Updated: Mar 1, 2018
After a 4th place finish at last year’s provincial championships, coach Del Komarniski and the #1 ranked South Kamloops Titans return to Langley looking to take home a banner. Led by talented grade 11 guard Madison Gobeil and senior twin sisters Lauren and Katherine Walkley, the Titans are athletic enough to run with any team in this tournament.
Their depth, coupled with the inside play of 6-foot-6 grade 11 post and Team Canada Under-16 member, Olivia Morgan-Cherchas, make the team from South Kamloops the clear #1 seed in this year’s field of 16. While coach Komarniski is excited about his team’s chances, he recognizes that anything can happen in a single knockout tournament format and, for his team to reach their ultimate goal, they’ll have to put together 4 solid games.
It’s the first time ever that the Selkirk Storm are going to the ‘AA’ Provincials, and although they are currently 16th overall, head coach Jacob Bowes is confident that his girls will bring the thunder.
“Our team will show hustle, heart, and determination no matter what the scoreboard says,” says Bowes. “They play the same way for 40 minutes. There are 6 of our 9 girls in their Grade 12 year, so expect them to lay it all out on the floor for their last games.”
The Storm play the South Kam Titans (ranked 1st in all of BC) in the first round, a matchup that on paper may seem like a blowout. However, Coach Bowes expects his girls to give it there all against each of their opponents—many of which they have never played before.
“We’re hoping to survive and play good basketball throughout the tournament and hopefully be competitive regardless of our opponent.”
To prepare for provincials, Selkirk played the Mount Baker Wild, a AAA team that qualified for Provincials, where the girls were able to learn some strategies to hopefully be successful in Langley.
Coach Bowes is proud of his girls for their achievements this year, regardless of where the Storm sits in the rankings. This small town team from the Kootenays may have a lot to prove at provincials, but already has a lot to celebrate, given it’s their first time attending.
“They are one of the strongest teams to come out of our zone in quite a few years. We are hoping to surprise some teams later on in the tournament,” Bowes says. “We are overjoyed to be at provincials; we will have a great time regardless of the result.”
The Langley Christian Lightning are looking to take their season of constant growth and translate that into a great experience playing close to home in the AA provincials at the LEC this week.
With only four returning players from last year’s team, three being seniors, the Lightning are coming together as a tough team heading into the final week of the season. Coach Daniel Gardner has been happy with her season so far with the girls competing and working hard.
“We’ve had a pretty strong exhibition schedule this season playing many top level AAA teams which I think has helped us become tougher and better as a team.”
Coach Danie Gardner is looking to take their second place finish at the AA Fraser Valley tournament, losing to a strong GW Graham team, and have her team learn from it.
“As we prepare for provincials it’s just continuing to build on what we’ve been emphasizing all season: our defence and getting better in our offence.”
Makenna Gardner is one to look out for, as the Lightning are looking for her to up the level of play from her teammates, making them better throughout the upcoming week.
Whistler Secondary is hoping to take the Langley Events Centre by storm, making their first berth into the AA provincial tournament in their first year playing in the AA league.
The Whistler Storm are looking to the bring forward the experience they have gained through tough losses to AAA powerhouses.
“We had narrow losses to AAA Argyle and Carson Graham this year, which gave us confidence that we can compete with good teams,” says coach Alan Kristmanson. “The girls understand how strong the competition is, having played Britannia tough [lost by 5], so it’s a matter of competing every game to be successful. It will be a great learning experience for them.”
They are coming into the LEC this week shorthanded however, with one of their top players, Ryann Kristmanson, injured. The adversity is just something they will have to battle through and they aren’t making any excuses. Kristmanson wants his team to enjoy the tournament for its entirety.
“We aren’t even supposed to be there, so [I want the girls to] take it all in and see how we do."
For the Storm, it’s going to be a fun experience, with a majority of the girls in grade 11 looking forward to gaining experience for their upcoming senior season next year.
Ever wonder what a Whunda is? It’s basically a Tasmanian devil ready to rip through a serene area and cause a scene. That’s exactly what the Westsyde Whundas hope to do in their first round of the ‘AA’ Provincial Championships.
