LANGLEY — We have officially gone FINAL on Day 1 of the 2022 Tsumura Basketball Invitational.
And we’re proud to offer you, our loyal readers, stories on all 16 championship round games, all with live quotes from coaches and players, and all with game photographs.
A huge tip of the Tsumura cap to my LEC mates Gary Ahuja for writing half of this report and photographer Ryan Molag for taking the lions share of the photos. Love you guys!
The Super 16 stories are at the top, followed by Rising 8’s and Local 8’s.
PS — We’re back at it again tomorrow!
Oh, and before we get to the game stories, here’s our look at tomorrow’s championship side of the three draws:
TOP HALF DRAW
6:15 p.m. — Sir Winston Churchill vs. Okanagan Mission (SC)
7:45 p.m. — Riverside vs. Burnaby Central (SC)
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
6:15 p.m. — Mulgrave vs. SMUS (CC)
7:45 p.m. — Walnut Grove vs. Kelowna (CC)
3 p.m. — Vernon vs. College Heights
4:30 p.m. — Pitt Meadows vs. South Kamloops
3 p.m. — Lord Tweedsmuir vs. R.E. Mountain
4:30 p.m. — Maple Ridge vs. Salish
TOP HALF DRAW
BURNABY CENTRAL 73 FLEETWOOD PARK 35
By Howard Tsumura
LANGLEY — Oh, how a team can re-invent itself over the course of an off-season.
It was last March when the Burnaby Central Wildcats bowed out of the B.C. senior girls Triple-A basketball championships following a Final Four loss to the eventual winners from Richmond’s R.A. McMath Secondary.
A narrow loss followed in the third-place game against Langley’s Brookswood Bobcats, and in the days and months to follow, head coach Chris Ducharme huddled and asked them if they wanted to PUT in the hard work necessary to actually carve out a team identity, one which would serve them well on a jump up to the province’s largest tier of Quad-A.
“We put in a concentrated effort to be who we wanted to be, and then we put the work in to get there.”
On Wednesday, as the TBI’s Super 16 bracket opened on Centre Court with a resounding 38-point win by the No. 6 Wildcats over Surrey’s No. 8 Fleetwood Park Dragons, it wasn’t hard to see that the winning team had indeed emerged from an intensive off-season re-set.
The Wildcats rolled out to a 31-9 halftime lead, limiting Fleetwood Park to just three first-half field goal makes on their way to earning a spot in Thursday’s semifinal round.
“That was 100 per cent a direct result of the off-season work these girls put in,” Ducharme said.
“Our preseason was one of, I guess, culture-building workshops. The girls all held each other accountable. We sat in a semi-circle, and every player had to say what they felt were the pros and cons of themselves as individuals and us as a team. We talked about who our heroes were.
“It got emotional,” he added, “and for the coaches, too. And at the end of it, what we came away with was, let’s seek. And ‘seek’ is everything for this group. We seek coverage, we seek defence, we seek matchups, we seek everything, no matter what it is.”
The so-called Seeker found themselves on top led by the splendid play of a pair of Grade 11’s.
The 5-foot-7 guard Ankita Chopra poured home a game-high 35 points, including five triple.
As well, 5-foot-11 forward Sophia Morton scored 14 of her 20 points in the second half.
Jade Huynh, the senior guard and team leader, added eight.
RIVERSIDE 84 LANGLEY CHRISTIAN 52
By Howard Tsumura
LANGLEY — It’s impossible for the 2022-23 Riverside Rapids to see the early days of the new high school basketball season the same way they did a year ago.
Wide-eyed and innocent to the rigours and potential heartbreak which can accompany any chase of provincial championship hardware, they burned pure adrenaline and excitement here last season on their way to the Tsumura Basketball Invitational championship title.
But a season which ended this past March with a B.C. Quad-A championship game loss to its cross-town rivals, the Terry Fox Ravens, has steeled the new edition Rapids.
Watching the Quad-A No. 1 Rapids top the Double-A No. 2-ranked Langley Christian Lightning in the opening round of the TBI’s Super 16 made you think that these early-season steps are all part of a much grander plan to capture the first senior girls hoops title in school history.
“I think we’re definitely taking the season way more personally,” said Grade 11 point guard Avery Sussex, who finished her day with 18 points and has helped lead Riverside into a Thursday quarterfinal clash against the Burnaby Central Wildcats.
