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Part 2: Connections and Chemistry at the 2020 VGBA Langara Challenge

Updated: Feb 4, 2020

The 2020 VGBA Langara Challenge wraps up action today at Langara College.

Connections and chemistry are the keys to any team. The Vancouver Girls Basketball Association (VGBA) would not be possible without partnerships and connections. Most high school basketball programs rely on a team of volunteers and staff. Teams with the best chemistry tend to win championships. We are going to delve into some of the connections and chemistry at the 2020 VGBA Langara Challenge.

Connection: A love to coach

How do you get involved with a high school team when you do not have any real connection to the program? A love to coach and belief in what the program is doing. That is exactly why Greg Eng is coaching at John Oliver. Coach Eng has coached at all levels: he used to coach at Langara College, York House, and Sir Winston Churchill to name a few. He is also involved with Strathcona Basketball and NACBAIT (North American Chinese Basketball Association International Tournament). He is retired and needed something to balance out all the golfing he does; coaching has always been something he did and something he loves so he figured why not get back into it (it also helps that John Oliver is close to his residence).

The way he sees it, the program at John Oliver is not black and white and things definitely are not easy. Most of the athletes do not have significant financial support, but what they do have is a great supporting community. Greg could not say enough kind words about fellow coach and John Oliver teacher, Pat Lee. Greg referred to Pat as an exceptional teacher, one who you can see really cares about his students/athletes. He makes it possible for as many people to be part of the program. The senior girl’s basketball program has seven managers. SEVEN. And you know what? They all love it. The junior girl’s basketball program at John Oliver has 15 athletes on their roster and another five that just practice. You know why? Because high school sport is about so much more than the scoreboard. It is about community. It is about compassion. It is about being part of something you can be proud of. The best part? When you create this sense of community, you create a positive environment for people to do great things. And with leaders like Greg and Pat, you know the athletes at John Oliver are destined for great things.

Game 5 (Senior Girls) - Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs vs John Oliver Jokers

The Bulldogs jumped out to an early lead in the 1st quarter much in part to Elizabeth Jefferson, but the Jokers battled back to cut down the lead to just 3 at the end of the first, 18-15. Jefferson would get into foul trouble early and this opened up the door for the Jokers.

To start the second, the Jokers would take a one point lead at the 7:36 mark and this would lead to a back and forth battle the entire quarter. Joker’s Grade 9 Queenie Salazar proved to be tough to handle for the Bulldogs, continually driving the lane and getting to the rim. Foul shots would allow Churchill to cut into the lead before half as Savreen Kahlon would knock down her first and Kate Teasdale came up with the offensive rebound to garner an extra possession. Joker’s Rachel Labrador would drive to the hoop for two near the end of half, but Bulldog’s Sydney Hughes would answer with a three to make it 31-27 for John Oliver heading into the half time break.

Out of a time out early in the second half, the Jokers would bring full court pressure which would lead to multiple turnovers and fast break opportunities. Kaila Fong showed she can do it all, knocking it down from long range, driving to the hoop, and snagging steals.

Elizabeth Jefferson would re-enter the game at the mid point of the third quarter in hopes of rejuvenating the Bulldogs who had endured a 14-0 run to start the half. Argelique Punau would finally break the seal off the basket for the Bulldogs, knocking down a free throw with 3:46 left in the third quarter. Bulldog’s Jefferson would foul out with 2:27 left in the third and that would basically seal the victory for the Jokers. The Bulldogs were just unable to find their rhythm on offence, trailing 49-31 after three quarters.

Kate Teasdale would spark some life back into the Bulldogs, stepping out from her regular low post spot to knock down a three pointer. The John Oliver Jokers would take the game 60-37, but it was a great effort from a depleted Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs squad (thanks in part to school finals!).

High Scorers for the game were Joker’s Kaila Fong with 17 points and 13 points from Rachel Labrador, while the Bulldogs were led by Kate Teasdale and Sydney Hughes with 12 and 10 points respectively.

