LANGLEY — Exactly 30 years after the most decisive victory in B.C. senior girls top-tiered high school basketball championship finals history, the Semiahmoo Totems have arrived to re-set the bar as far as gold-medal moments are concerned.
Led by the 29 points and 23 rebounds of 6-foot-2 forward and tournament MVP Tara Wallack, the Totems beat Port Coquitlam’s Terry Fox Ravens 114-62 to repeat as B.C. champs in the first-ever Quad-A title game, its 52-point margin of victory some 14 points larger than the previous record of 38 set back in 1990 when the Megan Magee/Suzie Jarosch-led Windsor Dukes of North Vancouver repeated as champs following a 38-point (91-53) win over the Mt. Baker Trojanettes of Cranbrook.
The scary part about Semiahmoo, now riding a 57-game win streak against B.C. competition, is that the entire team returns next season, including what will be a rising senior core of eight players.
To head coach Allison McNeill, the victory’s most special meaning came from the fact that her team reached peak performance at the very zenith of its 2019-20 campaign.
“We came out on fire,” admitted the former Canadian women’s national team head coach. “(Terry Fox) is a hard-working team, a tough defensive team, but we just made shots. We were just so ready. We’ve been striving for this night all year long.”
At whatever level you cared to examine the Totems’ performance on Saturday evening, before a full house at the Langley Event Centre’s Centre Court arena, the findings were more than trend setting… they were transcendent.
Windsor’s 1990 team was an absolute dynamo, going 44-0 for head coach Jim Harrison, with senior players in Magee and Jarosch who were headed the next season to the Arizona Wildcats and Victoria Vikes respectively.
While the Totems will have challenged the norms in terms of NCAA-bound seniors 12 months from now, as of Saturday they were still just a bunch of Grade 11s more than a year away from donning cap and gown.
Even when talented and powerful Izzy Forsyth (20 points, eight rebounds, five assists), Semiahmoo’s 6-foot-1 forward, picked up her second foul of the game and was forced to the bench just 4:16 in, the Totems never blinked.
Considering Saturday’s stakes, Wallack played perhaps the best overall game of her entire high school career, shooting 12-of-18 from the field, hitting on her only three-point attempt, going 4-for-4 from the stripe, and adding four steals, three blocks and eight assists against one turnover.
Deja Lee, the Grade 11 point guard and 2019 B.C. MVP, was plugged into the proceedings at her usual top level, and finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Raushan Bindra, another Grade 11 guard, had an outstanding tournament whether as a shooter or when asked to run the point, and 5-foot-11 forward Emily Wubs lent her toughness along with 10 points and six rebounds.
And then Grade 11 guard Nicole Pajic stepped forward to join the big three with a 6-for-9 three-point shooting night for 18 points.
As part of the Totems’ red-hot start, she hit four first-half triples, helping the Totems to a 66-28 halftime lead.
“I’ve always said this group was versatile,” continued McNeill. “We can post up Deja, Tara can play the point and Izzy can bring the ball up the floor.”
Terry Fox coach Mike Carkner, whose team won the B.C. junior title a season ago as Grade 9s, was more concerned with the step forward his team took in its first foray into senior varsity, than he was with the title game’s final point spread.
“I was proud of the kids,” Carkner said. “We knew going into this game that we were facing a phenomenal group of athletes and a first-class team.
“I thought our kids battled hard,” he said. “Without (forward) Lauren (Clements), we knew we didn’t have a chance because she is such a big part of our physical aspect,” he added of one of his team’s top players, who suffered a bad ankle sprain late in Friday’s semifinal win over Yale. “Our kids, I think, play harder than any team. We don’t have national team-level athletes but I thought we matched their intensity. We’ll be back.”
The Ravens celebrated small victories amidst the reality of the lopsided score Saturday, one in which they were out-rebounded 65-22.
Most telling? Semiahmoo had five more offensive rebounds than the Ravens had total rebounds.
Point guard Cerys Merton undoubtedly raised the level of her game, getting to go head-to-head against the Totems’ Lee, and her 16 points, five rebounds and tenacious defence were testament to her skill.
As well, 6-foot forward Emily Sussex scored 13 points, while guard Alisha Weloy was named the tournament’s top defensive player.
Added Wallack of the Ravens: “We respect them tremendously and they are going to do really good things in the future.”
And as for Wallack, she admitted that she had set a goal for herself last year to try and win the MVP award in 2020.
“This was definitely a goal,” she said. “Deja won it last year, so I wanted to see if I could do it this year. I really worked hard and so it was great to get the outcome.”
McNeill reiterated that the season’s final game was akin to the perfect storm.
“As a coach you hope to peak at the right time,” she said. “We were lucky we didn’t have injuries, and maybe playing up (in 2017-18 at senior varsity) in Grade 9 helped us. I’m not sure that we necessarily wanted to do that, but with (2019 grad and current Florida Gators freshman) Faith (Dut), we had to bring up a team with her. So this year was our third time at the B.C.’s. We knew what it was all about.”
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