LANGLEY — Welcome to Day 1 here at the 2023 B.C. girls high school basketball championships at the Langley Events Centre.
Please check back here with regularity for updated reports from this tier of play.
TOP HALF DRAW
No. 1 ST. MICHAELS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL 80 No. 16 W.L. SEATON 36
LANGLEY — Makena Anderson is not a player searching for a focus and a meaning to the final B.C. championship tournament of her high school basketball career.
The UVic-bound 6-foot-1 senior forward, who scored a co-game-high 17 points as her St. Michaels University School Blue Jags opened play here at the B.C. senior girls Triple-A basketball championships with an 80-36 win over Vernon’s W.L. Seaton Sonics, needs to do nothing more than to think back on the two most heartbreaking moments that she and the rest of the team’s Class of ’23 have endured along the journey.
“Honestly, it has just fuelled a fire,” Anderson said postgame, as her team moved into Thursday’s quarterfinal round against the winner of Maple Ridge vs. Little Flower Academy.
That’s in reference to not only a four-point loss in the Grade 9 B.C. final back in 2019, but also to last season’s crushing 56-55 loss in the senior Double-A semifinals to eventual champion Langley Christian.
“I think that we learned a lot from both losses and honestly it made us closer,” Anderson added. “We’re all working together for one goal. It’s been four years working towards it. We don’t want to feel that again.”
On Wednesday the Blue Jags made sure of that from the outset, building a 29-5 lead over the Okanagan No. 4-seeded Sonics by opening quarter’s end.
Avery Geddes added 11 points and Alex Motherwell another 10 points to the winning cause.
Evelie Colclough, the Sonics’ 6-foot-1 Grade 11 forward, matched Anderson with 17 points while senior guard Naomi King added seven points.
No. 8 LITTLE FLOWER ACADEMY 49 No. 9 MAPLE RIDGE RAMBLERS 46
LANGLEY — When the moment finally came, the Angels’ first real moment in the senior varsity basketball following two seasons in mothballs, a diminutive guard named Bella Heffring was determined not to let the moment pass her by.
Heffring, Little Flower’s 5-foot-6 lead guard, steadied herself just outside the three-point arc and let fly, swishing the triple that capped the comeback that sends the Angels into Thursday’s Elite 8 quarterfinals.
“I was really nervous, I know that,” admitted Heffring, who despite pouring home a game-high 31 points was still kicking herself for shooting too quickly and missing a few moments earlier after stripping the ball from a Maple Ridge player with her team mounting a comeback from an eight-point deficit midway through the final quarter.
“So this time, I thought ‘I have to make this,’” Heffring continued. “I thought of my team and all of the work that we have put in and just did it.”
It turned out to be the dagger in a tightly contested tilt between two of the young, up-and-coming teams in the province, and it helped Little Flower end the game on an 11-0 run.
The Angels will face the No. 1 seed SMUS Blues Jags for a chance to punch Final Four tickets on Thursday (12 noon).
There was another commonality between the two programs on Wednesday.
Head coach Jason Hampton’s Ramblers, led by the 18 points of post Kayleigh Mark and the 14 of guard Ambrose Haintz, are themselves a few seasons into a new chapter after the tradition-laden program had ceased operation for a brief time.
And the Angels?
They were playing at the senior varsity level for the first time in two seasons (2020-22).
In fact the largest part of the LFA squad which shone Wednesday played for the school’s fourth-place finisher a season ago at the JV level.
With that said, picking up an opening-round B.C. senior varsity tournament win is a huge accomplishment.
Try to spin that with Heffring, however, and she doesn’t take the bait.
“We’re gonna keep pushing and we’re going to live in the moment,” she stressed “I think it’s just a privilge to be here. We are such a small Triple A school as it is. We’re just going to keep going.”
Maple Ridge led 14-12 at the quarter, 27-25 at the half and 41-38 after three.
Kylie Tsui had 10 points in the win for LFA.
No. 4 SOUTH KAMLOOPS 60 No. 13 CLAYTON HEIGHTS 46
LANGLEY — Earning the Defensive MVP award at the recent Okanagan Triple-A championships has done nothing but reinforce the role that South Kamloops Titans Grade 11 guard Kyle Koppes is ready to play here at the B.C. Triple A championships.
