The What-ifs will be there for a few days. Same with the should-haves, would-haves, could-haves.
The sting of being a shot away from playing for a provincial title will eventually subside. So, too, will the heartbreak of being another shot or two away from winning a medal, only to come home empty-handed.
In a week, maybe two or so, the Vernon Christian School Royals will look back on their fourth-place finish out of 16 at the B.C. 1A Senior Girls High School Basketball tournament in Kelowna Saturday, March 5, and realize they really did do something special together.
“There’s that element of it,” said Royals coach Robere Gingras, joined on the bench by Mike Nelson, Sunday morning, March 6. “You wake up this morning and you’re just processing, going over a lot of ‘what-ifs’ as a coach. Things you wish you would have done and the opportunities. “I’ve gone through 15 things from yesterday’s game where I’ve said to myself, ‘Man, as a coach I should have put my girls in a better position.”
The Royals were playing in their first-ever provincial tournament, the first team in school history to qualify for the Sweet 16. They won the school’s first ever senior girl’s Okanagan championship. They were seeded No. 3.
After winning their first two contests, Vernon Christian School faced second-seeded Unity Christian Flames of Chilliwack in the Final Four. The two teams had met a month earlier in an exhibition game in the Fraser Valley, the host Flames coming out on top 77-73, which featured Royals star Caitlin Gingras scoring a game-high 57 points.
Gingras had 32 in the semifinal, Grade 12 graduating point guard Macie Lewis had 17 and April Johnson added 10 for the Royals. But it was the Flames who scored the final bucket, snapping a 62-62 tie and posting a 64-62 win.
The loss dropped Vernon Christian School to the bronze-medal match against the fifth-ranked Fernie Falcons, who lost the other Final Four matchup to No. 1-ranked Credo Christian Kodiaks of Langley, 75-55.
The Royals, down seven after three quarters, got to within a single point at 44-43 before five consecutive points gave Fernie a late 49-44 lead. VCS got to within two points at 49-47 before the Falcons put the game away with two free throws for a 51-47 decision.
“In the two games we lost, by a combined six points, we were down in both those games by 15-plus and there was ample opportunity and thoughts in your mind of, ‘You know, we’ve had a great season,” said coach Gingras. “We’ve accomplished something the school has never done. This rag-tag group together, it’s all good and ample time to pack it in. But these girls never quit. Both of those games came down to a shot at the end to win it.”
Gingras – listed as a top-five player to watch at the provincials, and in perhaps her final game for the Royals as she contemplates a move to a prep school on the Prairies for her Grade 12 year for “more intense basketball experience,” said her coach-father – had 26 points against Fernie. She was a first-team tournament all-star. Thompson had 10 while the team’s two graduating players, Kadence Sayer and Lewis, had four and two points, respectively.
“Thank you to both for all of their hard work. We’re a small school. We have a lot of people that are not basketball-first people and we need them to be on the team to make it work. You need people that are passionate, that drive it, put in hard work and commitment,” said Gingras of his graduates.
“Kadence is our hard-working, I’ll-check-anyone, dive-for-any-ball forward. She doesn’t say a lot but she’s a blood, sweat, and tears kind of girl, and will do anything the coach asks. Macie is our point guard. She’s got huge on-court responsibilities, bring the ball up, run the offence, creating offence. She’s unselfish. She’s a team connector. If someone doesn’t feel involved, or feels down, she’s the person on our team that does so much for unity.”
Credo Christian defeated Unity Christian 69-63 in the championship game.
Salmon Arm’s King’s Christian Thunder finished with a record of 3-1, good for ninth place. The Thunder won their final three games after dropping their tournament opener, 55-46 to the Northside Christian Northstars of Vanderhoof.
The Thunder regrouped to defeat the Duncan Christian Chargers 79-42, the Nisga’a Nighthawks 72-44 and closed out the provincials with a 63-48 victory over the Nanaimo Christian Trail Blazers with second-team all-star Moriah Jensen leading the Salmon Arm girls with 30 points. Sarah Sutherland added 10.
Lumby’s Charles Bloom Timberwolves, who failed to qualify for the provincials, stepped in on the tournament’s final day to play Duncan Christian, and beat the Chargers 42-38 behind 10 points each from Ashleigh Mulholland and Anneliese Sawatsky.
The T-Wolves filled in for the King David Lions, a team from a pluralistic Jewish community high school in Vancouver. The Lions played their first three games, but school rules prohibit the team from playing between certain times on a Friday and Saturday, so Charles Bloom stepped in to give Duncan Christian a fourth game.
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