Morning Star Staff
The Vernon Panthers are heading to the B.C. Grade 8 Boys Basketball Championships, March 3-5, in Pitt Meadows.
Point guard Zack Smith drained 15 points and added four steals as VSS stopped the Shuswap Phoenix 57-25 in the North Zone final Monday night at the Panther Pit.
Isaiah Ondrik recorded 14 points and three steals as the Panthers got out of the gates early taking an 18-5 lead into the first break.
“We were in control the whole game, but it wasn’t our best as a team,” said Cats’ head coach Sean Smith. “We hadn’t played in a week and it showed. We didn’t have our game legs and looked sluggish for long stretches of the game.”
The Cats hit their stride again following the half-time break and outpaced the Phoenix 18-3 to put the game out of reach.
“The third quarter was definitely a bright light for us,” said Smith. “We played great defence and created some turnovers that led to some easy transition buckets.”
There will be 16 teams in the provincial tournament.
“The speed, size and intensity will be the biggest thing that we will have to adjust to at the provincials. We are a small, skilled team that will be undersized in all of our games down there. If we want to compete, we will have to rely on being disciplined and be able to hit shots from the perimeter. These boys are competitors and I’m looking forward to having them play the best teams.”
Meanwhile, the No. 5 VSS Panthers open the Sweet 16 Senior AA Girls Championships next Wednesday in Langley against the 12th-ranked St. Michaels University School Blue Devils of Victoria (at noon).
Defending champion Immaculata Mustangs of Kelowna are the No. 2 seed and will face 15th rated Little Flower Academy Angels of Vancouver, while runner-up St. Thomas More Knights of Burnaby (No. 4) face No. 13 Okanagan Mission Huskies.