LANGLEY — Their dreams of a provincial championship had ended, yet wasn’t that a smile on Marissa Rodde’s face?
“It’s still a win in my books,” the talented 5-foot-11 Grade 10 forward with the Yale Lions said. “To go to two overtimes with just three players… I am really proud of my teammates.”
Yes, you heard that right.
In a quarterfinal game played Wednesday afternoon here at the B.C. Junior Girls Basketball Championships, the Yale Lions found themselves with just three players available for the final two minutes of regulation time against their crosstown Abbotsford rivals, the MEI Eagles.
Yet in a finish that was almost impossible to believe, those three players — Rodde, Taylor Hutton and Olivia Thind — not only kept the game close, they somehow sent it to double-overtime before the Eagles finally prevailed 71-63 by outscoring the spent trio of Lions 8-2 over the final 1:18 of play.
The Lions had come into the tournament as the No. 5 seed from the Fraser Valley, yet with only seven players on the roster all season available to head coach Shannon Finnie, they were always, in hindsight, just a couple of bad breaks away from having what happened Thursday occur on a more consistent basis.
Yet with seven at their disposal, they had beaten MEI four straight times prior to their provincial tournament clash.
“I am incredibly proud,” said Finnie, whose seventh player, 6-foot-1 forward Jayden White, was unavailable for the game due to a prior committment. “We knew coming in that we were short of numbers.”
Anoop Sidhu and Madi Makara were the first Lions to foul out, bringing their numbers to four. Then, with just under two minutes left in regulation, guard Julie Dueck took a technical and fouled out to leave Rodde, Thind and Hutton as the only remaining players.
Dueck, just before fouling out, had hit a pair of free throws to tied the game 50-50, and thus the three-on-five battle began with a tie on the scoreboard.
“We just said at that point, that you can only do what you can do and you’ve got to battle hard,” Finnie said of the message she delivered her players. “We adjusted.”
The defence she played might be something that Finnie could take on the circuit and chalkboard at coaching seminars around the country.
“We were playing a tandem (defence) and matching up with one of their players,” she attempted to explain.
Whatever that ultimate junk defence was, it wouldn’t have worked without the heart of the Yale Three.
Quite amazingly, however, Thind and Hutton were not scoring factors.
Rodde, however, was nothing short of sensational, playing off the trenchwork being performed by her teammates, and doing more than a little of her own.
Consider first that Yale played the final eight minutes of the game (two minutes of regulation, two three-minute extra sessions) down two players.
Then consider that when Rodde hit a triple with 29.6 seconds remaining in the second OT, it was Yale’s first bucket from the field over that entire duration.
Rodde was a machine.
Despite being outnumbered in every situation, she manufactured 10 free throw trips over that span, at one point hitting eight straight, including the first four straight to force the first overtime, and the last four straight to give her team a 58-56 lead with two minutes left in that initial extra session.
MEI’s Abby Gamache made a lay-in to force the second extra session.
A Thind free throw and then one from MEI’s Makenna Reimer had the game tied at 59-59 with 2:15 remaining.
Yet from that point forward, the Lions’ legs just gave way.
The Eagles finished on an 11-4 run to win the game and earn a Final Four date today against the No. 1 seeded Terry Fox Ravens, all of whom were gathered to watch as their scheduled quarterfinal against Victoria’s Claremont Spartans kept getting pushed back.
“In my 50 years or so, I’ve never seen anything like that in basketball,” remarked Ravens coach Mike Carkner, who spoke for pretty much the rest of the 80 or so fans on hand to watch the game.
Rodde was simply incredible.
She not only finished with a game-high 32 points, she went 18-of-21 from the free throw line, and she did it finishing the game with four fouls of her own. Thind and Hutton also led with their hearts, and each scored one point in the game.
Julie Dueck fouled out having scored 21 points, while Madi Makara did the same with four points to her credit.
Reimer led the Eagles with 21 points, Gracie Corneau scored 19 and Jazmin Avila 14.
“It was shocking, but none of us would have ever given up,” Rodde said afterwards. “Even if we had only two players we would have tried to keep going. I don’’t think any of us would have ever given up.
“I have played with some of these girls since Grade 6 and we’re all best friends,” said Rodde. “I love them all.”
Which brings us back to those smiles on the face of Rodde and her teammates after losing the biggest game of their season.
“They got such great support from their teammates who had already fouled out, that I really don’t think they were disappointed,” said Finnie. “This is a moment I will never forget.”
OK, OK. A loss is never a win.
Sometimes, however, as the events of Thursday showed us all, they’re even bigger.
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