls play so hard and they love playing,” Carkner continued. “That was our goal. We knew they were a big, athletic team, a well-coached team. We knew the only way to win this game was to put a lot of pressure on them and up the tempo. Our kids played over the top. They exceeded our expectations.”
Point guard Cerys Merton was exceptional, scoring a game-high 17 points on her way to being named tournament MVP.
Lauren Clements scored 14 points, while Emily Sussex and Taylor Matthews each had a dozen. Alicia Weloy rounded out the double-figure scorers with 11 while Kianna Frost added five, Ana-Marie Misic three and Hannah Rao two.
Abbey McCann with 11 points led Kelowna. Tessa Bentley and Paris Kirk scored 10 each.
“There were a lot of nerves out there,” said Owls’ head coach Robin Espenberg. “We wanted to push the pace and go at them, but we took it one step too far. That resulted in all the turnovers and Terry Fox was athletic enough and skilled enough to make you pay for those.”
The Ravens finished 35-0, and as their well-publicized perfect season-in-the-making continued to grow, Carkner admitted it began to weigh on his own mind.
“I thought that it would eventually get to the kids,” he said. “But they are just an amazing group of girls. It brings a tear to my eye, starting five years ago in an elementary school gym, to be here today and to see them play basketball at such a high level.
“It’s an incredible thing.”
The title was the first B.C. girls high school championship of the junior or senior varsity variety ever won by Terry Fox, including its days as Port Coquitlam Secondary.
It’s the first B.C. girls junior or senior high school for a PoCo school since 2014 when Riverside won the junior girls championship.
Kelowna was playing in its second B.C. final the past three seasons, after losing 49-27 to St. Thomas Aquinas in the 2017 title game.
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