“We hadn’t ever beat Riverside — and I’ve been coaching [this team] over 10 years."
Yale Lions head coach Bobby Braich needed to catch his breath after his sixth-seeded Lions pulled off the biggest upset of the 2020 4A Girls Provincials so far on Thursday, with a win over the three-seeded Riverside Rapids. Exactly four months prior, at The Big Ticket tournament on November 27th, the Lions had lost big to the Riverside in the quarterfinals.
“We certainly weren’t expecting the result that we got,” said Braich, “We just wanted to compete.”
And compete they did. Yale was in control from start to finish, ultimately winning by a score of 74-52. The Lions were led by an impressive 27-point, 18-rebound performance from 6’2’ forward Jayden White. Also contributing was the sister duo of Kairshma and Neelam Rai, who had 10 and 15 points apiece.
However, a win wouldn’t have been possible without the collective effort of the team on defence to shut down Rapids star grade 11 guard Sammy Shields. Shields, who has dropped over 40 points on Yale before, was held to just 19 points and only made 7 of her 30 shots. How do you stop someone like Shields?
“You don’t,” said Braich. “We’ve tried multiple defences, she’s fantastic. Today, we just decided we’d throw multiple people at her and faceguard her and hope it would be disruptive”. The strategy worked as well as it could have. Shields fouled out early in the fourth quarter and was unable to get anything going for the Rapids.
For Braich, this win is a testament to how much his team has improved over the course of the year. It was also redemption from last year’s provincial quarterfinals when the Lions lost a heartbreaker 65-64 to the Kelowna Owls. “If you came to our practices, you’d always see that we preach positivity,” he said. “I’ve always told them that the greatest gift you can have is somebody who believes in you.”
A move near the end of the Thursday’s game that caught a few looks was when Braich called a timeout with 30 seconds left in the game, despite the fact that his team was up over 20 points on the Rapids. Why did Braich call the timeout? “I called the timeout to say one thing: ‘I love you, and we’re going to the Final Four" he explained. "To get through this game, psychologically for our team, it makes it easier to say it can be done.”
It is hard to understate how big of a win this is for the Lions, because it shows the younger players in the program what happens when a team buys in. “This is a big step forward for our program,” said Braich. “The younger players can now see the fruits of the practices and the quiet hours in the mornings.”
Next up for the Yale? The number two-seeded Terry Fox Ravens await in the semifinals, whom the Lions have yet to play this season.
“I have nothing but good things to say about the Ravens”, said Braich. “We’re just going to go eyeball to eyeball and battle as best as we can. It should be a dandy of a game”
By: Aly Dhanani