VICTORIA — It hasn’t been their normal road to the Langley Events Centre, but the Abbotsford Panthers are back on track to the home of the B.C. championships thanks to the second sudden-elimination victory of their post season.
Grade 11 guard Marin Lenz poured home 35 points and the Panthers used a 33-11 run in the third quarter to distance themselves from the capital city’s own Claremont Spartans 85-44 in one of four B.C. senior girls high school wildcard play-in games staged Tuesday on neutral courts, this one at Saanichton’s Stelly’s Secondary School.
Abbotsford will now be among the field of 16 teams set to play for the B.C. Triple A title when the four-day affair begins Feb. 27 at the LEC.
“It’s a journey we haven’t been on the three previous years,” said Abbotsford head coach Prentice Lenz after the Panthers, the Fraser Valley’s No. 7 seeds, had seemed to make a habit of grabbing one of the zone’s automatic qualifying spots each season.
“This was a new experience but in this scenario, the girls were fantastic,” continued Lenz. “Claremont (Vancouver Island No 3) was a very good team, and the score at the half was tough.”
The third quarter, however, turned the game.
“It was an elimination game and both teams were tight,” admitted Lenz. “But we were able to put enough pressure on them and create some turnovers. When you get some easy baskets, things can loosen up.”
Beryl Kithinji, Abby’s 6-foot senior forward, added 19 points for the winners.
And while the Fraser Valley playoffs have been an especially draining experience, especially with an added wildcard game and the travel it demands, Lenz stressed that his girls developed a bit of an edge after having to stave off similar elimination last week.
The Panthers took it on the chin 80-44 against No. 1 Semiahmoo on Feb. 15, and thus would have been eliminated from further play if they weren’t able to beat their crosstown foes, the MEI Eagles on Feb. 16.
“Personally, we were all excited because after that loss to Semiahmoo, we were 5.6 seconds away from losing to MEI, but then we came back to get an overtime win,” said Lenz of a 63-57 victory over the Eagles which assured a top-eight Fraser Valley finish and the chance, at worst, of having to qualify for the B.C.s through the wildcard round.
Abbotsford lost to Lord Tweedsmuir in the 2017 B.C. Triple A final. Last season, the Panthers fell to Walnut Grove in the B.C. semifinals.
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