Fun Connection: Parent-Daughter, Coach-Athlete

Both the Point Grey Greyhound and Lord Byng Grey Ghosts have a family connection on the benches between coaches and athletes, but one stands out. Andrew Smith pulls double duty with daughters at both Point Grey and Magee, so you know what he does? He coaches at BOTH schools. Talk about a love for the game.

Game 6 (Senior Girls)– Point Grey Greyhounds vs Lord Byng Grey Ghosts

Missing their starting point guard, the Lord Byng Grey Ghosts would show tenacity and great team play to battle back to win it. This game had multiple lead changes, but the Greyhounds could not find enough ways to score.

The teams were deadlocked at 7 for most of the 1st quarter, but the Greyhounds would go on a 6-0 run to take the lead. A basket right at the end of the quarter seemed to give the Ghosts the momentum heading into the second quarter, with the Greyhounds holding onto a 13-9 lead.

The Ghosts would come out on a roll, with a 3 from Sonja Petrovic followed by a nice drive to the hoop. Fouls and free throws would get the game all tied up, but a long range shot by Sophie Johnson from the Ghosts would put Lord Byng back in front. The Ghosts would take a 21-16 into halftime, with the Greyhounds only able to muster 3 points in the quarter, all from the free throw line.

Ella Hyland started off the second half by knocking down a jumper from the elbow for the Greyhounds. Engy Meseha would knock down a 3 for Lord Byng, but Sonja Petrovic would answer with a floater in the key for the Hounds. The Ghosts would tie it up on a slick backdoor pass from Regan Smith and finished off by Meseha. Lord Byng Grey Ghosts would take a 29-27 lead into the final quarter.

Consecutive give and go passes from Smith to Meseha would start the quarter off well for the Ghosts, forcing the Greyhounds into a time out at the 8:08 mark and down 35-29. With 3:27 left, Sophie Johnson hit a put back to cut the lead down to 6. She would follow that up with a great take in transition, making the hoop and drawing the foul. A hoop from the baseline by Skye Higgins would put the Ghosts up by 7 with under two minutes to go and they were able to hold on for victory, taking the game 46-36.

High scorers for the game were Engy Meseha with 28 points (15 in the fourth quarter) for the Lord Byng Grey Ghosts, most coming off passes from Regan Smith. Sophie Johnson was able to muster 10 points in a balanced attack from the Point Grey Greyhounds.

Game 7 (Junior Girls) – Semi-Final: Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs vs Eric Hamber Griffins

Coming out in a 1-2-2 zone, the Eric Hamber Griffins wanted to challenge the Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs to be shooters and not use their height advantage. The problem? The Bulldogs are not afraid to shoot. The Bulldogs knocked down several outside jumpers (after some great ball movement) and built up a 13-0 lead thanks to back to back threes by Marah Dykstra.

Unable to find the bottom of the hoop early in the game, Coach Gabriela Leong went to her bench early and often. Micah Andaya was finally able to break the goose egg for the Griffins, knocking down a free throw after a great take to the rim. The Griffins were able to create several turnovers, with Darlene Luong finishing in the paint over all of Churchill’s height to get their first field goal of the game. Late in the quarter, Elly Drazic would complete the three-point play on an ‘And One’ down low and the Bulldogs would hold a 18-3 after one quarter.

A slick pass from Maddie Murray to Gwen Orchard would start the quarter off for the Bulldogs. Murray would continue to show off her high post passing, hitting Drazic for an easy two down low. Hazara Sandhu would stop the bleeding for the Griffins with a fantastic take and finish at the hoop and forcing the Bulldogs to take a time out. Right out of the time out, Drazic would show off her passing abilities by hitting Emily Zhang on a great cut for two points. Sometimes playing a 2-3 zone with the bottom having an average height of close to 6 feet tall, the Bulldogs defence seemed to suffocate the Griffins. Griffin’s Amaya Hrbinic showed off some great euro steps to get to the hoop and score, but the Bulldogs would possess a 36-8 lead at halftime.

