Terry Fox's Lauren Clements finds a lane past the Lord Tweedsmuir defence on Thursday at the LEC. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of VarsityLetters.ca 2020. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Girls Basketball

FINAL EDITION: Quad-A girls Final Four menu is set as Semiahmoo reprises B.C. final clash with WGSS Gators, newcomers Terry Fox to face Yale

LANGLEY — Welcome to Day 2 of the 2020 B.C. senior girls Quad-A championships.

Here’s our final reports on all four quarterfinal games.

TOP HALF DRAW

NO. 1 SEMIAHMOO 87   NO. 8 HERITAGE WOODS 48

Semiahmoo’s Raushan Bindra (left) and the rest of the No. 1 Semiahmoo Totems measure in success in ways that aren’t always reflected by statistics or the final score. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of VarsityLetters.ca 2020. All Rights Reserved)

By Gary Kingston (special to Varsity Letters)

LANGLEY — Ho hum. Another lop-sided win for the Semiahmoo Totems.

Seeded No, 1 at the BC senior girls Quad A basketball championships and riding a 54-game win streak against provincial competition, the defending champions made routine work of the No. 8 Heritage Wood Kodiaks in an 87-48 quarterfinal win Thursday night at Langley Events Centre.

The Kodiaks kept it relatively tight early, trailing just 20-10 after one quarter, but the deep and talented Totems, who don’t have a Grade 12 on their roster, methodically stretched the advantage to 26 at the half and 32 after three quarters.

While the wins might seem routine to those watching from the bleachers, the players don’t see it that way.

“No, not really,” said superstar guard Deja Lee. “The score is just not indicative of how we play. And so, honestly, as long as the compete level is high, it’s always fun to be out there.”

Lee said the mindset is established at practice.

“We’re trying a lot more to be on each other. Our compete level at practice translates into how we play. And that’s how we keep our intensity so high.”

The Totems also have a great ability to correct any shortcomings in-game. Against the Kodiaks, they went 0-for-10 from three-point range in the first half, then made their first three baskets of the third quarter, and five of their first seven scores, from behind the arc.

Raushan Bindra had the first two treys, including one off glass, Lee and 6-foot-2 forward Tara Wallack also connected from long range and when Izzy Forsyth drilled one from behind the arc with just over four minutes left in the quarter, the Totems had a commanding 63-26 lead.

“We’re very much built on a kind of inside-out game and we have versatile players,” said head coach Allison McNeill. “We can shoot a three, I just don’t allow them to shoot any three. We’re not (NBA bombers) Houston (Rockets).

“In the second half, I was like ‘look, their defence, everyone’s collapsing in the interior, so if you have an open three, shoot it.’”

Wallack paced the Totems with 24 points and 11 rebounds, while the dynamic Lee scored 21 with nine rebounds and seven assists.

Jenna Griffin was the only Kodiak in double figures with 14 points. Lauren Tomlinson and Kiara Kozak each had eight.

Semiahmoo will face the winner of Kelowna-Walnut Grove in one semifinal. The Totems haven’t played either school this season, but faced the Owls in a semifinal last year and the Gators in the final.

“We know them well, both good teams,” said McNeill. “But we’re feeling good because we’ve gotten better this year. I feel like we’re playing our best basketball right now.”

NO. 4 WALNUT GROVE 88   NO. 5 KELOWNA 76

Walnut Grove head coach Darren Rowell calls Grade 10 guard Fania Taylor a blue-chip slasher. Taylor was at the top of her game Thursday as her Gators met Nicole Torozan (left) and the Kelowna Owls for a berth in Friday’s B.C. Quad-A Final Four. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of VarsityLetters.ca 2020. All Rights Reserved)

By Gary Kingston (special to Varsity Letters)

LANGLEY — A year after pushing the seemingly unbeatable Semiahmoo Totems to the brink in last year’s Triple A championship final of the B.C. senior girls basketball tournament, the Walnut Grove Gators have set up a rematch on Friday in a semifinal of the new Quad A division.

Except that while the Totems return intact, the Gators, 88-76 winners over Kelowna in a quarterfinal Thursday night, are a much different team — young, hungry and eager to see if they can become the squad to end Semiahmoo’s 54-game winning streak against provincial competition.

