LANGLEY — The Walnut Grove Gators and the Abbotsford Panthers have been applauded for playing beyond their years as a pair of the youngest title-contending teams in the recent history of B.C. senior varsity girls basketball.
Both the Gators and the Panthers remain among the survivors heading into Saturday morning’s Final Four here at the 2017 Tsumura Basketball Invitational.
But instead of being the two youngest teams, Walnut Grove with its Grade 11 star Tavia Rowell, and Abby with its Grade 10 star Marin Lenz (along with Grade 12 sister Sienna, working her way back from injury), are actually a lot more experienced than the other two teams taking part in the semifinals.
Yes, PoCo’s Riverside Rapids are led on many nights by a Grade 9 standout named Sammy Shields, and the rest of their team is entirely comprised of 11th grade talent.
And Surrey’s Semiahmoo Totems are comprised almost entirely of ninth graders.
Put those contrasts together and it looks to be a memorable Saturday.
Semifinals go at 10:45 a.m. with the grand master championship finale at 8 p.m.
Here’s a schedule, followed by game reports, including all four quarterfinals and all four consolation games played Friday:
Semiahmoo vs. Walnut Grove
Riverside vs. Abbotsford
Championship final — 8 p.m.
RIVERSIDE 79 LORD TWEEDSMUIR 75
LANGLEY — The Riverside Rapids got a little too far downstream in the early stages of their quarterfinal against defending B.C. AAA champion Lord Tweedsmuir.
In fact, at 27-11, you were almost ready to start penciling the Panthers into Saturday’s final four.
Instead, a patient comeback rally unfolded, and led by the 31 points of Grade 11 Jessica Parker, Riverside rallied to edge the champs.
“We were very streaky, up and down, and we started slow,” admitted Rapids’ coach Jeremy Neufeld, “but we battled back. I just told the girls that they didn’t have to try to get it all back at once. They just had to keep chipping away at hit. I liked how they came back, and how they played a possession game.”
Parker had 22 points at the half, and by that stage, Riverside had pulled to within 45-42.
Sammy Shields added 21 points and Tessa Burton 18 as the three-headed attack spread the wealth throughout the game.
Tweedsmuir had four double-figure scorers on the night.
Harneet Sidhu and Breanne Homeniuk each scored 19 points while India Aikens had 17 and Alyza Aikens 10.
ABBOTSFORD 74 HERITAGE WOODS 62
LANGLEY — Sienna Lenz may be playing under a time limit of 20 minutes per game, but if anything, the fast-healing senior guard with the Abbotsford Panthers is making every minute count in her rehab from ACL surgery.
Lenz scored a game-high 23 points, 19 of which came in the second half Friday, as Abby held back Port Moody’s Heritage Woods Kodiaks 74-62 in a TBI quarterfinals clash.
“We’ve now played two gritty games in a row,” said Abby head coach Prentice Lenz, whose charges rallied in the second half Thursday to top North Vancouver’s St. Thomas Aquinas. “Heritage Woods brought great intensity. The question for us was how to handle their defensive pressure and they gave us a great test.”
The Kodiaks got to within five points at 49-44 but Abby’s 28-point fourth quarter wound up being too much for Heritage Woods to handle.
Sydney Fetterly added 17 points to the winning cause, Marin Lenz 16 and Kelsey Roufosse 10.
Jenna Griffin, the Kodiaks’ guard, was once again impressive with a team-high 21 points. Hailey Counsell added 17 points.
“We’re just happy to be playing (on the championship side of the draw),” added coach Lenz.
Abbotsford defeated Brookswood last season in the 2016 TBI final, a springboard to the rest of the season which included a loss to Lord Tweedsmuir in last March’s B.C. AAA championship game.
SEMIAHMOO 64 CARSON GRAHAM 59
LANGLEY — Raushan Bindra’s clutch three-point basket with 46.7 seconds remaining helped stem the tide as the youthful Semiahmoo Totems continued their senior varsity breakout weekend here at the 2017 Tsumura Basketball Invitational.
Bindra’s shot, from the top of the arc, put the Totems up 63-59 and proved to be the margin-making difference maker in a 64-59 win over North Vancouver’s Carson Graham Eagles in a nail-biting quarterfinal.