“Now that we experienced that loss and how it feels,” continued Sussex, who thrived in last year’s title game as a Grade 10, “this year we are giving it everything we can.”
That’s a pretty scary thought, even without senior starting forward Alexis Hart and rising Grade 11 reserve forward Rae Roycroft both currently sidelined with knee injuries.
Langley Christian, many of whose players are very well-acquainted with Riverside players through their summer club VK Basketball, never looked out of place.
In fact this season’s Rapids are in roughly the same place that Langley Christian was in last season as the Lightning set the steps in motion which would lead to a thrilling B.C. Double-A championship win over West Vancouver’s Mulgrave Titans.
On Wednesday, Sussex and the Grade 10 Jorja Hart were exquisite against Langley Christian. Add the size and skill of front court stalwarts like senior centre Natalie Curley and Grade 11 forward Olivia Wheatley and you’ve got a team that returns so many of its key pieces from a season to go and adds the bonus chip of B.C. finals maturity.
Sussex knows that a long season will be full of embraceable moments for her and her teammates, and that working hard and taking on all challenges as they come will be the surest way for the entire group to grow.
“I think we need to take this time to grow as a team and if we make mistakes it’s OK, it’s early,” she said after the win.
“People watch us now… but we know we will change by the end of the season,” she adds, her dialogue continually centred around the team’s potential. “You just hope that we all bond and connect by the end of the season.”
Langley Christian got 16 points from Shaylah Black, and 12 apiece from Madden DeWitt and talented Grade 11 guard Grace Bradshaw.
The latter, coming back from an ACL injury which wiped out her 2021-22 campaign, was making her season debut but was forced to miss the first quarter after the officials deemed her knee brace unsafe for competition.
The talented Bradshaw retrieved another brace and was able to play the final three quarters. She scored 11 of her 12 points in the second half.
SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL 54 YALE 52
By Howard Tsumura
LANGLEY — It is no small order to re-establish your identity from season to season, and in doing so maintain your position among the top program’s in B.C. senior girls Quad-A basketball.
Vancouver’s Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs, however, are doing a pretty admirable job of just that just weeks into the new campaign, despite losing four starters from a team which a season ago lost to Langley’s Walnut Grove Gators in the B.C. quarterfinals.
Led by the 24 points of 6-foot forward Stefanie Hart and 13 more from her 6-foot-1 front-court running mate Louise Dykstra, the Bulldogs went tooth-and-nail to extract a 54-52 win over Abbotsford’s Yale Lions in the kind of contest that builds early-season character win or lose.
After the first quarter, no team led by more than five points the entire rest of the way. Churchill led 38-36 at the half.
And under just such circumstances, as coach Dykstra said Wednesday, it’s about finding every piece of the puzzle.
Following the victory, the veteran coach admitted his ‘Dawgs found yet another piece, one which had eluded them through the preseason and into the start of the season in late November.
“So today, we needed a point guard and we finally got one,” said Dykstra of Emily Zhang. “She’s had a lot of turnovers in the past, but she tonight she really took care of the ball.
“We’re still experimenting with our bench, and we’re not quite there, but I think we can be one of the best defensive teams in the province.”
It takes toughness to advance through the post-season run, and all of that comes from the defensive end so what better place to start?
And with what Yale gave Churchill, it was just the kind of game from which to judge that progress.
The Lions got 12 points from Jay Hildebrand, 10 from Maggy Curtis and nine from Sara Mason.
The Bulldogs will face the Okanagan Mission-R.A. McMath winner at 7:45 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals.
OKANAGAN MISSION 76 R.A. McMATH 45
By Gary Ahuja
LANGLEY — The Okanagan Mission Huskies have played plenty of games at Langley Events Centre, but coach Meghan Faust admits there were some nerves within the locker room.
“None of these games are easy (and) Centre Court always gives you a little bit of jitters,” she said. “And McMath is the reigning (3A) champ. We were very nervous coming in. The girls felt the pressure a little bit and really wanted to be on the winning side.”
And the early nerves showed as it was the R.A. McMath Wildcats who took the early 5-1 lead before the Huskies settled down to go ahead 15-9 after a quarter. From there, OKM never trailed again, leading by as many as 19 points as they eventually won 76-45.
OKM won with a balanced attack as 4 players scored in double digits, led by Kanani Coon. The 6-2 senior was consistent from start to finish, scoring 7,6,6 and 7 points for a game-high 26. Presley Hopf was right behind with 20.
