Holy Cross' Alyssia Palma (right) looks to score while being defended by MEI's Kallie Strachan during Day 3 semifinal action from the 2023 Tsumura Basketball Invitational on Friday at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of Varsity Letters 2023. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Girls Basketball

SELECT 16 TBI GIRLS FINAL FOUR FRIDAY: MEI Eagles close game in the shooter’s zone, rally past Holy Cross for Select 16 finals clash vs. STM’s Comeback Kids!

3A No. 4 MEI  67 2A No. 4 HOLY CROSS 56

LANGLEY — Judging by the way they are finishing games this week here at the Tsumura Basketball Invitational, Abbotsford’s MEI Eagles are winning even as they are losing the battle of attrition.

The team which had starting point guard Eva Driedger and back-up Mya Buttar knocked out off the roster due to various injuries over the first two days of the Select 16 draw, the Eagles were nonetheless sitting with a 2-0 record.

On Friday, with three Grade 9 call-ups from the JV squad forming the depth chart at the point guard position, the Eagles went out and pulled off their biggest win yet, finishing the game on a 16-2 to stun Surrey’s Holy Cross Crusaders 67-56 in TBI semifinals.

“We switched to man (defence) and just found the right combination of player to take away all of their easy shots,” said MEI head coach Rick Thiessen, whose team faces St. Thomas More (3 p.m.) in the championship final. “Suddenly, (Holy Cross) didn’t know what to do, and then we hit all of our free throws.”

Certainly there was no better way to describe the Eagles over the final 3:42 than in the shooter’s zone.

After the Crusaders’ Siena Legazpi knocked down a triple to put her team on top 54-51, it was all Eagles the rest of the way.

The 16-3 run included not only 8-for-8 shooting from the free throw line but dead-eye jump shooting featuring a banked triple and a swish from the elbow from Lola Reimer, and a clean-splash trey from Ella Tatlock.

MEI Eagles Lola Reimer (centre) attempts a shot over the outreached arm of Holy Cross’ Alyssia Palma during Day 3 semifinal action from the 2023 Tsumura Basketball Invitational on Friday at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Gary Ahuja property of Langley Events Centre 2023. All Rights Reserved)

“What we said (to the players) at the half was to just play their game and be comfortable with your shot,” said Thiessen, who added that his trio of Grade 9 call-ups were welcomed like family.

“We say before games that we are one family (grades) 9 to 12. We practice together in the off-season, we run all the same stuff, and today, we needed a little help.”

The Eagles will face St. Thomas More in Saturday’s 3 p.m. Select 16 semifinal.

Burnaby’s Knights used a 22-0 run to stun Langley’s Walnut Grove in the day’s other semifinal, and the largest part of their identity is 40 minutes per game of pressure defence.

“We’re going to have to try and figure it out and stay calm with our Grade 9 point guards,” said Thiessen.

Tatlock led the winners with 22 points, while Reimer added 20 and Olivia Sidhu 15.

Chloe Mangalindan led the Crusaders with 21 points while Solene Jackson added 12 more.

If you’re reading this story or viewing these photos on any website other than one belonging to a university athletic department, it has been taken without appropriate permission. In these challenging times, true journalism will survive only through your dedicated support and loyalty. VarsityLetters.ca and all of its exclusive content has been created to serve B.C.’s high school and university sports community with hard work, integrity and respect. Feel free to drop us a line any time at howardtsumura@gmail.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *