LANGLEY — Maryn Budiman and the rest of the seniors with Surrey’s Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers have one more game remaining in their high school basketball careers.
Fortunately for them, it’s the one they’ve dreamed their entire lives of playing in, and if they want to thank someone for it, a Grade 11 star-in-waiting guard named Harneet Sidhu is a pretty logical place to start.
Facing a junk defence that caused her fits over the early going, Budiman was still able to score 21 points in helping Tweedsmuir to a 66-64 win over its crosstown rivals, the Panorama Ridge Thunder, in Friday’s semifinal action at the Langley Events Centre.
But without Sidhu’s courageous display of shot-making prowess, it seems more probable that the Thunder would be tipping off against the Abbotsford Panthers and their star guard Sienna Lenz, in Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. final.
Abby beat Langley’s Brookswood Bobcats 69-65 as the Triple A tier had one of its most competitive Final Four Fridays in the event’s 68-year history.
“She is a Grade 11 that has been huge for us in every single game, and she is our third-leading scorer,” said Tweedsmuir head coach Curtis McRae of 5-foot-10 Sidhu. “There were so many times today and even yesterday (in an 81-78 win over No. 1 Oak Bay) where she made a huge difference.”
Not the player you would pick out of a pre-game warm-up as a go-to girl, perhaps, but there are shades of Sienna Lenz’s ice-veined efficiency populating her basketball DNA.
Driving through defenders to sink tough banks off glass, hitting three-pointers, and just generally putting herself in the line of fire with confidence, Sidhu shot 9-of-17 from the field on a night in which the Thunder created a traffic jam for Budiman (4-of-15 FG, 10-of-12 FT).
For McRae, his team’s early-stage doldrums weren’t completely unexpected.
“When you come off a huge win like we had last night, the fear is that you will come out soft and flat,” he said.
“That is what happened tonight. They threw a triangle-and-two against us, and honestly it’s something we’ve never seen. Now we know how to beat it but we didn’t figure it out until late in the game.”
Budiman, with 1:20 left in a 62-62 tie, was fouled from three-point range and hit all three of her free throws for a 65-62 lead.
Panorama’s Arsh Gill grabbed an offensive rebound for a lay-in with 31 seconds left to pull the Thunder to within 65-64.
Shelvin Grewal, Friday’s hero against Oak Bay with 35 points, hit one of two free throws with three seconds left to make the final score complete.
Panorama Ridge star Savannah Dhaliwal had 21 points, 18 rebounds, six assists, four blocks and two steals.Teammate Simrat Dosanjh added 20 points, hitting six triples.
Now, the Panthers-vs-Panthers matchup, the first BC girls top-tiered senior varsity final featuring teams with the same moniker, is down to a countdown.
The two teams have split their meetings this season, but McRae doesn’t count the first one because Sienna Lenz missed it because of injury.
In the other meeting, Lord Tweedsmuir led Abby by 25 points in the third quarter at the Fraser Valley tournament, and by 12 with three minutes to go but wound up losing.
“I know what went wrong because I have looked at it over and over,” said McRae, interestingly enough a late 1990s grad of Abbotsford Secondary. “It was bad decision-making on our part, they hit some shots, but we still had a chance to win it at the end.”
McRae knows it will be a battle, especially from the team’s sister-guard duo of Sierra and Marin Lenz.
“Sienna and Marin are just pitbulls,” said McRae. “And Abbotsford is a fantastic team. They just have ice water in their veins. They never break. They are always in the game no matter what so we are going to have our hands full.”
The Abbotsford camp knows the Tweedy camp will be itching to make good on their late collapse at the Fraser Valley tournament.
“I expect them to come after us full throttle,” said Abbotsford head coach Prentice Lenz, “but I think they do the same every day, so I expect nothing less tomorrow.”
Added Abby forward Kelsey Roufosse: “I think they are going to come at us hard. They are looking for revenge. But I think we can match that.”
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