RIVERSIDE 73 BURNABY CENTRAL 53
By Howard Tsumura
LANGLEY — Don’t try tell Paul Langford that his Quad-A No. 1-ranked Riverside Rapids are advancing to the Tsumura Basketball Invitational Super 16 Final Four on the strength of a 20-point win over the Burnaby Central Wildcats.
Sure, the Rapids beat the Burnaby Central Wildcats 73-53 in the quarters on Thursday night, but if you watched the South Court clash between the pair of Fraser North zone rivals, you know that the Wildcats are looking more and more like the fly in the ointment of the province’s top Quad-A contenders three weeks into a new season.
The Wildcats overwhelmed Surrey’s Fleetwood Park Dragons in Wednesday’s opening round, and on Thursday their energy seemed just as contagious against the Rapids as they pulled their way to within 34-33 and later 37-35 at the half.
“Burnaby Central was very, very good… very good,” began Langford, whose team never fully looked ready to close out the contest until perhaps midway through the fourth quarter. “They are outstanding. They shoot the ball extremely well. They have a bunch of ballers and they gave us nothing but fits in the first half. We just didn’t have an answer.”
In the second half, however, they did.
Grade 11 point guard Avery Sussex scored a game-high 26 points, and the senior 6-foot-2, SFU-bound post Natalie Curley aded 23 more, the same point total that senior guard Jade Huynh tallied to lead the Wildcats.
Grade 11 5-foot-10 post Olivia Wheatley with 10 and Grade 10 guard Jorja Hart with eight chipped in for the Rapids while Grade 11 guard Jayla Huynh had nine for Burnaby Central. Forwards Valentina Brida and Ankita Chopra had eight apiece in the loss.
“I like that our kids took halftime seriously and came out and we were better,” said Langford, who added that the injury bug has struck the team early.
Both 5-foot-10 senior Alexis Hart and 5-foot-8 forward Rae Raycroft, both expected to be established part of the rotation, have suffered potentially season-ending knee injuries.
Riverside will now advance to face the Okanagan-Mission Huskies in a 7:45 p.m. semifinal contest Friday on Centre Court at the LEC.
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