Robert Bateman guard Cally Izbicki, part of a small core of returning seniors, helps lead host Robert Bateman into the 2020 Timberwolves Classic beginning Thursday in Abbotsford. (Photo by Rick MacDonald property of Robert Bateman athletics 2020. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Girls Basketball

Timberwolves Classic 2020: In a new, four-tiered girls basketball world, Bateman’s annual 16-team classic pays homage to changing times

ABBOTSFORD — Study the draw for the 2020 Timberwolves Classic tournament at Robert Bateman Secondary this weekend, and by its composition alone, you get the truest indication of where we stand two months into the first season of four-tiered senior varsity girls basketball in the province of B.C.

Not only are 13 of the event’s 16 teams either provincially ranked or holding honourable mention status, that blue-chip group is split nearly equally between the Triple- and Quad-A tiers.

“If you take the top five in each tier, there is so much parity,” begins Robert Bateman senior girls head coach Dan Village, who beings his critique with respect to the Quad-A juggernaut Semiahmoo Totems who are in a class of their own. “The reason I like this tournament is that we try to get the best teams regardless of tier.”

Village’s T-Wolves made the B.C. tournament last season when Triple A was the top tier.

This season, after eight senior graduated, including three who moved on to university playing careers, Bateman elected to remain at Triple A, and the No. 10 Wolves enter the fray Thursday against another team which elected to remain Triple A in Richmond’s No. 3 R.A. McMath Wildcats.

When the G.W. Graham Grizzlies lost talented Grade 10 forward Julia Tuchscherer to a hand injury in early December, senior guard Sydney Owens stepped up her game. This weekend she helps lead the Grizz into the 2020 Timberwolves Classic in Abbotsford. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of 2020. All Rights Reserved)

Chilliwack’s G.W. Graham Grizzlies, an honourable mention in the latest provincial Triple A poll, is a former Double-A powerhouse which elected to move up this season.

Grizzlies head coach Sarah Mouritzen, like Village, favours any tournament setting where quality competition remains the signature.

Yet while she is reserving judgement early in the switch to four tiers, her thoughts on the overall level of competition seem to be shared by many of her fellow coaches.

“We did move up a tier, and I think there are lots of pluses,” said Mouritzen, “but personally, I’ve felt that it’s a bit watered down on the girls side. We’re only in Year 1, but I am finding that once you get past maybe the Top 10 of a tier, things drop off significantly… maybe deeper than when there were only three tiers.”

That said, age-old axioms can certainly be applied here, especially the comparison between schools who run teams versus those who run true programs.

Creating an additional tier will certainly test the depth of each in a more rigorous fashion, and so in lieu of shallower talent pools by classification, invitational tournaments looking for quality fields will just naturally begin to invite teams based on their talent over tier.

“We have been struggling,” begins Mouritzen of her Grizzlies, who lost star Grade 10 Julia Tuchscherer to a broken hand in early December, but will have her back in the lineup Thursday (1:45 p.m.) when G.W. Graham opens at the Timberwolves Classic against Port Moody’s Quad-A Heritage Woods Kodiaks.


“But I will always pick our tournaments not based on whether I think we can win, but where we are going to get the best games,” said Mouritzen, “and that is why the Bateman tournament has become such a great one for the 3A and 4A teams.”

The field is certainly stacked with talent.

On the bottom side, where G.W. Graham resides, the Grizzlies are part of a quartet which also includes 4A No. 6 Yale and 3A No. 9 South Kamloops. On their side of the draw are the likes of 3A No. 1 Okanagan Mission and Quad-A No. 9 Lord Tweedsmuir.

On the top half, the host Timberwolves are part of a quartet which also includes 3A No. 2 Abbotsford, a former Quad-A power which elected to remain at its tier this season.

The rest of the top half includes 4A No. 4 Walnut Grove, as well as 3A No. 5 MEI and 3A No. 7 Valleyview.

Both Village and Mouritzen, two weeks out from the start of zone playoffs, will be just like the tournament’s 14 other head coaches, as they look to tighten up as much as they can heading into the post-season.

Following in the footsteps of older sister and current TWU Spartans freshman Jayden Gill is Bateman’s talented Grade 11 guard Jenna Gill, pictured here driving in the paint Tuesday night action against the Abbotsford Panthers. (Photo by Rick MacDonald property of Robert Bateman athletics 2020. All Rights Reserved)

“We are super young, with not a lot of huge-game experience,” says Village, who has been getting important minutes from a trio of guard types which include senior guard Cally Izbicki, Grade 11 returnee Jenna Gill and Grade 11 transfer Ashley Smith. 

“But while we’re lacking some depth, the flip side is those kids are getting a ton of time,” added Village who also relies heavily on senior posts Sydney Leppky and Mackenzie Bell, senior guard Krya Oravec-Force, and Grade 11 rugby standout Lexie Reitsema.

The Grizzlies season has been shaped by the 6-foot-1 Tuchscherer’s injury.

When the younger sister of ex-Grizz and star UFV freshman Deanna Tuchscherer broke her non-shooting hand on Dec. 3 in a league game against Langley, the team dynamic was clearly affected.

“She’s the backbone of our team,” says Mouritzen of Tuchscherer. “She is probably 80 per cent right now and she hasn’t played in a game yet, but she will play this weekend. We’ll see how she does.”

Still, the head coach loved the way others stepped up their games over her extended six-week absence.

Leading the way there was the 5-foot-10 Grade 11 forward Kennedy Hall, who assumed Tuchscherer’s role and minutes, as well as senior twin guards Megan and Sydney Owens.

“Kennedy is a pretty quiet kid but she stepped up in a big way, and she figured out how to be confident,” said Mouritzen. “The twins did the same. They’ve been huge for us.”

So many other stories will play out this weekend at the Timberwolves Classic, which like the UFV Invitational, the TBI and others, are finding the best way to stage girls invitationals these days is to be completely blind to the tiers.

Friday’s quarterfinals are slated to go at 3:30, 5:15, 7 and 8:30 p.m. On Saturday, semifinals tip off at 11 a.m and 12:45 p.m., the championship slated to begin at 8:30 p.m.

Here’s the full Wednesday opening draw:




8:30 a.m. — Walnut Grove vs. Dr. Charles Best

5:15 p.m. — MEI vs. Valleyview


3:30 p.m. — Abbotsford vs. Nanaimo District

10:15 a.m. — R.A. McMath vs. Robert Bateman



8:30 p.m. — Okanagan Mission vs. Steveston London

12 p.m. — Lord Tweedsmuir vs. W.J. Mouat


7 p.m. — Yale vs. South Kamloops

1:45 p.m. — Heritage Woods vs. G.W. Graham

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