Vernon Panthers take Valley title

Megan Johnston of the VSS Panthers dribbles up against Emily Hilton of the Sa-Hali Sabres in Kamloops. - George Wycherley/BLACK PRESS
Megan Johnston of the VSS Panthers dribbles up against Emily Hilton of the Sa-Hali Sabres in Kamloops.
— image credit: George Wycherley/BLACK PRESS

The VSS Panthers are going to the B.C. Senior AA Girls Basketball Championships as the Okanagan Valley champions.

VSS brushed back the host Sa-Hali Sabres of Kamloops 53-49 in Saturday night’s final of the eight-team tournament.

The Sabres had already qualified for the provincials, March 7-10 at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, by winning the West Zone. The Panthers, Summerland Rockets and Southern Okanagan Hornets of Oliver will join Sa-Hali in the Sweet 16.

VSS came out energized and focussed in taking a 30-16 lead at the break in the final.

“Mary Rice got us going early in the game with two three-point shots, and our defence was very good the entire game,” said VSS coach Bobby Mitchell, who co-coaches with Lonny Mazaruk.

“Sa-Hali is a very good team and they battled hard and cut the lead to one point in the third quarter before we scored our first point of the quarter. We were able to hang on and have a five-point lead after three, and in a back and forth final quarter, we never lost our lead with many players making big timely baskets.”

Karley Fugel sparked the Cats with a dozen points and 13 rebounds, while all-star Sage Blundell had 11 points and five boards. Rice and Valley MVP Quincy Leier added eight points each.

“Just a great team effort again in this game, all 11 girls played in the championship game with 10 of them scoring,” added Mitchell. “We have talked all year about playing 40 minutes and we did that tonight, and we stuck together as a team when things didn’t go our way. We are playing with loads of confidence right now and are really starting to find our groove as we now get ready to focus on provincials.”

The Hornets stopped Summerland 69-66 in overtime in the third-place game

At the Valley senior AA boys playdowns, also in Kamloops, defending B.C. champion South Okanagan iced Sa-Hali 84-77 in the final.

Tournament MVP Greet Gill canned a dozen points for the Hornets.

The Princess Margaret Mustangs of Penticton took the third provincial berth with a 64-51 win over the Westsyde Whundas of Kamloops.

The Fulton Maroons lost a 47-46 thriller to Westsyde Saturday with Mitch Rouault flushing 27 points. Fulton lost a 62-61 buzzer-beater to Sa-Hali on Friday night with Clayton Mottus dialing up 17 points and Rouault netting 16.

“We had a chance to win both games, but couldn’t finish at the end,” said Maroons’ head coach Dale Olson. “Overall a great year. We’re  definitely disappointed that we don’t get to go to the championships.”

The Fulton Grade 8 boys earned a trip to provincials, March 8-10, in Pitt Meadows, by defeating the Seaton Sonics 43-41.

Fulton defeated Carlin Panthers of Tappen 74-24 in the semis. Coached by Fulton grad Ben Olson, the Maroons went 10-2 in league play and won two tournaments, including their home date.

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