Riverside's Avery Sussex (left) and Riverside's Grace Bradshaw turned in two of reporter Howard Tsumura's most impressive moments over the course of the BC senior girls high school basketball championships. And none of them had anything to do with statistics. (Photos by Wilson Wong and Garrett James property of Langley Events Centre, TFSE 2024. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Girls Basketball

The story of Grace and Avery: On a red-letter day for BC girls hoop, two high school seniors show, through their incredible selflessness, why our great game has never stopped doing what it does best!

LANGLEY — There is a good case to make for Saturday’s menu of four B.C. senior girls basketball provincial championship finals as the stuff which constitutes the greatest single day in the history of the girls high school game in this province.

The Double-A, Triple-A and Quad-A games were all decided by six points, each characterized by game-defining runs, and each, at one point in their respective fourth quarters, either tied or just a single point apart.

And while the girls 1A game which got the whole day rolling had the audacity to be an eight-point contest, the tier’s debut at the LEC gave it more widespread acceptance and respect than any other single mechanism could have provided.

Yet there is always so much more going on in the actual trenches of a championship Saturday, and after sifting through the scrums and chasing down those I wanted to interview, two unique special student-athletes emerged from the maelstrom of post-game joy and sorrow.

One of the comments comes from perhaps the most-quoted girls high school player in B.C. the past two seasons: Riverside senior guard Avery Sussex.

The second comes from someone you may or may not know, but whose story of perseverance to come back from injury is stirring enough that I have also had the past honour of telling the story of her struggles as well: Langley Christian senior guard Grace Bradshaw.

Here are there stories:

In a battle of stars, Seaquam’s Camryn Tait (left) is guarded by Riverside’s Avery Sussex. Tait was later named Top Defensive Player while Sussex copped the MVP award during Championship Saturday action at the B.C. Quad-A championship final March 2, 2024 at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Wilson Wong property of Langley Events Centre 2024. All Rights Reserved)


In one of our many post-game scrums, longtime friend and former Province newspaper colleague Steve Ewen and I were interviewing Riverside’s Sussex following her incredible 35-point outing Saturday in the Rapids’ Quad-A final loss against Seaquam. I asked Sussex for her feelings on winning the MVP award on a night when her team was not able to win the title.

While not suggesting for a second that winning MVP was not anything but the highest individual honour a player could receive, she spoke to the strength of her convictions that the award should go to a player on the winning team.

“It’s tough because I’d rather have the team thing,” she said. “I feel bad getting it (coming from) the losing team because the winner deserves it.”

There was no question Sussex was disappointed at not winning MVP last season when her team won the title, yet at that moment Saturday, with her high school career officially over for about 15 minutes, she once again spoke to her convictions.

“(Seaquam’s) Camryn Tait is an outstanding player and I would have given it to her right away,” she said of the same player named TBI MVP back in December when Seaquam beat Riverside here at the LEC. “But I am grateful I got it because it makes me feel a bit better after losing.”

Unbeknownst to me, Ewen had seen Sussex approach Tait after the game and the two players spoke briefly and when he asked Sussex about it, she confirmed that she felt Tait, who scored 20 points on Saturday and had been her team’s best player throughout the four days of competition, should have been presented with the precious bauble.

Approached later and asked about the incredible generosity of character displayed by Sussex after her team had just given up a 10-point lead to start the fourth quarter en route to a loss in the biggest of the season, Tait was genuinely touched.

“She said ‘The losing team should never get MVP and I am proud of you buddy’,” explained Tait. “But she is obviously an amazing player and I am super happy for her. I think she deserved it fully.”


If you watched that game in person, you know it was a physical, chippy affair. 

Yet after tears of both joy and sorrow are shed, and the respective principle players on each team show that kind of class?

Seaquam head coach Lucky Toor was awed by Sussex’s actions and of course fiercely proud of his own player Tait.

“Camryn 100 per cent could have been the MVP and she has been our MVP all season long,” Toor said, “and Avery is such a class act, through and through, and so I think it’s great that we have an all-time tournament great able to walk away with that award.”

All of that is what truly tells you Saturday might have been the greatest single day of B.C. girls high school basketball.

Langley Christian’s Grace Bradshaw battled to get back on the court and win the provincial title Saturday that she was too injured to help win two seasons ago. But instead of talking about herself in the post-game, the Lightning’s blue collar guard sent her thoughts to another talented player… one she hasn’t even met. (Photo by Garrett James property of Langley Events Centre 2024. All Rights Reserved)


She’s the heart-and-soul veteran of the Langley Christian Lightning and with her free throw shooting prowess and three-point marksmanship, got a chance to play a huge role in her team’s 75-69 win over the Mulgrave Titans in the B.C. Double-A final on Saturday.

And as we watched her do it Saturday, it was impossible not to reference Bradshaw still wearing the bulky knee brace which for the past two seasons so easily connects her with her past.

When I asked her what winning a B.C. title meant to her after having most of her Grade 9 and 10 seasons wiped out by not only an ACL injury but a slow and complicated recovery, Bradshaw spoke only briefly about her current situation, preferring instead to send a message to another player, someone she does not even personally know… yet knows all too well of the struggle she had gone through this season.

“Today I am living my dream, but it’s so hard to put into words,” she continued, her voice tempered by her past battles through physical rehab combined with the fact that in her final high school game, she could score 13 points to help bring a title to her school.

I was starting to realize that Bradshaw, whom I could tell was fighting off tears as we spoke, was trying to find a way to talk about someone other than herself.

Of course I let her finish.

“I know there is a girl on the other team that is going through it, and I just feel for her so deeply for her … Ava, I think,” she said referencing Mulgrave’s 6-foot standout point guard Ava Wilson.

“It’s so heart-breaking,” Bradshaw continued of Wilson, who was forced to miss her entire Grade 12 season with a knee injury, and who may well have been the difference in Mulgrave potentially repeating as champs. “I heard it’s the same injury that I had. It’s just a heart-breaking moment to see and I just am keeping her in my heart. It’s so hard.”

Know one knows better than Bradshaw. She was so affected by her inability to be with her teammates for parts of two whole seasons that just the news that someone else was going through the same thing became her primary focus just moments after she’d won her own title.

Two Decembers ago, in a scene I will never forget, Langley Christian was scheduled to play the opening game of the TBI 2022 girls tournament.

Bradshaw had missed, if I’m not mistaken, much or all of her Grade 9 season, and then did her best to get healthy of the 2020-21 Covid-cancelled campaign.

TBI was to be her first game at the senior varsity level, but moments before tip-off, the referees took one look at her knee brace and were concerned that it might potentially injure a player in contact and she wasn’t allowed to play with it on.

Bradshaw was floored, and her pain was palpable to her team.

She eventually did get on the floor and has been a fire-starter for her team these past two years.

And she, like Avery Sussex, gave me ample proof that we  all too often take for granted just how incredible our young student-athletes are off the court as they are on it.

I hope Sussex and Tait continue to connect and encourage other throughout their basketball careers, and I hope that Bradshaw and Wilson get a chance to break some bread together and bond over the adversities that have surely made them stronger. If they do, each pair can claim Saturday as something of a talisman for bringing them together.

“My team really rallied around me and they carried me on this long journey and … I can’t explain it,” Bradshaw said, stopping to find words the right words.

She didn’t have to. 

Nothing could be clearer.

Saturday was truly a great day.

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