LANGLEY — On the eve of the B.C. senior girls basketball championships, it’s time to fill in some of the little-known details of the season, all of which are a part of the legacy of the 48 teams set to tip off a four-day run Wednesday at the Langley Events Centre.
So after about a decade in mothballs, how about the return of Howie’s High School Hamper!
1 THE UBUNTU OF OKM
Take a look at back of those Okanagan Mission Huskies warm-up shirts and you see the two words: NNEQSILT and UBUNTU.
Ask head coach Meghan Faust to explain, and her answer encapsulates the two most important aspects of the Quad-A No. 2-seeded Huskies team culture.
NNEQSILT, translated in the Syilx Traditional language means ‘family’.
“There are several reasons for this connection on our shirts,” explains Faust, “one of which is that we have a very diverse group this year, but we are very much a family.”
The other is UBUNTU, and it comes from a Zulu phrase which translates as “… a person can only be a person through others.”
Faust learned of philosophy during an episode of Netflix’s docu-series ‘The Playbook: A Coach’s Rules for Life’ featuring NBA coach Doc Rivers.
“Our team really embodies the ‘others above the self’ idea,” continued Faust.
Of course, the Kelowna squad has lived those ideals as a team for a number of years.
When OKM played at provincials in 2020, the team rented an entire house for the duration of their stay, and they are doing the same thing again this week as they come back to the Langley Events Centre, the place they like to consider their hoops home-away-from-home following a thrilling 2019 TBI championship final victory.
When asked about their adversities over the past two years, Faust spoke for so many up-country teams who were unable to follow their athlete-development plans due to unforseen happenings.
“I think our whole team overcoming COVID last year, then being faced with the challenge of no travel due to the natural disaster, and being challenged with the no tournament rule,” began Faust.
“Not being able to travel and play teams on the coast was a huge barrier to our development.”she explained. “Not many teams on the coast are faced with the obstacle and challenge of travel over the Coquihalla and it is a challenge often overlooked. When we saw pictures of the Coquihalla after the damage, all our dreams of a ‘normal’ season, and a season that included provincials, were in doubt, but traveling on it for the first time after the damage was such an incredible experience.
“We were so happy to travel down and be able to play Riverside and Terry Fox. We cannot thank them enough for hosting us those two weekends.”
2 TIES THAT BIND
Sure, they are coming in as the No. 1 seed in the the province’s largest tier, yet nothing about making what is now a 16th trip to the provincials since 2004 ever gets old for Port Coquitlam’s Riverside Rapids.
In fact, there’s a direct link from that first-ever Rapids’ B.C. tourney qualifier and this season’s.
Megan McAlister, the team’s gutsy and fearless point guard on its maiden 2004 tourney entry now has a niece playing on the current Riverside team in Annabelle Neufeld, a 5-foot-9 Grade guard.
McAlister went on to play for the Fraser Valley Cascades, closing out her U Sports career in 2008-09 as she helped that program transition from its former CCAA roots.
3 DIGGING THEIR HOOPS
At least two student-athletes taking part in the provincials this week at the LEC will be completing the fall-winter double as multi-sport athletes of note.
Claremont’s 6-foot-1 forward Olivia Boulding has been an automatic double-double for her Victoria-based Spartans, who face the Kelowna Owls in their 10:15 a.m. opener Wednesday.
And West Vancouver’s 5-foot-10 forward Libby Meldrum has been the glue on her Highlanders’ team which draw a tough opening-round match-up against the 2020 finalist Terry Fox Ravens of Port Coquitlam at 5:15 p.m.
Both were chosen by the head coaches of B.C.’s Canada West university volleyball programs as among the Top 10 high school volleyball players in the province.
Claremont’s Boulding, an outside hitter, was picked the No. 2 overall player and will begin her volleyball career next season at Montana.
Meldrum, a setter on the volleyball court, finished in a tie for sixth overall in the Varsity Letters’ poll and will play at Thompson Rivers University.
And speaking of multi-sport athletes, there’s a pretty talented one on the roster of the Double-A Collingwood Cavaliers of West Vancouver.
When the Cavs take on St. Michaels University School of Victoria in a 1:45 p.m. game on Wednesday, senior Monique Kelly, a 5-foot-10 forward, will look to finish off her high school hoops career on the right foot after suffering a number of concussions throughout her career.
