NO. 2 TERRY FOX 69, NO. 15 JOHN OLIVER 37
By Dan Kinvig (Special to Varsity Letters)
LANGLEY — Sometimes, a simple game of basketball carries profound meaning that extends well beyond the final score.
For the No. 15-seeded John Oliver Jokers, simply taking the court at the LEC on Wednesday was a matter of significance.
The Vancouver program was making its first provincial tournament appearance since 1993 – a span of 27 years – and the Jokers’ every move, no matter the score, was cheered on by a raucous crowd of supporters.
Heavily favoured Terry Fox of Port Coquitlam, meanwhile, did what was expected of them, punching their ticket to the 4A quarter-finals.
Yet the time-capsule moment for the Ravens wasn’t a layup, a steal, or a three; rather, it came with 30.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter, when Grade 10 guard Karin Khuong took the court with 30.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter to a standing ovation from the Fox faithful.
After battling Stage 4 cancer throughout her Grade 9 year, Khuong briefly returned to the court in December, but the cancer has recently recurred.
“January has been a rough time for our team,” Ravens coach Mike Carkner acknowledged afterward. “But we managed to get it together and get through the zones and play well. I think the kids are realizing Karin gets a lot of joy just being on the bench with our team. It’s been such a heavy month, and it was nice to see her get into the game tonight.”
Khuong, who was all smiles while snapping a few passes around the perimeter, called it “a special moment to be on the court.”
“I haven’t played in a while, and they wanted to make this moment special for me, and they definitely did,” she said. “It meant a lot.”
As for the game itself, the Ravens raced out to a 25-8 lead at the end of the first quarter, and were in control from there.
Alisha Weloy (16 points), Ana-Maria Misic (15) and Emily Sussex (12) scored in double figures for the winners, who advance to face Lord Tweedsmuir at 3 p.m. in the quarter-finals on Thursday.
Rachel Labrador had a heroic performance in defeat for John Oliver, racking up a game-high 20 points to go with six rebounds and two steals.
Queenie Salazar (seven points, eight rebounds) and Kaila Fona (six points, seven boards) also chipped in for the Jokers.
Longtime John Oliver head coach Pat Lee was sporting black basketball stripes dyed into his hair, honouring a commitment he made to his team over 10 years ago to dye his hair if the Jokers ever made it to the Big Dance. He lauded the power of sport to tighten community bonds.
“We’ve had alumni from ’71 come back,” he marveled. “We’ve had alumni from our last provincials team in ’93 make an appearance at a pep rally yesterday. The basketball is secondary. It’s bringing the community together, past and present. It’s something that these guys will never forget.”
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