ST. CATHARINES, ON – VK Basketball opened up a big lead and then hung on to defeat East representative, Blizzard SSF of Quebec, 41-35, in the opening game of the Jr. NBA World Championship Canada Regional Finals Friday at Brock University.
VK Basketball, representing the West Region, led 18-4 after the first quarter and 27-9 at the half, their relentless pressure and defence causing all kinds of problems for the team from Quebec.
But Quebec owned the third quarter, holding VK Basketball to a single basket in the period. Riding that momentum into the fourth quarter, Blizzard SSF eventually cut the lead to four points in the final minute.
VK Basketball was clinging to a four point lead with 45 seconds to play when 14-year-old Ana Misic hit a huge three-pointer, from the FIBA line which is over 2 ft further, to push the spread to seven. VK Basketball held on for the five point win.
“Our defence was the difference in the game even down the stretch,” said VK Basketball coach Mike Carkner. “We competed on every possession and made Quebec earn everything. Our girls compete hard and play defence with passion. We make it hard for other teams to score.”
VK basketball held the Alberta champion to under 40 points in the West Regional qualifier a few weeks ago.
“Our kids played well under pressure and kept their composure,” added Carkner. “Quebec cranked up the pressure and there was a lot of aggressive play in the second half, but they made a run at us, and our kids held on. Our girls are mentally tough and they battled through the adversity of all the noise and aggressive play. Our mental toughness was unbelievable.”
Marina Radocaj, 13, led all scorers with 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including one three-ball. She also grabbed eight rebounds and had three blocks. Misic had 11 points while Lauren Clements, 14, had six points 10 rebounds and three steals.
VK Basketball is representing the West Region, one of five Under-14 Girls Club teams from across Canada competing for the Canadian championship and a berth in the Jr. NBA World Championship in August in Florida. Countries from around the world are vying for eight international berths in the world championship tournament. There will also be eight teams from regions across the United States.
VK Basketball will play two games on Saturday, against the Atlantic Region winner and host Ontario, represented by a team from Welland, ON. Welland opened the tournament with a 78-22 win over the Prairies.
The gold medal game will be played Sunday at noon pacific time at the Meridian Centre, a 5,000 seat venue in St. Catharines.
Written by: Steve Frost