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Skills Contest the highlight of Day 2 at Bballnationals

VK Basketball has the ball. One of their Under-17 Girls team, this one the U-17 Black team, fitted in gray jerseys and matching Kyrie 5s race up the court. The ball gets kicked out to the corner into the hands of number seven, Surprise Munie. She takes a second, assessing the space she has in front of her. She makes a couple quick dribble moves, shaking her defender, creating enough room for her to go to her step back jumper. The ball clanks off the rim and in for a 2-point bucket.

VK Basketball’s U-17 Black team would go on to win the game comfortably over the Junior Heat, taking the game 71-41. Munie contributed 12 points but it’s the ball skills that she showcased on the step-back jumper that is the focus of what’s next.

“I just heard about it,” says Munie about the upcoming Skills Contest. As good as she is, she doesn’t necessarily want to participate. However, she may have a slight edge over the competition.

Munie and her teammates line up to high-five the players on the Junior Heat after their 11:15 AM game on the South Court of the Langley Events Centre. The South Court is where the Skills Contest will take place, beginning at 1:45 PM. The South Court is also where Munie played all her teams’ games during the BC High School Basketball Championships here back in March. This is as good as home court for Munie.

It’s almost 1:45 PM and the gym is starting to fill up. You can’t see half of the bleachers because of the parents, teams and coaches here to watch, the same way you can barely see the centre of the South Court, as the participants wait for the competition to begin. Munie’s covered up her jersey with a hoodie to stay warm as she waits to get going, but she’s still trying to talk her way out of it.

Surprise Munie in the Skills Contest

“Is it your big toe or your ankle?” asks one of her coaches.

“Both,” replies Munie cheekily.

Still, Munie, who’s never done anything like a skills competition is looking forward to it. Well, except for one part: “Two ball dribbling is not my thing,” she says.

The Skills Contest is almost like an obstacle course – it includes making a baseline jumper, followed by dribbling through cones and then an accurate pass, aimed at a pole. After that it’s the dreaded two-ball dribbling through cones, back to making a pass, back through the cones and into a layup. It all has to be completed in under 45 seconds.

“This is going to be in the half court only,” says Darcy Coss, one of the tournament coordinators. “It’s the first time we’re doing it for this event. Skills contests are not new – the one that we’re using is one that is used in some international FIBA competitions.”

“Skills contests are always fun, especially once you start going head to head.”

“How’s everyone doing today?” The PA announcer’s question is met with applause and just like that the preliminary rounds begin. All the divisional rounds happen first; U-13 followed by U-15 and then U-17. And then it’s the playoff rounds. Two at a time, girls go to opposite ends of the court and wait for the buzzer to go off as the prepare to go head to head.

Left to right: Claire Huang, Brooke Kendal and Malaya Vickery

Eventually, the winners in each division are crowned and it’s a VK three-peat. Malaya Vickery took the U-13 division, Claire Huang the U-15 and Brooke Kendal won the U-17 division. The girls gather for a photo and to collect their prizes before being joined by all the participants for a big group photo.

Judging by the atmosphere, it’s pretty clear everyone’s had a good time. Unsurprisingly, so did Munie.

By: Mohak Sood

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