4A No. 2 RIVERSIDE 86 4A No. 4 BURNABY CENTRAL 81
LANGLEY — It may be cliche to say that the numbers have told the story here all week at TBI 2023 for the defending B.C. Quad-A champion Riverside Rapids.
Yet simple math, when used in the right context, turns out to be a pretty telling way to examine some of the intangibles, like its figurative emotional switchboard.
In short, what turns on their lights.
Ask head coach Paul Langford about how much his team was smarting heading into TBI this week hot on the heels of a 14-point loss to the Argyle Pipers, a loss which displaced them from the No. 1 spot in the B.C. Quad-A rankings, and the veteran skipper offered his inquisitor his team’s new definition of taking an ‘L’.
“We don’t call them losses, we call them lessons,” said Langford, whose team likely learned some more of those Friday night, while at the same time avoiding the more traditional part of its description in an 86-81 TBI semifinal victory over its arch-rivals, the Burnaby Central Wildcats.
“And we need them,” he continued. “We’ve got a lot of our kids back and so they think ‘OK, we’re going to be really good’. We get ranked No. 1. It’s really just a bunch of peoples’ opinion. We have to prove it, and Argyle played us really well. They beat us by 14. They got out and they beat us.”
Now comes the task of facing North Delta’s Seaquam Seahawks today (4:45 p.m., Langley Events Centre, South Court) in TBI’s marquee championship final.
And getting back to our opening remarks about numbers telling the story, it’s important to examine the simple equation which attempts to tell us just how dangerous Riverside is when its team identity is thrown into question following a loss.
And it’s a threat response best defined by the team’s opening-round TBI win this past Wednesday.
In that game, its first following its loss in Victoria last week to Argyle, the freshly-minted No. 2 Rapids defeated the No. 7-ranked G.W. Graham Grizzlies by a whopping 54 points, 92-38.
Say what you want, but that score, out of the 24 games played in the Super 16 draw the first three days, is an absolute outlier.
The circuits within Riverside’s fight-or-flight schematic had been so overloaded that the Rapids came out and went on a game-opening 44-9 run en route to their win.
And for the record, G.W. Graham has been one of the best teams in the field these last two games, showing all the team chemistry and bounce-back resilience its head coach Sarah Mouritzen needed to see in both a 63-62 win over Quad-A No. 6 Okanagan Mission and then a 60-50 win over Double-A No. 2 Langley Christian.
On Friday, against a league foe which might know them better than any other team in the province, the Rapids might have been taught a more traditonal lesson by the Wildcats.
Riverside, behind one of the most comprehensive performances of guard Avery Sussex’s Rapids’ career, had actually built their lead over No. 4 Burnaby Central to a surprising 23 points (71-48) late in the third quarter.
But it was then that the ‘Cats guard Ankita Chopra caught fire, scoring 19 of her team-high 28 points over the fourth quarter in what was eventually a well-trimmed 86-81 Riverside win.
For the record, you run out of superlatives to describe what Sussex means to her team.
On her best nights, and Friday’s 41-point showing was clearly one of them, she is proving every critic wrong who said she didn’t have a money three-ball, all the while continuing to prove that as her game has matured, she has made the difficult appear simple as much through her intuitiveness as anything else.
Jorja Hart with 18 points and Annabelle Neufeld with 12 gave Riverside its top three scorers on the night. Kierra Blundell scored 22 more for Burnbay Central while Vobia Kalome added 16.
So how does Riverside enter today’s title tilt against Seaquam coming off a fourth quarter in which, while never fully threatened, seemed something of a departure from its aforementioned opening salvo at TBI four days ago?
From their perspective, that is the big question.
“We’re going into a juggernaut,” Langford admitted.
It’s the same sentiment anyone who has watched more than a quarter or two of the Seahawks games woudl agree with.
“Seaquam is young, they’re long, they have everything, shooting, post moves, whatever. They are at the top of their game right now.”
Interesting to note that over the first three days of play in the Super 16 bracket, only six of the 24 games played have had margins of victory of 20 points or more.
There is the 48-point Riverside win, then other wins of 24, 21, 28, 22 and 27 points.
The other 18 games have been hotly-contested affairs and 11 of those have been decided by 10 or fewer points (9, 8, 8, 8, 6, 1, 3, 2, 1, 10, 5).
Overall, when you add all the numbers up including the Riverside-G.W. Graham game, the first 24 games of the Super 16 draw have been decided by an average of 13.2 points.
The hope heading into this afternoon is that all of that continues in what has been the most competitive bracket ever here at the girls Tsumura Basketball Invitaitonal.
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