Faust was also happy to get her young team – only Coon and guard Maya Sandhu are in Grade 12 – game action as foul trouble dictated the team had to reach into their rotation, getting valuable minutes which will surely come in handy down the season’s stretch,
“The biggest takeaway from today was that my bench was so deep, and I was able to use everybody, and everybody stepped up in their own way,” she said. “It is nice to know that I can put anyone in.”
For the Wildcats, the team was limited to 10 points or less in every quarter except the second, when they scored 18. Marina Radocaj led McMath with 17 points.
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
WALNUT GROVE 76 ARGYLE 45
By Gary Ahjua
LANGLEY — There is something about playing at Langley Events Centre for Kiera Pemberton.
The Walnut Grove Gators Grade 12 guard scored an astonishing 48 points – 3 more than the opposition scored combined – for an opening round 76-45 victory over the Argyle Pipers.
The 48 matches her career-high (n her estimation) she scored at LEC in the BC School Sports 4A Girls Basketball Provincial Tournament in helping Walnut Grove win the bronze medal. Over those four games last March, Pemberton accumulated 167 points – a 41.75 points per game average – which was also a new provincial tournament record. The tournament record for total points stands at 171, which was set by Killarney’s Cheryl Kelsey, but that was done in five games.
“I just appreciate playing in this building,” Pemberton said. “It is always a fun environment, and our team just plays better together.”
Pemberton scored 11 of her team’s 19-first quarter points and went to the locker room with 19 as the Gators were up 36-22. She added 14 in the third quarter and saved her best for last, with another 16 in the final period for a total of 48.
Committed to the University of North Dakota for next season, Pemberton said her focus was not on her point total but just getting her team a win and a spot in the quarter-final round.
“Honestly, I was just trying to do my best to help my team out,” she said.
In addition to Pemberton’s monster game, guard Tia Rowell finished with 14 points for Walnut Grove.
The Pipers were led by 13 points from Braeli Adrian and a dozen from Nathalie Francis.
KELOWNA 75 SEAQUAM 51
By Howard Tsumura
LANGLEY — If they came to Fraser Valley this week as perhaps the most anonymous No. 3-ranked senior girls Quad-A basketball team in recent memory, well, that might not last until the weekend.
Deep, long, athletic, skilled and hungry but without that one name star like Walnut Grove’s Kiera Pemberton or Riverside’s Avery Sussex, the Kelowna Owls are nonetheless a team to be reckoned with.
On Wednesday, in the Super 16’s opening round here at TBI 2022, with a team roster firmly in hand, it became very apparent that this Owls team, coached by former national team forward Peter Guarasci, is all of the traits listed above and more.
Behind the play of crafty Grade guard Sarah Litrico (21 points), hard-nosed Grade 10 point guard Nav Chahal (16 points), powerful Grade 11 swing forward Emma Pinkerton (11 points), 6-foot-2 senior post Tennyson McCarthy (nine points) and long and quick, Swiss Army Knife-like 6-foot-1 senior Ryenn Schutz, Kelowna proved to be a little too fluid and physical for a talented Seaquam team filled with skill but also tremendous youth.
“One hundred per cent, they want to be talked about with those teams,” said Guarasci of his girls when asked how much they aspire to test their best against the likes of No. 1 Riverside and No. 2 Walnut Grove.
“And to be honest, I think one of our strengths is that we don’t really rely on one player,” Guarasci continued. “We have some pretty good depth, players at every position. So if we can find a way, when we match up with those teams, to contain some of those special players we might face, I think we could find ourselves in a good spot.”
The starting point for their foundation is their defence.
The Owls put on their 1-1-2-1 press early and kept it installed until the second half, when a 10-0 third quarter run allowed them to build momentum for a decisive finish.
With Schutz, McCarthy, Pinkerton, Chahal and Co.,manning that zone, their strength and length made it imposing for the Seahawks.
That and growing cohesion in the defensive half court are the hallmarks of the Owls in early December with March still a long ways off.
Seaquam, coming off a B.C. JV championship title last March, have but two seniors in their main rotation and guard Jocelyn Panganiban and three-point ace Nyssa Sunner gave it their all.
The Seahawks who only trailed by nine at the half (38-29) got 15 points from talented Grade 9 guard Syra Toor, and 11 more from Sunner.