Leading a hard-nosed defensive effort which limited Surrey’s up-and-coming but already talented Clayton Heights Riders to just 21 points at the half, the No. 4 Titans put forth what they hope is the first step towards living up to their pre-tourney seed within a tier filled with high-end quality.
“Our team is definitely a defensive team,” confirmed Koppes, who drew the tough assignment of guarding Clayton Heights’ high-scoring senior forward Melanie Kardos-Mitchell. “We know that we need to work hard to get stops, because whether our offence is going or not, we know we can always count on our defence.”
It’s a sound theory for sure.
Yet if you watched Tuesday’s clash, you came away as impressed with the effort of a Riders team coached by James Johnston which is making its first B.C. senior varsity appearance in 20 years, since qualifying in 2003 at the Double-A tier.
Clayton Heights’ 6-foot-3 Grade 11 centre Emma Yarwood led her team with 19 points, while Grade 11 guard Hailey Burnham added 15.
The Riders never let the Titans off the hook, instead their 14-point loss saw them make a number of small counter-runs each time South Kamloops appeared ready to run away and hide.
The Titans were led by its Okanagan championship MVP Lucy Marchese, the 5-foot-9 guard/forward scoring a game-high 21 points.
Senior forward Francesca Faraone scored 13 points while Koppes added 10, all coming over the second half.
Next up for the Titans is a Thursday (10:15 a.m.) quarterfinal date with the winner of the Vernon vs. MEI clash.
The Titans have a boost to their coaching staff here at the provincials as former Titan and B.C. championship MVP Maddy Gobeil is listed as the team’s manager.
Gobeil stars locally with Abbotsford’s UFV Cascades and is coming off a Canada West campaign in which she averaged 18 points per game.
No. 5 MEI EAGLES 51 No. 12 VERNON PANTHERS 31
LANGLEY — When Bree Neufeld elevated from just beyond the arc and swished what was her sixth three-pointer of the game with just under two minutes remaining and her MEI Eagles on the verge of soaring into the quarterfinals here at the B.C. senior girls Triple A basketball championships, her Abbotsford-based team looked like a group that had been playing their leading roles together for years.
Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.
Neufeld, in fact, is the only returning main rotation player from an Eagles team which suffered a heartbreaking 51-46 loss one year ago in the B.C. championship final to Richmond’s R.A. McMath Wildcats.
Players like forward Jazmine Avila and point guard Makenna Reimer were gone, and when head coach Rick Thiessen gathered his team in the preseason, it was quite clear that Neufeld was the player who was going to have to assume the main mantle of scoring responsibility.
Was she up to it?
Well, after pouring home a game-high 33 points in the Eagles’ 51-31 win over a Venron Pamthers team making its 18th straight tournament appearance, the answer seemed clear.
“Last year our scoring was really spread out but this year we have all had to step up because we lost so many seniors,” admitted Neufeld, who finished the regular season averaging 19.5 points and 10 rebounds per game. “So I worked hard because I really wanted to be that kind of a leader on our team.”
In what was a painfully low-scoring affair for huge stretches, Neufeld’s three’s were like a figurative burst of wind blwoing open the gym doors at the LEC’s Centre Court.
And her three-point release, delivered with a comfort and an ease, was a tribute to the time she put in over the off-season.
“I have worked on my shooting every day and I wanted to show that I coudl do that here today because… I mean the last time I was on this court (agaimst McMath) we lost… I had to take the ‘W’ this time.”
Jayleigh Duncan added eight more for the Eagles who face No. 4 South Kamloops in a 10:15 a.m. quarterfinal Thursday on Centre Court.
Vernon’s 6-foot senior forward Maddy Hackman paced the Panthers with 11 points while Lauren Hoard added eight.
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
No. 6 SA-HALI 74 No. 11 ROBERT BATEMAN 45
LANGLEY — The measure of a contending program starts in a pretty logical place, which is right here at the B.C. Triple A championship tournament.
Over the past number of years, the results have spoken for themselves when you are talking about the Abbotsford Panthers, the MEI Eagles, the R.A. McMath Wildcats, the South Kamloops Titans of B.C. girls basketball world.
Based on its performances this season, and in its decisive tournament-opening win over Abbotsford’s Robert Bateman Timberwolves on Wednesday, is it time for Kamloops’ Sa-Hali Sabres to step into that rarified stratosphere and make a legitimate run at Friday’s Final Four?