“I still have nightmares about that,” Walnut Grove head coach Darren Rowell said of the 2019 final that Semiahmoo won 71-62. “They’re awesome, such a deep team, great coaching.

“We’ll just try to see if our running style can match up against their size and skill. Hopefully it’s a good battle.”

The Gators got more of a battle than they wanted on Thursday after a 20-point third quarter began evaporating after a barrage of three-pointers and driving layups from the Owls, who shot a dismal 15 per cent in the first half while falling behind 44-25.

Kelowna cut the lead to just five early in the fourth quarter, but Walnut Grove went on a 13-2 run to regain control. The surge was led by exciting Grade 10 guard Fania Taylor, one of the best in the province at taking the ball to the basket.

The five-foot-eight Taylor scored 23 points, many of them on determined drives where she bested far taller players.

“She’s been phenomenal all season,” said Rowell. “She’s just such a gritty tough kid. She can slash like nobody in the province. And being a lefty helps.”

Rowell’s young squad also includes a standout Grade 9 in six-foot guard/forward Kiera Pemberton, who was named player of the game after scoring 24 points and pulling down seven rebounds. Grade 11 point guard Sophia Wisotzki had 17 points and 11 assists.

“Fania and Kiera really give us a young nucleus,” said Rowell. “It’s going to be fun.”

Rylie Semeniuk had 17 points for the Owls, while Shiah Holmes chipped in with 16 and 11 rebounds.

BOTTOM HALF DRAW

NO 2 TERRY FOX NO. 76 10 LORD TWEEDSMUIR 73

Lord Tweedsmuir’s India Aikins (left) and Terry Fox’s Alisha Weloy clash Thursday in the B.C. AAAA quarterfinals. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of VarsityLetters.ca 2020. All Rights Reserved)

By Gary Kingston (special to Varsity Letters)

LANGLEY — Mike Carkner calls his Grade 10-heavy Terry Fox Ravens the Bad News Bears, which seems a bit of a misnomer given that the baseball team in the 1970s movie comedy was a rag-tag group of misfits.

The Ravens, by contrast, have plenty of talent. The similarity between the senior girls basketball team and the Bears is in the level of guts and no-quit attitude. That was on full display Thursday afternoon in an electrifying 76-73 quarterfinal win over the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers inside a raucous Langley Events Centre gym at the B.C. high school Quad A championships.

The No. 2-seeded Ravens erased a five-point deficit in the final three minutes, taking the lead at 75-73 on an Alisha Weloy three-pointer with 49 seconds remaining and clinching the win on a Cerys Morton free throw with eight seconds left after one of her game-high seven steals.

“The Bad News Bears, that’s what we call these guys,” said a grinning Carkner, whose squad won despite going just 7-of-34 from three-point range. “They just don’t know how to say no. They’re hilarious.”

The Ravens captured the B.C. junior girls title last season, but despite being ranked highly this year, there was some thought they might still be a bit too young to handle the pressure and the enormity of the challenge in the Quad A seniors. Carkner, though, was sure his girls wouldn’t be fazed.

“They’re such a resilient group of kids,” said Carkner. “And they’ve played in a lot of big, pressure situations. And so we always laugh, we actually call them the Bad News Bears. They just keep going. They never drop their heads. They just keep pushing forward, a fun team to coach.”

Fox took a 36-32 lead into the third quarter after a furious-paced first half, then watched the Panthers open on a quick 8-0 run. But the resilient Ravens responded with an 8-2 run of their own. The lead never got bigger than four for either side until a 9-0 Panthers run that culminated with a dagger of a three-pointer from Anna Bodnar with 4:49 to go to make the score 67-62.

Carkner considered calling a timeout to steady his squad. There was no need.

“It looked like we were losing the momentum and (the coaching staff) were laughing that we should have called a time out. And the kids just got their heads together. I think it would be better if we just let them play and didn’t coach them.”

On the ensuing possession after Bodnar’s three, Ravens’ substitute Kianna Frost drained a three-pointer of her own for her only points of the game. Centre Emily Sussex’s inside basket and Lauren Clements’ baseline jumper in the final 90 seconds set up Weloy’s winning three-pointer.