MULGRAVE 70 BROOKSWOOD 42
By Gary Ahuja
A barrage of 3-pointers led the Mulgrave Titans past the Brookswood Bobcats 70-42.
The top-ranked 2A senior girls’ team, the Titans hit a baker’s dozen from downtown in a game they led from wire to wire.
“We were really good in transition, especially in the first half,” explained Mulgrave coach Claude Leduc about how his team was able to get the ball up the court quickly in those opening 20 minutes and then find their shooters on the outside.
There were some areas the coach knows his team needs to correct, citing a few ‘little things,’ but the fact they have only had a pair of practices with the full team together because of members being away with the volleyball team, was a great sign for the coach.
Mulgrave used a multi-faced attack as four players scored at least 12 points with Jenna Talib leading the way with her 20. Ava Wilson was second on the team with 18 and both Eva Ruse and Lucy Xu chipping in a dozen points apiece. All four of the players are only in Grade 11 and were part of the Titans squad which finished second in the province at the BC School Sports 2A Girls Basketball Provincial Tournament.
Brookswood was also led by underclassmen as Grade 11 guard Keeley Read had 15 points while Grade 11 forward Nicole Taylor had 11 and Grade 8 guard Jordan Nohr scored 11.
“We didn’t know anything about Brookswood, so we went in blind. It took us a while to adjust. Their team is really disciplined, they fight, they battle hard; No. 4 (Nohr) is a Grade 8 girl (but) she shot the lights out,” Leduc said.
SMUS 64 SOUTH DELTA 50
By Howard Tsumura
LANGLEY — It’s junior varsity team, No. 1 for much of last season, were upset in the quarterfinals at last spring’s B.C. championships at the Langley Events Centre.
Same week, same venue, its senior girls team dropped a one-point loss in the B.C. Double-A Final Four to eventual provincial champion Langley Christian.
This season, however, the best of the St. Michaels University School Blue Jags program has come together at the senior Triple-A level, and following Wednesday’s opening-round win over the South Delta Sun Devils in the Super 16 round of TBI 2022, head coach Lindsay Brooke admitted the chemistry of the two squads has always been an easy match.
“This has been many years in the making and because we’re a program at SMUS, we practice all together,” she said after a decisive victory which puts the Jags into a Thursday quarterfinal clash with the No. 1-ranked AA Mulgrave Titans of West Vancouver, “and that’s including this year’s JV team which you might wind upon hearing about later. So these girls know each other really well and have all played together for a long time.”
On Wednesday, it also helped them make up for the rare loss of the team’s tallest player, 6-foot-1 Makenna Anderson, the senior guard forced to sit with an ankle injury suffered Tuesday night in a Victoria league game.
“Makenna has always been there for us so this was our first go without her in a long time and I was pleased with how we played,” admitted Brooke.
And indeed, both the young and the more veteran combined nicely Wednesday.
Grade 10 point guard Avery Geddes and Grade 11 5-foot-11 forward Chioma Duru led the team with dual 15-point outings.
Grade 11 guard Alex Motherwell had 11 points, senior guard Sophie Olcen added 10 more, and Grade 11 guard Olivia Vincent contributed a further nine points.
Grade 11 guard Kaija Rutledge led the Sun Devils with 21 points while senior guard Katrina Staley added nine.
From Quad-A No. 9 South Delta to Double-A No. 2 Mulgrave, the road doesn’t get any easier.
Yet Brooke greets the challenges ahead for her team.
“I love it, we come over to this tourney to get these kids these kinds of games so, I am grateful for the tough competition in every game,” she said.
TOP HALF DRAW
SOUTH KAMLOOPS 50 HERITAGE WOODS 45
By Gary Ahuja
LANGLEY — A pair of clutch three-pointers earned Lucy Marchese the Player of the Game award, but more importantly, her team the victory.
The South Kamloops Titans trailed by a point late in the fourth quarter before the Grade 11 guard/forward delivered a pair of clutch baskets to first give her both the team the lead and some much-needed breathing room in a 50-45 victory over Port Moody’s Heritage Woods Kodiaks.
“Lucy is the embodiment of our team’s performance… she struggled for a bit … but as it turns out, she hit a couple of big shots at the end. She kept persisting and hammering away and she got it done,” said South Kamloops coach Del Komarniski.