Kelly was the keeper on the 2019 Cavs team that won a B.C. high school field hockey championship and she’s also on the Canadian Under-21 netball team.
4 THE JOY OF JAYA.. AND KIM!
Kamloops’ Valleyview Vikings, the second-place finishers from the Triple-A Thompson-Okanagan zone, will face the Pitt Meadows Marauders in Wednesday’s opening round, and leading the way will be the team’s 6-foot-1 senior Jaya Saroya, whose penchant for shooting the ball has been amongst the very best in program history.
Besides breaking the school’s single-game record for most points in a game this season with 39, a contest in which she set another school record with eight three-pointers, Saroya drained seven triples in a B.C. tourney-clinching 71-47 victory in the semifinals of the Thompson-Okanagan zone tournament.
And speaking of of school records, Kim Dy-Tiu (pronounced dee-too), a 5-foot-3 guard with Richmond’s A.R. MacNeill Ravens, wrote her own chapter with the Double-A team, which opens against Notre Dame in the Double-A draw at 12 noon.
No girls or boys player in Ravens’ hoops history had ever scored the 57 points that she had managed earlier this season.
5 THREE TO WATCH
While the Double-A No. 1-seeded Langley Christian Lightning boast a senior trio of players in Sydney Bradshaw (TWU), Lainey Shelvey (SFU) and Taelor Coxford (UBC) all headed to Canadian university hoops programs next season, the tier’s No. 2 seeds boasts a similar, albeit younger gaggle of its own.
West Vancouver’s Mulgrave Titans have a core of Grade 10 players which has powered the team all season, including to a 91-76 win over Triple-A No. 1 Burnaby Central.
Eva Ruse, Ava Wilson, Jenna Talib and Lucy Xu comprise that youthful but talented quartet for head coach Claude Leduc.
The 6-foot-2 Ruse was the MVP of the recent Sea-to-Sky zones where the Titans topped tourney No. 3-seed York House 66-44 in its final.
6 FIRST TIME.. OR A LONG TIME
New schools experiencing the thrill of first-time-ever at the championships this week, and others ending dryspells, often times longer than the ages of the players themselves?
It’s one of the special parts of qualifying for an event that offers no easy tickets.
The South Delta Sun Devils understand that.
Ranked for much of the year in the Quad-A Top 10, Tsawwassen’s Sun Devils are making their first trip to senior girls provincials in 17 years.
It’s been even longer for South Delta’s crosstown-city rivals, North Delta’s Seaquam Seahawks, who have not been to the B.C.’s in 30 years, way back in 1991-92.
Seaquam is not only back at senior, but its junior girls enter the JV provincial draw with the No. 2 overall seed.
And the drought is even a year longer for a certain Prince George school.
The former Kelly Road Roadrunners are making their first trip since 1990-91, and this time around they not only have a new school name, but a new nickname as well.
In 2020 the school became Shas Ti Kelly Road, and with the change adopted the new nickname of Grizzlies.
Shas Ti comes from the language of the Dakelh, a First Nations people of region, and is translates as Grizzly Trail.
The longest draught of them all, however, will come to an end when Port Alberni’s Alberni District Armada tip off Wednesday, 2:30 p.m. in the Triple-A draw against Kamloops’ Sa-Hali Sabres.
The Armada senior girls had last qualified in the 1986-87 season, a span of some 35 years.
There’s also the first-timers.
The Abbotsford Traditional Titans, A.R. MacNeill Ravens of Richmond, and Surrey’s Salish Wolves will all be looking to build basketball tradition on the shoulders of their respective 2022 Big Dance debuts.
And, of course, there is what is perhaps the longest active streak of tournament qualification to salute.
The Vernon Panthers, a No. 10 seed at Triple A, are making a 17th straight appearance.
Basketball is back. It’s a gift. Let’s be safe and let’s all enjoy!
If you’re reading this story or viewing these photos on any website other than one belonging to a university athletic department, it has been taken without appropriate permission. In these challenging times, true journalism will survive only through your dedicated support and loyalty. VarsityLetters.ca and all of its exclusive content has been created to serve B.C.’s high school and university sports community with hard work, integrity and respect. Feel free to drop us a line any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.