The Whundas, sitting at 11th in BC, are set to play the Duchess Park Condors, who are ranked sixth coming into the province’s biggest largest tournament.
Head Coach Jody Vosper is proud of this team, whose first goal was to make it to provincials.
“We have a well-rounded team and stress team play and the ‘We’ above the ‘Me’,” Vosper says. “We are taking the tournament one possession at a time.”
Coach Vosper and his wife, Shyann, have been coaching the six Grade 12s on Westsyde’s senior girls basketball team since they were in Grade 8. Aside from his 20 years of coaching experience, Vosper is also a PE teacher and an Athletic Director at the school. His wife played basketball at the University College of the Cariboo, now known as TRU, where she works; she has over 10 years of coaching experience under her belt.
Though the Whundas trail the Condors slightly in the rankings, the team embraces the challenge and hopes for an upset.
“We are going in as the underdogs. We know we will have our work cut out for us.”
As for the team itself, Coach Vosper admires the unity and bond his girls share. Despite battling adversity throughout the season, including injuries and sickness, they have yet to quit and continue to work hard “no matter what it says on the score clock.”
The team endured a busy schedule throughout the season, with only one off weekend. They traveled to Vernon, Kelowna, and Surrey to compete in away tournaments, and also participated in the Okanagan’s in Penticton. Westsyde even boasts wins over Vernon—three to be exact—and St. Thomas More.
Hopefully these underdogs can channel the Tasmanian devil within to take out the Condors.
Hailing from Prince George, the Duchess Park Condors were unable to defend their AA Provincial Championship last season. However, they look to make it two out of three this year.
That journey starts with a matchup against Westsyde Secondary from Kamloops, who feature six grade 12s on their roster.
The Little Flower Academy Angels are looking to take their 4-1 league record and translate that into a more successful provincial campaign. The Angels are the top scoring team in their league, averaging 64 points per game.
The Angels qualified for these provincials through the BC AA Wildcard game, which is hosted at a neutral site. This year, the Angels defeated Pitt Meadows Secondary and punched in their ticket.
The road ahead for the Angels won’t be easy as they are coming into the AA girls provincials as the number 14 seed and will face the GW Graham Grizzlies, winners of the Fraser Valley.
The GW Graham Grizzlies are looking to continue their historic streak at this year’s AA girls provincials. This season has seen the Grizzlies from Chilliwack ticking off accomplished goals all year.
GW Graham Secondary School opened 11 years ago, and this year marks the tenth anniversary of having a senior girls team. In her tenure as head coach of the Grizzlies, Sarah Mouritzen has turned an 1-11 team into a Fraser Valley Champion. Reflecting on her time with the team, Mouritzen thinks back to the start.
“Our first Fraser Valley game ever we lost to Mission by 60” said Mouritzen “We had so many gut wrenching losses until 2016 when we finally made the FV final and qualified for BC’s.”
Mouritzen and her Grizzlies steamrolled the Fraser Valley championship with a winning margin of 48 points per game en route to the school’s first ever banner, which each player receiving ample playing time and experience to lead up to the BC’s.
“Finally winning the banner just felt like an awesome high five for all the hours and hours and hours those girls have put into wearing a Grizzlies uniform. The commitment they have to their team and to the game, they deserve it.”
Led by the one-two punch of grade 12 Jaya Bannerman, and grade 11 Deanna Tuchscherer, the Grizzlies achieved their goal of winning a Fraser Valley banner, however their mind is now focused on the provincials.
“This year, our goal was simple; Win FV’s and give ourselves a chance to win it all.”
Representing the North West Zone, the Smithers Gryphons have been preparing for this upcoming week all season.
Being from up north, the Gryphons, coached by Chris Van Der Mark, had to have created a strong schedule to prepare his team for the tough provincial tournament. The North West has taken a hit in enrolment over the past decade and a half and there has been a significant drop in basketball players and teams throughout the region. Van Der Mark talks about the challenges they have faced this year.
“It is a challenge to get competitive games in the NW […] this is a big reason for building the kind of travel that we have done this year to get the exposure and have people take notice.”