The teams were tied at 23 at the half before Heritage Woods built an 11-point lead late in the third quarter. The Titans would claw back, making it a two-point game in the fourth and held the Kodiaks in check defensively, allowing just six points over the final 10
“There are things we can take away from that we can feel good about; there are things we can take away from that that show us what we need to work on,” Del Komarniski said. “We just kept hammering away and hit a couple of shots. Simple as that.”
Marchese finished with 10 points while Kiana Kaczur led the team with 19 points, including a perfect 5-for-5 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. Kylee Koppes chipped in with 12.
All three are Grade 11 players who were part of the South Kamloops team which finished second at the 2022 BC Junior Girls Basketball Provincial Invitational Tournament.
Grade 12 forward Kate Mean led Heritage Woods with 14 points while Grade 10 guard Izzy Lloyd had 10.
PITT MEADOWS 69 CLAYTON HEIGHTS 61
By Gary Ahuja
LANGLEY — Louise Orpiano had just four points with 10 minutes to play, but when the final buzzer sounded, her final stat line read 24 points as she scored 20 of her team’s last 26 points in a 69-61 win for the Pitt Meadows Marauders over the Clayton Heights Riders.
Part of her 26-point night included a trio of 3-pointers. It continued a trend of strong games for the Grade 12 guard who was a key component of last year’s team which went 2-2 at the BC School Sport 3A Girls Basketball Provincial Tournament last March.
“I told her she must like playing here at LEC because she always has good games,” said Pitt Meadows coach Jason Boyes.
Orpiano was the Player of the Game against Clayton Heights in what turned out to be a scoring duel between herself and the Riders’ Emma Yarwood.
Boyes admitted his team had no answer for the Grade 11 6-3 centre.
“Emma is a handful. We are not a very big team, so we had to learn how to play a little bit of team (defence), double her down low because as soon as she got the ball, she was too big for us,” the coach said.
But the Marauders were able to use full court pressure to help neutralize Clayton Heights’ size advantage.
“I think our press put them in uncomfortable situations and we just ran better (offensive) plays down the stretch. I don’t think we were composed at the start,” Boyes explained.
While Clayton Heights relied on their tallest player – Yarwood finished with 28 points to lead all scorers – the Marauders countered with their two shortest players in Orpiano (a 5-4 Grade 12 guard) and Jocelyn Boyes (a 5-3 Grade 9 guard) as they finished with 24 and 13 points, respectively.
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
COLLEGE HEIGHTS 60 LAMBRICK PARK 45
By Howard Tsumura
LANGLEY — Ask Rachel Loukes about her team, and her response is what makes Prince George’s College Heights Cougars and its star forward such fun to watch.
“We’re very gritty and we really want it,” said Loukes, after the Simon Fraser-bound, 5-foot-11 senior guard played the leading role in her team’s win over Victoria’s Lambrick Park Pride on the opening day of the Rising 8’s bracket at TBI 2022.
“I thought we showed that in this game and we persevered through some stuff.”
That they did.
Few play with the kind of motor that Loukes brings to the floor, and on Wednesday, as she and her teammates hit the same big stage they have always associated with the provincial championships, there was perhaps a little too much revving going on under the hood.
Loukes was dominant every moment she was on the floor, scoring 30 points in three quarters of the play.
Yet that’s all she got to play after she fouled out just before the start of the fourth quarter.
“I guess so,” she said with a smile. “I take a lot of pride in my defence but that kind of didn’t really work out for me today. I am just a get-after-it kind of player and sometimes I get a little too excited. I have to learn to control that a little more. I had to get those first-game jitters out.”
Fouling out with 11.8 seconds left, Loukes’ 30-point contribution left her team with a 52-38.
A young, up-and-coming Pride wound up carving nine points off that lead by the time the final buzzer sounded, but Loukes’ force was certainly with her teammates over the final 10 minutes of play.
“What makes this team special is we all have the drive and we all take it so seriously,” she said of a team effort which also yielded seven points apiece from Rebecca Fuentes, Olivia Vigue and Lorenn Caceres, as well as six points from Temi Bankole. “Every one wants that goal and so it’s nice to come down here with like-minded players that want the same things that I do.”
So excited was Loukes to travel to the LEC for TBI that she spent a good part of last week following the fortunes of the College Height boys team at the same event via the TFSETV.ca livestream.