Coming out of halftime, nothing could kill the spirit of the Eric Hamber Griffins. Through to the final buzzer, the Griffins battled hard and celebrated every basket and every effort. Griffin’s Ellie Duggan had my favourite play of the game, jumping the passing lane, taking the ball the length of the court in transition, and finishing a very tough layup at the other end of the floor. Watching plays like this late in the game, you can see that playing hard through to the final buzzer regardless of score is important to these athletes. The Bulldogs would take the game 61-23 and book themselves a ticket in the 2020 VGBA Langara Challenge Final.

High scorers for the game were Ellie Duggan for the Griffins and Marah Dykstra with 27 points for the Bulldogs and both would took home Player of the Game Honours.

Game 8 (Junior Girls) – Semi-Final: Crofton House Falcons vs St. Patrick’s Celtics

In a battle of private schools, the Falcons and Celtics did not disappoint. With the winner set to take on the Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs who earned their spot in the final earlier in the day, you could see that both teams wanted to have a chance to compete for the championship. And what wins championships? Defence.

Crofton House bolsters a roster of 18 athletes, while St. Patrick’s has a roster of 14 athletes.

Both teams struggled to knock down the outside shots to start the game, as both teams played stifling defence that made it hard to get into the key. Celtic’s guards Adriana Bellia and Kirsten Alojado started to slice their way to the rim and draw contact, getting themselves to the free throw line multiple times. A nice pass off great ball movement from Ira Santos to Charlize Santos gave the Celtic’s a slim 8-7 lead after the first quarter.

Luckily for the Falcons the Celtic’s were not able to convert early Falcon turnovers into points, but scoring continued to be at premium to start the second. After a Bellia three pointer, the Falcon’s were able to grab multiple offensive rebounds and great looks at the basket, which eventually turned into a baseline basket from Fiona Pan. A nice put back and easy hoop in transition gave the Celtic’s a 15-9 lead with 4:12 left in the second. Following a Falcon’s timeout, Falcon’s Olivia Gibson was able to get herself to the free throw line and cut into the lead. The change to a 1-2-2 zone from Crofton House seemed to slow down the lane penetration of St. Patrick’s and with a Gigi Roddick bucket, we had a one-point game. A switch back to man to man defence for the Falcon’s forced a turnover and a basket from Falcon’s Christine Chen led us into halftime with a score of 18-16 for the St. Patrick’s Celtics.

Falcon’s point guard Mariella Palma scored the first basket to open the half and tie the game. Turnovers and unfriendly rims continued to be the story game, as neither team seemed able to take control of the game. Continuing to be disciplined and run their zone offence, Palma would knock down a 3 to give the Falcon’s their first lead since the start of the game. Bellia would slice the defence to restore the lead for the Celtic’s and then fed #13 to build it up to 3. Palma would respond with a jumper of her own, but I. Santos managed to get all the way to the rim and score and keep the lead at three. A long range three pointer by Palma at the end of the shot clock (and we mean long range, talking logo Lilliard range), tied the game up at 26 heading into the final quarter.

The final quarter would see St. Patrick’s take a 4 point lead and a last minute by Crofton still left them a point short, with the Celtic’s winning 30-29. Adriana Bellia and Mariella Palma were the top scorers for the game.

PREVIEW: Junior Girls Final between Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs and St. Patrick’s Celtics

St. Patrick’s could be in tough against a dynamic Bulldogs team that is not only tall, but have guards that can drive the lane. The Celtic’s brought out a tough zone defence that stifled Crofton House to only 29 points, but the Bulldogs have been very disciplined in running their zone offence and finding ways to score in bunches.

PREVIEW: Senior Girls Final between Britannia Bruins and York House Tigers

It is hard to bet against a team that has won several tournaments in a row and that is exactly what the Britannia Bruins have done. Trying to keep their win streak alive and keep their #2 AA Ranking, the Bruins will have to try and shut down Nadeen Wu and her York House Tigers. Wu has the ability to go off offensively, but the dynamic duo of Shemaiah and Surprise are always a handful.

On Saturday, January 25th the Junior Girls Final will take place at 3:45pm, while the Seniors will start at 5:30pm at Langara College.

More information and schedule/results can be found on the 2020 VGBA Langara Challenge website,

Part 1 of the series

Part 2 of the series

Part 3 of the series

Part 4 of the series

Written by: Katie Miyazaki