“Last year we thought we were pretty close and this year, we thought we were within the top four all year,” said Sabres’ head coach Jody Vosper, whose team led at halftime a season ago inthe quarterfinals but wound up falling 61-46 to eventual silver medallist MEI.
“This year we had a tough loss to MEI in their tournament and we beat South Kam and then lost to them,” continued Vosper of a pair of 3A heavyweights his team encountered en route to fashioning what is now a 29-3 overall record.
“You know, we’ve had four or five players get over 20 in a game for us, so if they shut one down, we do have others that can step up.”
Sa-Hali’s staying power in the Triple A Top 10 this season signifies its ascent to that place in the shadows of the power shcools.
In the past, competing at the Double-A level when the provincials were hosted annually in Kamloops, the Sabres fashioned three fifth-place finishes, two sixth-place finishes, as well a seventh, eighth and 10th.
It’s junior program has twice qualified for provincials at the LEC, and this week, those collective experiences are all coming together.
On Wednesday against the Wolves, the Sabres lost one of their big three, senior 5-foot-11 senior guard/forward Halle Tiessen, to a sprained ankle.
Yet behind 25 points from 5-foot-11 guard Kalie Saari and 20 more from 5-foot-8 guard Temi Aina, Sa-Hali went on a 17-2 run through much of the second quarter to build a 34-15 lead.
Nevena Nogic, a 5-foot-9 Grade 10 guard, added 11 points.
So whomever they wind up playing, are they capable of getting the breakthrough win which eluded them a year ago?
“I think so,” said Vosper. “We played together, and the girls really love each other. That really helps.”
Brie Izbicki with 17 points and Erin Misura with 15 led Robert Bateman.
No. 3 R.A. McMATH 82 No. 14 JOHN OLIVER 51
LANGLEY — The defending champs took the first steps on what they can now say is a familiar path.
Yet ask one of the top seniors on Richmond’s R.A. McMath Wildcats about what it’s going to take to achieve their end goal of a repeat title here at the B.C. senior girls Triple A basketball championship, and Caitlin Kippan will tell you it’s all about what you can muster between your ears.
“Every team in this tournament is tough and I think it comes down to the team that has the most mental toughness,” said the 5-foot-11 2022-23 Richmond League MVP, who came into the B.C.’s averaging 20 points and 12 rebounds per game.
“At this point, it’s what’s going on in your mind, and is about who wants it the most.The three seniors on this team, we have higher expectations for us and we want to keep doing the best we can … and we’ll see who wins.”
Kippan and her senior running mate, reigning tourney MVP Marina Radocaj, came ready to play Wednesday as the pair combined for 49 points in an 82-51 win over Vancouver’s high-energy John Oliver Jokers.
Kippan was especially impressive on this night, stroking a career-high eight three-point baskets and finishing with 28 points.
Radocaj, the 6-foot-2 Arizona State-bound phenom added 21 points as the Wildcats outscored the Jokers 20-4 in the fourth quarter.
The win propels the No., 3 seeds into a 1:45 p.m. Thursday clash with the No. 6-seeded Sa-Hali Sabres,who look to be playing their best basketball of the season.
McMath also got 15 points from starting Grade 11 guard Aria Johal, and 11 more off the bench from 6-foot-1 Grade 10 forward Mirella Fernandes Boshell.
John Oliver was led by the 15 points of guard Queenie Salazar. Rachael Forester had 14 pointsd and Donna Oimentel had 10 points
Last season, of course, the McMath senior girls won the school’s first-ever provincial title in any sport following its heart-wrenching 51-46 win over the MEI Eagles of Abbotsford.
The Eagles, seeded No. 5 in the field, have also advanced to the next round, but sit on the other side of the draw.
No. 10 ARGYLE 72 No. 7 COLLEGE HEIGHTS 55
LANGLEY — North Vancouver’s Argyle Pipers went into the half Wednesday in its opening round clash against Prince George’s College Heights Cougars with a double-digit lead, yet with nothing to really recommend them as a team ready to advance to the quarterfinals here at the B.C. senior girls Triple A basketball championships.
It didn’t take any time at all, however, to realize that the Pipers team which had come back out onto the floor to begin the second half had done so with a completely different mindset.