Lambrick Park was led by the 12 points of senior guard-forward Preslie Mace. Freya Redding-Mason and Emily Pitre added eight points each.
VERNON 45 ST. JOHN BREBEUF 33
By Gary Ahuja
LANGLEY — It was a defensive coach’s dream but the offence left something to be desired.
The Vernon Panthers and St. John Brebeuf Bears combined for just 14 first-quarter points – and only 3 of them were scored by Vernon. But despite that tepid start to the game offensively, the Panthers overcame there early-game struggles to defeat the St. John Brebeuf Bears 45-33.
But while Vernon made just a single field goal in the first 10 minutes, the Bears offence struggled in the second quarter with just 3 points of their own sending the teams to the locker room with the Panthers holding a slim 17-14 advantage.
“I thought both teams played pretty good defence, but we missed a lot of bunnies,” admitted Vernon coach Dave Tetrault. “We just settled down and started to run some of our stuff and made some adjustments. Every team here is going to be tough, but that is why we are here, to get better.
“I would have liked to have scored a bit more, but I am happy with the effort my kids gave and if we can improve every game, that is the goal.”
Grade 12s Maddy Hackman (forward) and Beth Butler (guard) scored 10 points apiece for Vernon while the Bears’ Josephine Van Tunen had 10 points to lead her team
TOP HALF DRAW
LORD TWEEDSMUIR 91 ALDERGROVE 54
By Gary Ahuja
LANGLEY — A game first thing in the morning is not always the most ideal way to begin a tournament.
“The bacon-and-egger,” said Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers coach Mike Mitro, when asked about tipping off at 8:30 in the morning.
“Someone has to play it, but we don’t have to play it again, so that is always good.”
The Panthers built a 24-8 lead after a quarter and never slowed down in a 91-54 win over the Aldergrove Totems.
“We shot the ball well, which we have been working on in practice, so it is good to see something that you have worked on in practice come to fruition,” Mitro said.
The Panthers managed to hit 6 triples in the game, 5 of them from Grade 12 guard Sevene Grewal who finished with a team-high 18 points, while Grade 11 forward Pavan Bola had 15 points.
The Totems were led by scoring machine Hinata Kawalasaki. The Grade 12 guard had a slow start to the game with just 6 points, but as unstoppable the rest of the way, finishing with 40.
R.E. MOUNTAIN 91 RICK HANSEN 45
By Gary Ahuja
LANGLEY — The three-headed monster of Mackenzie Dalphond, Shylah Ahn and Ava Mort led the way for the R.E. Mountain Eagles as they opened their tournament with a convincing 91-45 victory over an under-manned Rick Hansen Hurricanes squad.
In the first half alone, the trio combined for 42 points (Dalphond had 18 while her teammates each scored a dozen) for a 54-19 lead.
And while it was the offence putting up the big points, Eagles coach Ché Williams was impressed by his team’s focus at the other end of the floor.
“We focused on defence and defensive intensity, making sure we were picking up right away; and then moving the ball around, sharing the ball, playing as a team. Just proud overall of all the girls’ effort today,” he said.
“This (game) was a step in the right direction; that is what we are trying to do, start playing our best basketball towards the end of the year. Each time we take the court, it is an opportunity to get better and move forward as a team.”
Dalphond, a 6-1 Grade 12 forward, would finish with 23 points while Ahn and Mort – both Grade 12 5-7 guards – finished with 20 and 16 points, respectively.
The Hurricanes – a last-minute addition to the TBI in the 11th hour which allowed there to be a full 8 teams in the Local 8 Bracket – were missing five of their 12 players. Hansen’s Mannat Bambrah – a Grade 11 5-5 forward – led the Hurricanes with 18 points.
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
MAPLE RIDGE 40 CREDO CHRISTIAN 41
By Howard Tsumura
LANGLEY — Kayleigh Mark considers her post game a work in progress.
If you took the humble, 6-foot-1 Grade 10 forward at her word, you could see just how much she is improving, quite literally, with every trip she made up and down the floor as her Maple Ridge Ramblers held off Langley’s Credo Christian Kodiaks in the Local 8’s bracket opener here at the 2022 Tsumura Basketball Invitational.
“During this game I wanted to work on my post moves because those I am really not too good at right now,” said Mark, whose massive potential is still at that tip-of-the-iceberg stage. “I think I did a pretty good job, just getting the ball in the post a lot and either kicking it out or getting to the basket and scoring.”
