MERRITT — It was supposed to be a re-building year, especially because the Okanagan Mission Huskies were not only replacing a talented core of seniors, but because they were moving up tier to Triple A this season.
Instead, the Kelowna crew put together an 84-77 win over Surrey’s Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers on Tuesday afternoon in a sudden-elimination wildcard game played on a neutral court at Merritt Secondary, earning an 11th-hour bid as part of the field of Sweet 16 at the 2019 B.C. Triple A tournament beginning next week at the LEC.
After a sixth-place finish at the Double A provincials last season, the OKM’s Huskies have completed something of a Mission: Impossible.
“We lost so many strong players from last season that we didn’t think we would be capable of having something like this happen,” admitted OKM head coach Meghan Faust after the win. “We had kind of written it all off to the fact that (last season) was our best year, but that we were still going to try really hard.”
On Tuesday, that effort was enough to turn back a battle-tested Lord Tweedsmuir team led by the game-high 26 points of India Aikins.
OKM senior guards Jenna Robinson and Jordan Robb scored 23 and 20 points respectively in the victory while Grade 11 guard Melaina Corrado added 17 points. Returning senior Stef Young has also been a pillar to the Grade 12 core this season.
The Huskies built a lead of as many as 15 points in the second half, yet Lord Tweedsmuir never stopped coming.
The Panthers closed to within nine points to start the fourth quarter, then got it to within two points with about five minutes to go.
Corrado, however, hit a trey and a pair of deep regulation field goals to provide much-needed separation.
“It was such a fight because they knew they were coming off five games in four days,” said Faust of the marathon schedule all of the Fraser Valley-based wildcard teams took into action Tuesday. “We were thinking they had to be tired, but they had fight in them. We really had to dig deep for every stop.”
Of course Faust and Co. saw signs of their team’s incredible chemistry throughout the season, including its performance over the first few weeks of the season when they beat Abbotsford at the Fraser Valley Cascades Invitational.
“When we came out with the win over Abby at the UFV tourney, that is when I looked over at my assistant coach (Emma Parmar), and we looked at what our expectations were,” said Faust.
More of the same came down the stretch drive of the season as OKM faced its crosstown rivals, the defending B.C. AAA champion Kelowna Owls.
A week ago, the Huskies were blitzed by the Owls and lost a league game to KSS by 52 points.
On Saturday, however, in the Okanagan Valley final, the Huskies led for 35 minutes before they ran out of gas late and lost 68-59.
“We didn’t really think it was possible,” Faust reiterated of making the provincials in the same season in which they were not only hit with high grad totals but were also moving up to the province’s largest tier. “But now, here we are.”
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