“We just said that if we focus on our defence and executing our strategy of contesting shots and being willing to put our bodies on the line and take a charge, it’ll set the tone for the whole group,” said Argyle head coach Anthony Beyrouti. “It did and was it fun to watch.”
Facing a College Heights team led by the high-scoring SFU recruit Rachel Loukes, a Pipers team led by its ultra-energetic guard Reese Tam put Beyrouti’s words into action.
Tam and fellow guards Braeli Adrian, Marley Ivany, Ayesha Fraser and Camryn Pedley seemed to come in waves at College Heights, and when the dust had cleared, a 9-0 run over a span of just 2:20 had pushed the Pipers lead to 36-17.
A 10-2 run to end the quarter, which included a pair of post-up buckets inside from 6-foot-2 Grade 11 post Nathalie Francis made it 57-34 with a quarter left to play.
“Good defence leads to easy offence,” continued Beyrouti whose team will face the No. 2 Abbotsford Panthers on Thursday (3:30 p.m.) in the quarters. “We played fundamental defence, we locked them up and then we went and got some buckets. It was great to watch.”
Of course nothing happens in a vaccum, and nothing happens based soley on a coach’s halftime speech.
Ask Beyrouti about that and he’ll tell you that he can’t even remember how many times that his tough scheduling ways put his team in front of one of the provincial elite, with the results often painful if not for the lessons they taught.
“We had one of the harder schedules in the province and it led to a lot of losing… and the kids learned resilience and toughness through the year,” he added, perhaps remembering a 76-45 shellacking at the hands of the the Quad-A No. 1 seeds from Langley’s Walnut Grove Secondary in the opening round of December’s Tsumura Basketball Invitational. “Tonight, it was fun to watch them show that against a very good team.”
And none more fun than Tam, a 5-foot-5 whirlwind of a guard who led her team with 22 points.
“She is a lightning bolt,” said Beyrouti. “She gets our energy going defensively, she gets our talk going, she is a great student in classroom and a great operosn off the court. So she has the triple-threat there and it’s been awesome to watch her play this year.”
Adrian added 11, Ivany and Fraser eight each and Camryn Pedley five.
Francis took care of the paint with her usual efficiency and finished with 14 points.
College Heights’ Loukes, the 5-foot-11 scoring guard, athletic and anticipatory, led all scorers with 27 points, yet the physicality she faced from the Pipers must surely have affected her down the stretch drive of the fourth. Her running mate Lorinn Caceres scored all 14 of her points in the second half.
No. 2 ABBOTSFORD 81 No. 15 MARK R. ISFELD 28
LANGLEY — Ask Prentice Lenz where the greatest overall improvement has been with his team this season, and the head coach of the No. 2-seeded Abbotsford Panthers doesn’t hesitate.
“They are way more multi-faceted than they were at the start of the season,” said Lenz of what for his program, is an extremely experienced team led by a core of larger-than-usual core of seniors, including his daughter, the high scoring 5-foot-10 guard Malia Lenz, who opened her final B.C. tourney with a 24-point outing which included four treys.
“I think we lost to Yale in the (Abbotsford) City tournament early in the season, but then I think we started to get a lot more out of Nyah (Vermeulen), we got a lot more out of Naomi (Unger), Chelsey (Dulku) started to blossom and we became way more multi-faceted,” he added of three more of his team’s senior core.
“I think down the stretch, we ended up beating Yale and having a lot of other great games because people could do different things.”
Lenz’s Garde 9 daughter Sorrell, who scored 11 points on Wednesday, is on the senior roster along with Grade 11s Gabrielle Ciochetti and Ameera Brar, but they are the team’s only underclassmen.
And that is what is most different about the 2022-23 Panthers, who are set today to face the Argyle Pipers in the quarterfinals at 3:30 p.m.
Instead of coaching a larger base of younger players the more basic concepts of the game, Lenz and his staff have been able to work with older players able to absorb more advanced concepts and skill.
“We have had years with no seniors,” added Lenz. “This is the first year we have seven seniors that have really come along and enjoy each other.”
Vermeulen added 15 in the win over Mark Isfeld, while Eve MacInnes had 11and Dulku added 10. Unger scored six points, while fellow seniors Jaya Sidhu had two points. The team’s seventh senior is forward Ruby Krahn.
“The girls have relaly bought into it and improved along the way,” said Lenz.
Mark Isfeld was led by the eight points of Adria Russell.
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