Just a few weeks into her first senior varsity season, the wingspan-laden Mark helped her team advance to the Rising 8 semi-finals by scoring a game-high 24 points, 14 of which came against a hard-charging Kodiaks team in the second half of play.
With fellow Grade 10 off-guard Ambrose Haintz adding eight points and Grade 11 point guard Jenna Hampton providing the required on-floor generalship, the Ramblers somehow found a way to keep ahead despite a challenging Kodiaks’ zone defence.
Leading 21-19 at the half, Maple Ridge put a few short runs on Credo Christian, the No. 1-ranked B.C. Single-A team and the tier’s defending provincial champions.
Senior swing guard Natalie Pruim, a dangerous dribble-drive force with size and strength, led the Kodiaks with 20 points but could have had a lot more if not for the team’s early offensive struggles.
Pruim’s final three hoops in the fourth quarter were all threes, including the shot which pulled her team to within a possession in the final half minute.
Senior guard Mikayla Stam added 12 in the loss. Credo Christian was unfortunately playing without the services of its two 6-foot posts — Grade 11 Demi Timmerman and senior Grace Pruim — both of whom were nursing ankle injuries.
This early in her senior varsity career, Mark’s promise seems genuine based on her overall skill set and work ethic.
On Wednesday, that building of possession-to-possession confidence seemed almost palpable.
Mark showed herself to be an intuitive high-post passer and a dynamic player off the pivot, facing the basket and attacking off a bounce within the zone.
And those post moves she is talking about aren’t too far behind.
So many good things happened after she made the Basketball B.C. Under-15 team over the summer.
“Every one was so good on all the teams but it felt nice,” she said of the ensuing national-level competition she faced. “It was fun because everyone was playing at such a high level, playing on the provincial team gave me the confidence I think I needed… that I am good enough to get the ball in the post and good enough to be on this high-competitive team. So it definitely boosted my confidence to get it into the post, working hard on different moves to read my defender. And I definitely think that helps with getting open in the post and choosing the right move to score.”
The Ramblers will face the Salish-Langley winner in a 4:30 p.m. semi-final contest Thursday on South Court.
SALISH 59 LANGLEY SECONDARY 58 (2OT)
By Howard Tsumura
LANGLEY — Reyna Aujla, like every other player on the Langley Events Centre floor, was just hoping to keep her legs under her.
It was, after all, an early-December game here in the opening round of the TBI Local 8s bracket and just weeks into a new season.
The prospect of playing a double-overtime game this early can be a cruel proposition, but with the score tied 58-58 between her Salish Wolves and the Langley Thunderbirds, earning a couple of free throw attempts with 23 seconds remaining is an opportunity she knew she couldn’t waste.
Aujla missed the first, but then watched the second swirl and ultimately fall through, avoiding triple-OT and lifting her team to a 59-58 victory.
“That scared me so bad my heart was twisting,” explained Aujla, a 5-foot-6 Grade 11 guard who finished with a game-high 23 points. “My stomach was twisting. I was so tired when I was shooting but I am glad it went in.”
If you thought the Local 8s bracket, one focussing more on up-and-coming local programs within close proximity of the LEC, might lack some drama, well, this one proved you wrong.
Langley looked absolutely over-matched to start the game and fell behind 15-1, yet incredibly responsive, hands-on coaching by the ‘Birds seemed to changed their focus and demeanour in midstream.
LSS morphed into a different basketball team, and led by the triple-pronged 15-point outings of Jaya Kalar, Isabelle Nicholson and Caterina Silvia Follo matched the Wolves the rest of the way.
“I was so impressed,” said Aujla of her opposition. “They worked as hard as they could. I was amazed by their effort.”
In the end, Aujla admitted that the game plan was to work hard for rebounds and try and win the game from the stripe, despite the fact that the team only had eight free throw attempts the entire game.
“We had to make sure that we were wide when we cut down to get those rebounds, and then be able to shoot it up and get those fouls,” she said.
And when she did just that to earn a chance to win the game?
“I said to myself ‘I got to get to the free throw line. I got to get those points up.’”
Grade 10 Ruby Clunas added 16 for Surrey’s Wolves while Grade 8 Henna Virk added nine more in the win.
Salish faces Maple Ridge in a 4:30 p.m. semifinal Thursday at South Court.
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