Clements had a team-high 19 points, Sussex added 15 and Merton tallied 14. The five-foot-five Merton seemed to be all over the court as a buzzsaw disrupter, knocking balls away, jumping into passing lanes and adeptly directing the Ravens’ offence.

“Others can feed off (my defensive pressure) and we can advance the ball in transition and get the easy scores,” said Merton of her whirling dervish style.

Carkner said his diminutive point guard sets an incredible example.

“She’s unbelievable. Last year in the junior final, she literally took it over herself. She likes the big stage and she does that every day in practice. She’s such an energy person for us. A wonderful kid and a wonderful competitor.”

Merton said the Ravens have figured out a way to stay calm in games no matter how intense things get.

“We’ve been in stressful situations before and it’s just like an actual habit,” she said. “We stayed strong. And we’re never going to give up until the final buzzer goes.”

The Bad News Ravens now advance to a Friday semifinal against the winner of the Riverside-Yale matchup.

The Aikins sisters, India and Alyza, led the Panthers with 23 and 12 points respectively. Grade 12 India also pulled down a team-high 16 rebounds, but she committed a game-high 10 turnovers.

NO. 6 YALE 74   NO. 3 RIVERSIDE 52

A true hoops warrior, Yale’s Jayden Whyte (right) rallied from a knee injury to help her Lions make the Quad-A final four. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of VarsityLetters.ca 2020. All Rights Reserved)

By Gary Kingston (special to Varsity Letters)

LANGLEY — Under the unwritten rules of basketball, calling a time out with 30 seconds remaining and your team up by 22 is considered bad form.

But Yale Lions’ head coach Bobby Braich just felt like he had to deliver a message with his squad headed to the Quad A semifinals at the B.C. championships.

As Riverside Rapids head coach Paul Langford seethed, yelling at his players to stay on the floor during the break, a wild cheer came out of the Lions’ huddle.

“I know (Langford) wasn’t happy,” said Braich after the 74-52 upset win. “But (my players)  were dead tired and I know they just needed to hear something positive because they’re always saying ‘Coach, all we hear is the yelling.

“So I said ‘I called this timeout to tell you one thing. I love you and you’re going to the Final Four.’ That’s why you heard that little eruption there.”

The Lions, who had been blown out by the Rapids earlier in the year, led 21-15 after one quarter, 35-29 at the half and 54-46 after three quarters. A 6-0 run early in the fourth built the lead to 13, but after a brief Riverside push, the game turned when the Rapids leading scorer Sammy Shields, who had nailed a three-pointer from the parking lot at the third quarter buzzer, fouled out with six minutes remaining.

The Lions went on a 14-2 run to close things out, keyed by three-pointers from Karishma Rai and Neelam Rai and a couple of determined drives to the basket by Julie Dueck.

“Even when Sammy Shields went off, we worked even harder,” said Riverside’s six-foot-one post Jayden White. “Neelam Rai told us ‘Just because she’s off doesn’t mean we can let off. We have to go at it harder. We can increase the lead.’”

Whyte was terrific inside, scoring several of her game-high 27 rebounds off offensive board put backs. She was an efficient 12 of 16 from the field and pulled down 18 boards.

Braich said the Grade 11 Whyte has become a hugely inspirational player for the Lions.

“Last summer, she had a bone chip the size of a bottle cap taken out of her knee. She didn’t play her Grade 10 January-February season and we didn’t know we would have her back. But that kid is the most loved kid on the team. She just plays one speed, all out, battles, never says no. I’m just so happy for her success.”

The Lions will meet the No. 2-seeded Terry Fox Ravens in one semifinal.

“They are tough, they’ve got numbers, they’re young . . . everything you want in an opponent,” said Braich. “Just kidding. But you don’t get any easy games when you get this far in a 16-team B.C. championship. My motto is ‘Believe.’ We’re not going to lay down for anybody.”

Neelam Rai had 15 points for the Lions, while her sister, Karishma, added 10. Shields led Riverside with 19 points, but was just 7-of-30 from the field, including two-of-14 from three-point range. 

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