The Gryphons have been traveling around the entire province this year, playing games at Abbotsford, Duchess Park, Penticton, and Holy Cross. The travel itself has been expensive but the Gryphons have been fundraising throughout the community to prepare themselves for the trip to the Langley Event Centre.
The high school basketball season is very important to the Gryphons as their players do not have access to club basketball, as being from Smithers there aren’t many opportunities for exposure. With their season only being from November to March, Van Der Mark is ready to be on the big stage at the LEC.
“Grade 11 guards Haley Hanchard and Tamiya Ness have had strong season with steady improvement […] hopefully this year’s BC tournament will be their arrival!”
Take a little drive up north and you’ll find yourself in the humble Okanagan community. A community that truly has gone the distance when it comes to high school basketball, specifically the senior girls of Okanagan Mission Secondary School.
OKM, who is currently ranked second in the Valley (4th overall) heading into Provincials, have a 22-7 record and even had a one-point game with the number one team overall, the South Kamloops Titans.
Head coach Meghan Faust has high expectations of her team whose goal is to finish top four.
“Both years we’ve attended provincials we haven’t been able to win that first game so this year that will be another goal for us,” says Faust.
This will be the third year in a row that the Huskies have qualified for provincials, which is a first for the school in over 25 years.
“This year has been one of the best coaching experiences by far. It’s the group of girls I have led by my very special grade 12s,” says Coach Faust. “They are a very close-knit group, and they love the game and each other very much.”
As far as highlights go, making the Okanagan Valley Championships for the first time is something Faust regards as a standout moment for the team.
Coach emphasizes that speed and outside shooting have been key characteristics that contribute to the team’s success, as well as a unique set of girls who each have a distinct role on the court.
“This team is such an interesting group. We have one grade 9, one grade 10, 2 grade 11s that have been with me since grade 9, three more grade 11s and 6 12s,” says Faust. “We have a couple top level soccer players on the team who bring us speed and defense.”
The St. Michael’s Blue Jags are roaring into their first round of provincials against the St. Thomas Aquinas Fighting Saints. Though the Blue Jags are currently ranked 12th in ‘AA’, head coach Holly Robertson is proud of her girls for what they’ve accomplished throughout the season.
“We look forward to continuously building our program at Provincials,” she says. “Every year we start our season with goals of being the best team on the Island. This year we achieved just that. Every additional game at this point in the season is a building block for the next year.”
The Fighting Saints, ranked fifth overall, will have to battle it out against what Robertson believes is a solid group of Grade 11s and 12s, with standout players being Taylor Noel (Gr. 12), Jordan Stonehouse (Gr. 11), Zoe Lott (Gr. 11), and Meredith Selwoof (Gr. 11).
“We have a close-knit group of girls that have melded nicely on the court. Some of them have been playing together since middle school,” she says.
Stonehouse, one of the Jags’ strongest players, has been out with an injury since January. However, her drive and intensity as an athlete has rubbed off on her teammates as they have truly come together to achieve great things, despite her absence in the game.
“Our team feeds off of her intense playing style and determination, so we will be happy to have her back as soon as possible,” says Coach Robertson.
The Blue Jags style of play doesn’t vary much during playoffs, since the girls practice the same during regular season as they do leading up to provincials. They do put more emphasis on shooting drills and defensive strategy, though.
Outside of stats, Coach Robertson has expressed her admiration for this specific group of girls.
“This year’s team has been a delightful bunch of athletes to coach,” Robertson says.
“As a coach, one of my most fundamental goals is to provide these girls with a healthy, positive and fun environment for them to grow and develop in.”
It was looking good for Saint Thomas Aquinas at half of the Lower Mainland final. They were up by 11 and looking in control. However, they let it slip away from them in the second half after a courageous Britannia comeback.
Despite this, they are well positioned to make a run in the provincial tournament. They won the North Shore AA championship over Whistler, and won the BC Catholic Basketball Championships for the first time in 23 years.
The Fighting Saints are led by Jessica Clarke and Gemma Cutler, a pair of Grade 10 post players. Both average a double-double a game and are a handful for the opposition — not only this tournament, but for the seeable future as well. Guard Olivia Thorpe is averaging 10 points a game, as well as three steals.
