For those that haven’t seen them play, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to compare this STMC Knights Senior Girls team to some sort of high-powered Broadway musical — an electric, cohesive group that puts on a dazzling display of pure heart and basketball skill that is always a pleasure to watch. The Knights currently have a record of 25-5 and look to cement themselves in basketball history as this year's AA provincial champions.
STM is led by a dynamic senior guard trio in Cassiel Penalosa and twins Bella and Gigi Gaspar, The three first played together last year, and have gelled quickly to become one of the more feared trios in the province to play against. All three are university-bound athletes, with Penalosa continuing her basketball career at Queens’ and the Gaspar twins — Bella and Gigi — are playing NCAA Division I Lacrosse at Arizona State University.
For the Gaspar twins, their time off the court has also helped them on the court as well.
“Being a multi-sport athlete has definitely helped me in my development as a basketball player. It helped me gain general instincts and athleticism as an athlete” said Bella Gaspar talking to BC Sports Hub.
“The cool thing about playing multiple sports is that you’re able to apply what you’ve learned from other sports in totally different scenarios. I think I owe a lot to the other sports I have played as well.”
However, as talented as the Knights’ senior trio is, the team is much more than just their seniors alone. Standout juniors Emily Dias, Tatiana Yau, Kate Stewart-Barnett, and Rylan Monks have become huge for the Knights, consistently delivering great performances on both ends of the floor.
“Our grade eleven's have been great for us all year” continued Gaspar. “At the start of the season, we weren't too sure how they’d fit or what style we’d have to play with our incoming juniors, but it’s been working great so far. Our team chemistry has been great and the dynamic has been totally different this year, while also building off the successes we had last season."
Tough, fast-paced, and fearless, the Knights pride themselves on their defensive prowess.
“It all starts on the defensive end,” said Gaspar emphatically. “Getting quality defensive stops sets us up to run in transition and play fast, and allows us to set the tempo for the game.”
One of the team’s signature wins this year came at this year’s BC Catholics final, where they landed a decisive victory in beating the defending Catholics champs in St. Thomas Aquinas 51-36. The Knights were able to neutralize STA’s size advantage with their trademark blistering speed and stellar defensive play.
Two months later, the two teams have the opportunity to meet again in the second round of provincials. If the two happen to cross paths again, it will definitely prove to be a game worth watching. However, it would be unwise to count out their first-round opponents as no team is inescapable of the chaos of provincials.
“We have to take things day by day and game by game,” said Gaspar on the potential rematch. “We can’t afford to get ahead of ourselves and lose sight of our goals. In a tournament like this, keeping focus and composure is key. Nechako Valley is going to be a good opponent for us. They’ve got some good athletes and will look to compete hard.”
Coach Brown is no stranger to the AA provincial tournament, leading York House to a dynasty of their own. This time however it’s with new faces, new talents, and all within a new program.
“My experience coaching at STM has been nothing but great so far,” he said. “The administration is so supportive of the athletics programs here and it’s made it more enjoyable.”
Home to great basketball minds, Coach Brown appreciates the pedigree among the coaches of other sports at STM.
“It’s all about culture, growth, and development here” he explained. “I love how I’m able to connect with coaches from other sports, too. I find it so cool how I’m able to talk strategy with the football coaches and share our coaching philosophies to learn from each other.
Concepts such as spacing and attacking zones are present in both sports, and it’s interesting to hear about it from a different perspective.”
With a combination of a talent-filled roster and a stellar coaching staff, STM will be a formidable opponent to face. Now, it’s time for the Knights to write their own story.
Written by: Aaron Laguerta