Kelowna's Paige Watson (left) tries to slow STA's Kristinn Black on Saturday at the LEC. (Howard Tsumura, Varsity Letters photo)
Feature High School Girls Basketball

STA’s Fighting Saints cap dream season for girls basketball at North Van school

LANGLEY — They did not field a girls basketball team at the senior varsity level in 2016-17, but North Vancouver’s St. Thomas Aquinas Fighting Saints still had what could only be described as a dream hoops season.

One week after the Fighting Saints won the B.C. Grade 9 title, they stepped up to an even bigger stage, claiming the Telus 2017 B.C. junior girls basketball championships, topping the Kelowna Owls 49-27 on Saturday at the Langley Events Centre.

Behind the play of 6-foot-1 Grade 9 post Jessica Clarke, who scored a team-high 15 points, STA continued to build momentum throughout the second half, maintaining a healthy double-digit cushion despite the excellence of Kelowna’s Jaeli Ibbetson, who poured home a game-high 21 points, including 5-of-6 shooting from the free-throw line.

Clarke teammed with her older sister, 5-foot-11 forward Rebecca, and together, the pair were a twin towers presence that befuddled everyone they were matched against over the week.

“I know Jessica looks tall in stature,” said STA head coach John Prescott, “but she is still very much everyone’s little sister. She is a December baby.”

And a 2002 birth year to boot!

All that said, Prescott loved the total team effort of his team against a very deep and talented Owls squad.

St. Thomas Aquinas came out with intense zone pressure, shuttling guards in an out like they stepping off an escalator, and all brought the same mindset to their work, disrupting the Owls and turning turnovers into points.

Olivia Thorpe, Pasley VanderMye, Kristinn Black, Jane Darby and Sophia Panzetta were among that group of Grade 10s.

“Our guards were spectacular, we’re just very speedy,” said Prescott. “What we tell our kids is, you give us three hard minutes, and then we’ll get your best friend in and she’ll give us three hard minutes. It’s a real committee and it worked out well because Kelowna is such a deep team. We were worried and our guards really had to step up.”

VanderMye added 10 points in the win for STA.

Jessica Clarke, Caelan Prescott and Gemma Cutler all played on the STA team which won the B.C. Grade 9 title last week.

STA led 21-10 at halftime.

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