LANGLEY — And you thought our coverage of the B.C. high school sports year was over for the summer?
In the last week or so, our teachers and coaches took the time to clean out the old and get ready to usher in a new season come this September, and here at Varsity Letters, we’re doing much the same.
That means you can expect a few more stories from this corner before the week is out.
As we take stock on 2017-18 with an eye towards 2018-19, it’s the memories and the feelings experienced throughout the course of the campaign that have the greatest staying power and tell the best tales.
And with that in mind, it’s hard to forget the way Langley’s Walnut Grove junior girls basketball team completed their seaosn.
To them, sour never tasted so sweet.
Yes, the majority of the tears they shed that day in March, after beating Surrey’s Fraser Heights Firehawks 53-46 came from the joy of capturing a B.C. J.V. title.
But perhaps comically, a few of them also came from the bitter reaction to their post-game toast, a shot of orange juice from a months-old jumbo juice box the team had lovingly turned into a good-luck charm and had been lugging around from game-to-game since the early part of the season.
Taking one look at the graffiti-covered juice box from which head coach Grant Inkster served the victorious drinks was proof positive it had logged almost as many games as the girls.
And then to watch their elation as the tiny plastic cups all went bottoms-up?
“This is something that galvanized them,” Inkster said of what the juice box ultimately represented as the Gators just kept on building in strength and cohesion, to the point where their final quarter of their season, propelled by the game-high 21 points of Holly Harrison and the all-round play of Grade 8 MVP Fania Taylor, was their best of the entire campaign. “I really didn’t know how good it was going to taste.”
Given the moment, Inkster admitted, anything would have tasted great.
And while the Gators had been, on paper, installed as the pre-tourney favourites, there was nothing ‘old hat’ about their journey through a most unpredictable bracket.
“They weren’t in the Top 15 all year,” Inkster said of the relative anonymity with which they played until moving up to No. 7 in the provincial rankings as the conference tournament arrived. “Then they won the Fraser Valleys, and that got them ranked No. 1 heading into the B.C.’s. So it took a long time for them to earn that mantle, but once they did, they wore it well.”
It’s a special thing to watch a high school team, in any sport and at any age division, celebrate a provincial championship.
But when that plot line is enhanced by something as goofy and homespun as a battered old jug of orange juice, we’re reminded that there can still be moments when an unspoiled innocence can carry the day.
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