VANCOUVER — Ask Marah Dykstra about some of the very best things happening in her life these days, and without taking her eyes off the prize for even a second, she lets you know she’s determined to savour every last moment of her high school basketball career.
Of course, following Thursday’s 62-29 victory over the West Vancouver Highlanders in the Vancouver Sea-to-Sky zone championship final, all that remains for the 6-foot-2 senior with Vancouver’s Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs is the B.C. Quad-A tournament, set to tip off its four-day run March 2 at the Langley Events Centre.
After that, it’s a bold new NCAA Div. 1 adventure in the Big Sky Conference this coming fall with the Montana State Bobcats.
Dykstra can’t wait, yet right now, nothing is more important to her than leading her fellow ‘Dawgs on a lengthy post-season run as Churchill goes to the Big Dance for the first time since its back-to-back trips in 2015 and ’16.
“I am very excited for my summer coming up, I am heading (to Montana State) in June,” begins Dykstra, who has averaged 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists per game over what has been, due to the pandemic, her first and only season at the senior varsity level.
“But I want to make the most of this high school season,” continued Dykstra, who in her team’s win over the Highlanders contributed, amongst a plethora of stat sheet-stuffings numbers, 10 points, 15 rebounds, eight blocks and five assists. “It’s an urgency I have been feeling… I want to prove to myself, and to others, that I have the ability to lead a team. I want to finish this season strong… and not rush through it.”
That sentiment is likely music to the ears of Montana State’s veteran head coach Tricia Binford whose praise of Dykstra’s overall game on National Letter of Intent Day back on Nov. 10 left little doubt as to expanse of her new recruit’s overall game.
“Marah will play the four for us as she’s a post that can take it off the rim, take it coast-to-coast and make decisions in the open court,” said Binford.
That 94-foot mentality was certainly on display this past December when Dykstra and the rest of a talented Bulldogs team took part in the 10th annual Tsumura Basketball Invitational on the same LEC court on which the provincials will be staged in just 11 days.
And now that Dykstra, 17, has been bitten by the weight-room bug, there are the added elements of power and confidence flashing through her game, one defined by the best qualities of point guard and power forward.
Ask her head coach at SWC about that, and Simon Dykstra will tell you that its no coincidence that what he came to learn rather late in his high school-to-university pathway was something his daughter was going to learn a lot earlier.
“That’s me looking back saying ‘If she is going to get tall like her dad, she needs to learn all of the different skills,” says coach Dykstra, a 1985 North Surrey Spartans grad, who self-admittedly, didn’t get on a fast track within the sport until his 11th grade year before going on to play, through the late 1980s, as a 6-foot-7 forward at Simon Fraser under both the late Stan Stewardson as well as a then-rookie head coach named Jay Triano.
Simon Dykstra grew up attending Single-A Fraser Valley Christian, where after sprouting two inches to 6-foot-6 in the summer between his Grade 9 and 10 seasons, started to take the sport more seriously, eventually transferring to the powerhouse North Surrey program, which over a nine-year span from 1975-83, appeared in five Final Fours, including top-tiered B.C. titles in 1976 and ’81, and a second-place finish in 1983.
“It was huge program at the time, but back then, I just didn’t have the skills to face the basket,” he says.
Marah Dykstra went through a similar growth spurt, adding two inches of height between her Grade 10 and 11 seasons to reach 6-foot-2.
Binford breaks down the dynamics of her game.
“She has an explosive first step, she can hit the three, and she’s relentless on the glass. On the defensive end, Marah can really turn up the pressure. She’s got good length and is a lock-down defender. Marah can impact the game on both ends of the floor.”
Adds Anthony Beyrouti, her head coach at VK Basketball: “The thing that makes her special is her versatility. Marah can go inside, defensively she is long and athletic, and for someone who is as tall as she is, she’s able to move so well. She’s added strength and it’s made her the full package.”
And as it pertains to Churchill’s run to the provincials, its the program’s first trip since the Alexa Leynes-led squad finished ninth five seasons ago.
This time around, the glue factor Marah Dykstra provides can’t be overlooked.
“She has always wanted to be a willing passer and always feels as good about the assist as the score,” says Simon Dykstra, whose younger daughter Louise, a 6-footer in the 10th grade, also plays on the team. “At times it can be a bit frustrating because you might want her to test the defence herself a bit more, but everyone loves to play with her because she is always looking to the open player. She’s a team player, but this season she’s taken a bit more of the scoring responsibility on her shoulders.”
Which all gets back to the fact that she is savouring the days of her final high school season without taking her eyes off the ultimate prize: Working for the chance to share a B.C. title with her teammates, especially fellow seniors Claire Huang, Amber Hemrich, Maddie Murray and Keziah Reimer.
“It has been huge for our team,” she explains of growing together from JV through the cancelled 2020-21 season and arriving as one of the top contenders at Quad-A.
“For the last year-and-a-half we’ve been in the open gyms together, putting in extra work and just preparing for this,” Dykstra explains of herself and her teammates. “We’ve wanted to make a statement that Vancouver schools can be a powerhouse as long as we put the work in. So the last 18 months, my teammates and I have been pushing each other to have a breakout season.”
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