The Vernon Panthers will duke it out against the St. Thomas More Knights in the first round of the AA Provincial Championships.
Head coach Lonny Mazurak, who has been with the Panthers since 2001 and has coached the senior girls for 13 years, admits that injuries have been an issue since only six or seven girls actually play in their games.
“Our whole team has shown adversity,” he says.
Despite the injury bug, three returning players who know their way around the court lead the team.
“Grade 12 Mackenzie Horst who played for Team BC last summer. Grade 11 Kelsey Falk who is a very special athlete and is a strong at both ends of the floor, and Grade 11 Emilia Durfeld who is a lock down guard defender.”
This will be the Panthers 14th straight year going to the provincials.
Coach says that an accurate draw that allows for the best teams to play for the championship is what he was hoping for. His team is ranked 10th overall, while the Knights are seventh.
“Our goal is to play our best basketball of the season,” says Mazurak.
One of the games that’s expected to be tightly contested is this openeing match-up between Saint Thomas More Collegiate Knights and Vernon. STM this season went undefeated during the regular season and won the Independent League Championship. However, they finished third in the Lower Mainland Championship which were held in their home gym. Offensively, they are led by point guard Emma Stewart Barnett. This season, she averaged 18 points, five rebounds, and four steals.
For Vernon, it will be equally as difficult. The Panthers were ranked eighth heading into the provincial tournament and will be in tough to contain not only Stewart Barnett, but also the likes of Brooklyn Monts, who is averaging a double-double a game, as well as Senior Julia Spagnuolo. Not only that, but the team is battling through an injury bug which saw them play only six or seven players in some games.
The Mark Isfeld Ice, ranked 15th overall in BC, will have a tough matchup against the Britannia Bruins (2nd overall) this year at provincials. However, coaches Ken Erikson and Sherri Bohmer believe that their girls will not give up, despite the high level of competition.
“’Effort Until the End’ is the motto for the Ice, and our identity is in our ability to switch between several defensive systems and presses in the fly,” says Bohmer.
The Ice is made up of five Grade 12s, four Grade 11s, and one Grade 9 and 10 who are both standout players on the team.
“Myah Erikson (Grade 10) is our point guard and has had an outstanding season (10 points, 2 rebounds, 15 assists, and 6 steals per game). She has an incredible ability to see the floor, is our primary ball carrier, loves to drive the hoop, and can also shoot threes,” says Bohmer.
Isfelds’ Grade 9 Harriette Cunningham contributed to the team’s success by having an “outstanding breakout season” with 20 points, 20 rebounds, 7 blocks, and 2 steals per game. The team will be missing Cunningham at provincials, unfortunately, as she will be in Vietnam for a pre-planned family vacation.
“Our overall strength is in our depth. We have a great team this year with several ball carriers, several shooters and we thrive on our defense,” says Coach Bohmer.
The Bruins will not be an easy matchup for the Ice, given that they finished 2nd in the province. Still, Bohmer says her girls will play with the same passion that they have all season.
To help prepare for provincials, the Ice traveled to the mainland quite a bit in order to play high calibre basketball games; matches that have allowed for the girls to compete with fast-paced and strong shooting teams.
Aside from the competition, Coach Bohmer says the girls have a close connection to one another and is excited to watch how they come together in this tournament.
“This team is like a family and they have a strong dynamic this year,” she says. “We are looking forward to ending our season on a positive note.”
There is perhaps no hotter team coming into the AA Provincial Championship than the Britannia Bruins. After railing off 25 straight wins and winning the Lower Mainland championship, Britannia are understandably one of the favourites to win the AA provincial tournament. In that game, they came back from an 11 point halftime deficit to defeat Saint Thomas Aquinas in spectacular fashion.
“Basically I said we were only down 11, that’s three shots each quarter so it’s really nothing” said Britannia head coach Mike Evans to BC Sports Hub after that game. “But we have to start the second half hard.”
They will be up against Mark Isfeld in the opening round of the tournament. Coming from Vancouver Island by way of Courtney, they should not be taken lightly by Britannia.