Lonny Mazurak

Panthers 7th in province

Vernon 51. Langley Christian 45

The Vernon Panthers brushed off the Langley Christian Lightning 51-45 Saturday to finish seventh in the 46th annual B,C, Senior AA Girls Basketball Championships at the Langley Events Centre.

A repeat of last year’s semifinal, it was tight from start to finish and was played in front of a hostile Langley crowd.

“The defence played by both teams was suffocating, however the rebounding of Mackenzie Horst and Kelsey Falk’s relentless pursuit of the rim were the differences,” said VSS head coach Lonny Mazurak. “Our 45 per cent from the line helped keep this game close as well. A seventh-place finish for this young group is a very good outcome. Coach T (Dave Tetreault) and I are very proud of the resiliency this group showed all season long. Losing Mack this year will be a big loss but we hope our group is inspired to get in the gym and work on their shooting to take the pressure off their defence having to be near to be near perfect game after game….making shots will do that.”

Falk, who earned an honourable mention all-star, drained 27 points, while Horst registered eight points and 15 rebounds and Kelsey Watts canned eight points. Horst will play for the UBCO Heat next season.

Tournament MVP Maddy Gobeil pocketed 27 points as the South Kam Titans toppled the GW Graham Grizzlies of Chilliwack 73-67 in overtime for the B.C. title.

Meanwhile, VSS placed fifth out of 32 teams at the B.C. Junior Boys Championships in Langley.

The Cats wrapped up the tournament by stopping the Seaquam Seahawks of Surrey 62-52. Player of the Game Isaiah Ondrik paced Vernon with a game-high 19 points, while Kevin Morgan added 18 and Zack Smith flushed 11.

The Panthers led 34-24 at the half, but were outscored 17-8 in the third. Two quick hoops to start the fourth quarter and Seaquam had the lead by three. However, a 14-0 run midway through the final stanza gave Vernon all the points they would need to secure fifth and the best showing by a VSS team in the tournament’s history.

“The boys are competitors and showed all weekend long that they could run with the best basketball programs in the province,” said Panthers’ head coach Malcolm Reid. “We were tapped both emotionally and physically in the Seaquam game, but they weren’t going to be denied fifth place and the boys imposed their will in the fourth quarter. The four teams that finished ahead of us were all 4A schools which bodes well for them in senior when teams are tiered for provincial playoffs.”

The Panthers went 4-1 with their only loss coming in overtime against the tournament runner-up Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers of Surrey. Smith was recognized as a second team all-star, while Isiah Ondrik got an honourable mention.

The No. 10 Fulton Maroons face the No. 7 Collingwood Cavaliers of West Vancouver Wednesday, noon, to open the B.C. Senior AA Boys Basketball Championships at the Langley Events Centre.

A win would move Dale Olson’s Maroons into a second-round tilt against the winner of second-seeded Westsyde Whundas and No. 15 Southridge Storm of Surrey.

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