Kelowna senior Jaeli Ibbetson hits the pine to maintain hold of a loose ball and gets into a battle with Abbotsford's Grade 11 star Marin Lenz on Friday at the TBI quarters, staged at the LEC. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of 2018. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Girls Basketball

TBI 2018: En route to Final Four, Ibbetson and Kelowna’s parliament of Owls show a wisdom worthy of defending B.C. AAA champs

LANGLEY — Kennedy Dickie had Canada Basketball duty this weekend, and thus had to pass on the 2018 Tsumura Basketball Invitational.

The other half of the defending B.C. AAA championship team’s deadly front-court, however, was able to make the trip, and as far as Jaeli Ibbetson is concerned, the short-term pain of Dickie’s absence is going to end up equaling a long-term gain for a Kelowna Owls team looking for more leaders to step up and be counted.

“I have just kind of encouraged everyone,” the 6-foot Ibbetson said Friday, after she scored a game-high 22 points in Kelowna’s 73-50 quarterfinal win over the Abbotsford Panthers at the Langley Events Centre.

Kelowna will face PoCo’s Riverside Rapids in a 10:45 a.m. semifinal Saturday. At 12:30 it’s an all-Langley derby as Brookswood and Walnut Grove do battle. Saturday’s final tips off at 8 p.m. with all championship draw games taking place on the LEC’s centre court.

“Before the game, we had our talk and I told them that they can shoot,” continued Ibbetson of a rising-and-talented group of Grade 11s who are still looking for their senior varsity identity at this early juncture of the 2018-19 campaign. “I told them that we need people to take shots with Kennedy not here. Usually they don’t because we do it so much, but if they’re open they need to step up and they all did it today.”

Two of those 11s, both 5-foot-7 guards in fact, had stellar days.

Japleen Chahal scored 19 points and Kassidy Day another 11 in the win as Kelowna turned a 45-33 lead in the third quarter into an impenetrable 60-33 advantage early in the fourth quarter on the wings of a 15-0 run.

During that surge, Chahal hit a pair of treys and went five-for-five from the charity stripe.

And defensively?

“We’re doing pretty good with help defence and shutting down the main players we have to,” continued Ibbetson. “Like today, we really focussed on shutting down (guard) Marin (Lenz).”

Abbotsford’s Riya Sahota (left) finds her baseline drive to the goal made a little more bumpy by Kelowna’s Japleen Chahal during TBI quarterfinal clash Friday at the LEC. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of 2018. All Rights Reserved)

Lenz scored 42 points the night before in a win over G.W. Graham. On Friday, playing against an Owls’ team which last season won the provincial crown by leaning on its defensive identity, she was still the Panthers most effective scorer and finished with 16 points.

Beryl Kithinji aded 11 points while Kelsey Roufosse and Riya Sahota each scored six.

And even though this season’s returning Owls have crossed through the mental barrier of winning a provincial title, Ibbetson says there is never anything about the process that will be taken for granted.

“I honestly think it makes me even more hungry for this year because that feeling was honestly, the best feeling of my entire life…winning the provincials last year.”

She adds that advancing as far into the TBI draw as they have without Dickie just gives everyone on the roster an added level of belief in the team’s overall talent.

“Our whole team has talked about that,” she says. “Even without Kennedy here, beating these good teams without her is making us want to keep winning and winning.

After losing to Semiahmoo last week (in the finals of the UFV Cascades Invitational),” she added, “we want to step up our game and keep getting better.”

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