LANGLEY — She wore Supergirl socks this week during her team’s heart-stopping run at the Telus B.C. girls high school basketball championships.
And on Saturday night, without a phone booth in sight on the Langley Events Centre centre court, Maryn Budiman seemed to disappear for a second, only to re-emerge in one of those magical moments where acceleration arrives in the snap of a finger.
Before the Abbotsford Panthers knew what had hit them, the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers’ guard had eluded pressure in one quicksilver stride, at one reaching full gallop, before pulling up and swishing a three-point basket.
From 11 points down earlier in the half to a 53-44 lead, the 20-point swing capped by her comic-book crazy bucket.
On a night that would eventually end in elation for the Surrey school after its 67-57 win gave the school its first-ever senior provincial basketball championship, the Budiman hoop was symbolic of the speed with which an entire team could battle back, almost inviting adversity as the carrot for their quest.
“I have been coaching this team for five years and for whatever reason, we have always been notoriously slow starters,” said head coach Curtis McRae, whose team followed the script again Saturday as Abbostford and its magnificent Grade 11 guard Sienna Lenz, the tournament’s Top Defensive Player, came out with a momentum that looked strong enough to bury Lord Tweedsmuir.
“But with that has come the knowledge that there is never any lack of confidence if it happens,” he continued. We go down 10, we go down 20, we still feel we’re in the game. We’re always a second-half team. We make adjustments. We figure out what is working and we attack it.”
Rallying against both undefeated, No. 1-ranked Oak Bay in the quarterfinals, then doing the same against crosstown rival Panorama Ridge in the Final Four only steeled their belief.
And Budiman, who scored a game-high 25 points en route to being named Tournament MVP, was quick to point out that the offensive contributions of both her and Grade 11 shooting guard Shelvin Grewal were just a piece of the overall puzzle.
“Everyone stepped up, and that was a team game we played to win,” she said.
On Saturday, especially, she was right.
Tweedsmuir needed to respond to what they knew was coming from Abby, and that is the imposing brand of physical, ethic-driven hoops that is becoming their trademark.
To that end, Shania Mander, and especially Breanne Homeniuk, played the kinds of gritty games coaches want to bottle and save for rainy days.
Homeniuk, a 5-foot-11 Grade 11 depth forward played like she was wearing Budiman’s socks, meeting every physical challenge placed in her path as she patrolled the paint, doing her best to prevent Abbotsford from establishing talented 10th Grade Kelsey Roufosse as an interior presence.
It was the level of tenacity needed to win a title and it was the kind of uncredited work that gets ignored in speaking to the 41 combined points both Grewal (16 points) and Budiman scored.
Mander, the 6-foot senior forward, made rare open floor forays on offence, but more importantly used her grit and length to grab 13 rebounds.
“Breanne Homeniuk, that is the best game I have ever seen her play in her entire life,” said McRae. “And Shania Mander and Sarah Rowe and Harneet Sidhu, again today, and Jess Vidovic and Brianne Boufford. Everyone. Maryn and Shelvin are going to do what they do and hit their shots, but our role players were massive tonight.
“We have role players because our stars are true stars,” McRae continued. “We might call them role players, but they’re really not. They are talented girls.”
Abbotsford has plenty of those as well.
But they’re also a lot younger.
On Saturday, Gabrielle MacGregor was the only Abby senior to see the floor.
The loss hurt, but head coach Prentice Lenz was confident that it would make his crew stronger as they come back as the potential preseason No. 1 team at the tier.
“We had an exceptional run and an exciting provincial final, so they are disappointed because it means something,” said Lenz, who like his daughters, experienced the feeling of a loss in the provincial final as an underclassmen when as a Grade 10, his MEI Eagles fell to the Richmond Colts in the 1987 B.C. senior boys Triple A final.
“But they will get back to work as they always do and realize the world will keep turning and that they can keep working to get better.”
Sienna Lenz carried a heavy load and scored 16 points while grabbing 21 rebounds. Marin Lenz added 15 points and Roufosse 14 points, eight rebounds and five blocks.
McRae added that as an eighth grade team, Tweedsmuir failed to advance past the Fraser Valley tournament.
From that team, only Vidovic, Mander and Boufford remain from an 18-player roster in 2012-13. Grewal arrived in ninth grade and Budiman in 10th grade.
“This has been the dream since the start of high school,” said Budiman. “And tonight it wasn’t about any one person. Each one of us wanted to win it for each other.”
Sienna Lenz, Marin Lenz, Grewal, Panorama Ridge’s Savannah Dhaliwal and Brookswood’s Louise Forsyth were picked to the first all-star team. Oak Bay’s Georgia Alexander and Sophie de Goede, Jenna Dick of Brookswood, Panorama’s Simrat Dosanjh and Tweedsmuir’s Harneet Sidhu were picked to the second team.
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