The two teams took turns exchanging fourth-quarter runs, the Totems using a 12-0 run to take a 51-46 lead, and the Eagles responding with one of their own to pull within 55-53.
For Semiahmoo head coach Allison McNeill, the comeback aspect of the victory, which came down the stretch drive of the contest from a group of largely Grade 9 players, was especially telling.
“That was fun to watch,” the former Oregon Ducks, SFU Clan and Canadian senior women’s national team head coach said after the win. “We learned a lot about ourselves today.”
Grade 9 Tara Wallack, whose incredible blend of athleticism and balance made her a constant threat, scored a team-high 29 points.
Guard Deja Lee scored 13 points, and forward Izzy Forsyth added 11.
The Eagles, who led 31-24 at the half, got a game-high 31 points from UBC-bound forward Tanis Metcalfe. Hannah Channon with 13 points and Alex Walker with 11 also reached double figures in scoring for the Eagles.
The Totems will face No. 1-ranked Walnut Grove in Saturday’s 10:45 a.m. semifinal round.
WALNUT GROVE 93 CLAREMONT 66
LANGLEY — Tavia Rowell led four Gators in double-figures with 29 points as Walnut Grove reached the TBI semifinals.
Jess Wisotzki scored 19 points while Rolande Taylor and Sophia Wisotzki had 14 each.
Chlor Scaber scored a game-high 34 points in the loss for the Spartans who trailed 49-28 at halftime.
The game was an about-face in terms of the intensity the Gators were able to bring, one night after East Van’s Britannia Bruins did a lot to dictate defensive tempo against B.C.’s No. 1-ranked team.
G.W. GRAHAM 60 ARGYLE 51
LANGLEY — Jaya Bannerman hit a pair of threes and went six-for-six from the stripe over the second half as Chilliwack’s G.W. Graham Grizzlies held off an inspired 31-point performance from Georgia Swant to topple North Vancouver’s Argyle Pipers.
Bannerman led three Grizzlies in double-figure scoring with 19 points, with Julia Sprott adding 14 points and Sydney Fraess adding another 12.
The Simon Fraser-bound Swant scored 13 of her 31 in the fourth quarter, hitting a trio of treys in the final stanza.
The Pipers trailed by as many as 14 points late in the third quarter but pulled to within six at 51-45 down the fourth-quarter stretch drive.
BRITANNIA 61 R.A. MCMATH 43
LANGLEY — Dynamic point guard Shemiah Abatayo poured home a game-high 21 points, all through the first three quarters of play, guiding East Vancouver’s Britannia Bruins to a comfortable win over Richmond’s Wildcats.
The Bruins held McMath to just a pair of fourth-quarter field goals in the victory as forward Malena Mokhovikova and guard Karalee Antoine scored 13 and 12 points respectively.
Martha Malaku led the ‘Cats with 13 points while Abby Zawada added 12.
BROOKSWOOD 67 SULLIVAN HEIGHTS 62
LANGLEY — The Brookswood Bobcats started slow but finished with a flurry.
Trailing 41-27 midway through the third quarter, the last season’s TBI finalists closed on a mighty run, completing a 19-point swing from their largest deficit to topple Surrey’s Sullivan Heights Stars 67-62 in the first round of consolation bracket play Friday morning.
Jenna Dick also saved her best for last as the ‘Cats guard exploded for 10 of her game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter.
Forward Brooklyn Golt with 14 points and guard Janessa Knapp with 10 helped the Langley squad’s cause.
Emma Kramer continued her prolific pace with a game-high 32 points while Jessica Hernandez added 10 points in the loss.
SOUTH KAMLOOPS 47 ST. THOMAS AQUINAS 45
LANGLEY — Short-staffed but not short of effort, the South Kam Titans went on an 8-0 game-ending run to rally past North Vancouver’s Fighting Saints.
Katherine Walkley scored eight of her game-high 16 points in the fourth quarter, including the winning trey that represented the last bucket of the game.
Teammate Maddy Gobeil added 14 points, and she got them the hard way, sinking a pair of field goals and going 10-of-12 from the charity stripe.
Forwards Jessica Clarke and Gemma Cutler each scored 12 points in the loss for STA.
The South Kam defensive effort yielded just six opposition field goals over the entire second half of play.
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