Semiahmoo's Tara Wallack (right) finished with 27 points and 16 rebounds as the No. 1 Totems topped Walnut Grove for a chance to repeat as provincial top-tiered girls basketball champs on Saturday. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of 2020. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Girls Basketball

Totems’ time is here again! Coach McNeill lauds work rate, grit and depth performances as key factors in Final 4 win over WGSS Gators

LANGLEY — Allison McNeill is quick to point out there is no secret to the success of her defending B.C. senior girls Quad-A champion Semiahmoo Totems.

“We work hard and that’s what gets you anything,” said head coach McNeill after No. 1-seeded Semiahmoo wore down Langley’s No. 4 Walnut Grove Gators to the tune of 105-78 in a provincial Final Four rematch of last season’s B.C. final, a performance which sends them into Saturday’s championship finale here at the Langley Events Centre riding a 56-game win streak against B.C. competition.

The Gators, not the same senior-laden team they have been in past seasons, but extremely talented nonetheless,  managed to stay within shouting distance of the Totems in the first quarter, yet despite some early foul trouble to a pair of key starters, Semiahmoo’s depth revealed itself as the bench stepped in and seemingly increased the momentum.

“We rebounded hard, we defended hard, we ran hard,” said McNeill of a team effort whose signature performance sure came from 6-foot-2 forward Tara Wallack, who not only scored a team-high 27 points, but had 10 of her game-high 16 rebounds come off the offensive glass. Wallack also had five blocks.

Fellow frontcourt standout Izzy Forsyth had 25 points and nine rebounds and point guard Deja Lee had 17 points, and six assists and no turnovers.

Yet aside from that quartet, the Totems had several others step up, most notably guard Raushan Bindra whose 20 points included a dizzying 6-for-12 performance from distance.

“We has Izzy and Deja out with foul trouble and kids stepped up,” said McNeill. “Raushan stepped up, Nicole (Pajic) stepped up, and Emma Wubs stepped up. Those are kids no one talks about, but they’re great players.”

Semiahmoo’s Izzy Forsyth battles Walnut Grove’s Anneke Cairnie in the post Friday in Langley. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of 2020. All Rights Reserved)

Wubs and Pajic quickly found shooting opportunities in the half court, and Wubs was especially active on the boards, grabbing eight rebounds including five off offensive glass.

Grade 10 forward Madelyn McKinnon was also effective with seven rebounds and a pair of blocks.

For Walnut Grove, the upward trajectory of Kiera Pemberton just continues to percolate.

The 6-foot Grade 9 guard scored a game-high 28 points. Fellow guards Sophia Wisotzki and Fania Taylor had 20 and 12 points respectively, while forward Anneke Cairnie had 12 points.

The Totems have not lost a game to B.C. competition since falling in the semifinals of the 2018 B.C. championships.

And while they were only Grade 9s that season and now a team full of Grade 11s, they are one of the more experienced top-end teams in the province based on the number of Grade 9s and 10s populating rosters of teams at all tiers here this week at the LEC.

In the eyes of Lee, the smooth and talented Totems’ playmaker, the passing of time has not only brought added experience, but the realization that after this weekend, the team has just one more season left together.

“We’re definitely more experienced and because of that we kind of know what we’re getting ourselves into,” said Lee, the defending B.C. top-tiered MVP. “We’ve all been through this not once, but twice here at the senior tournament.”

Lee added that a limited time together with her fellow teammates is what keeps her hungry to achieve things together.

“Honestly, just knowing that there’s not much time left,” she said. “With that in mind, you just give everything you have to give so you don’t have any regrets.

The Totems will face the winner of Friday’s late semifinal between Terry Fox and Yale, in Saturday’s 5 p.m. championship final.

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