The Sa-Hali Sabres brushed back the host VSS Panthers 56-44 in a highly physical Okanagan Valley Senior AA Girls Basketball Championships final Saturday night.
The much taller Sabres, who are ranked No. 7 in the province, grabbed an early 20-5 lead and were up 18 at the break before the gritty Panthers started finding the bucket.
“At times it looked more like a Game 7 playoff hockey game than it did a basketball game, with a lot of hard fouls, trash talking, and on more than one occasion, players had to be separated after the whistle,” said Bobby Mitchell, co-coach of the Cats alongside Lonny Mazaruk.
The No. 6 Panthers went on a third-quarter run, closing to within 10 points and coming as close as five points with three minutes to go.
“We were very proud of the girls for not packing it in and staying together in a dogfight of a game,” said Mitchell. “The kids showed great character and despite the loss, I think the girls grew from this game a lot.”
Britney Walton led the Panthers with 15 points and six rebounds, while Michelle Smith drained 11 points and added four assists and Emily Kanester netted nine points.
Both teams advance to the provincials, March 9-12, in Kamloops.
Sa-Hali gets an automatic spot in the B.C.s as host so Fulton took the second berth by holding off the Kalamalka Lakers 57-51 Saturday.
The Lakers iced the MEI Eagles Clearbrook 54-44 Monday night in Merritt to secure the last berth in the Sweet 16.
Sparked by a few loyal fans who rode the bus, the Lakers led 26-24 at the half, and through great defence, pulled away in the fourth quarter.
The Lakers used a balanced attack led by Jeevan Jaswal’s 13, Dana Epp and Grade 9 call-up Paige Ralston with seven each, and Tori Chabot, Ashley Krause and Katie Rogers, all with six.
“Grade 12s Justine Correia, Tiffany Barkman, Dana Epp, Kirsten Dodds and Ashley Krause are looking forward to their first trip to the provincial basketball championships,” said Kal head coach Joe Rogers. “The Grade 11s are excited to return to the B.C.s as their last trip was a Grade 8 provincial championship three years ago.”
Fulton was down 29-19 at the break, but trimmed their turnovers and upped their free throw percentage in the second half.
Player of the game Kelsey Thompson dialed up 19 points for the Maroons, while Amanda Sakamoto drained 15. Tavia Lochhead of the Maroons was named a tournament all-star.
Fulton head coach Jim Inglis said solid play from his bench and refuse-to-lose showings from his starters led the Maroons.
“Kelsey (Thompson) was the difference,” said Inglis. “Coming off her injury, she was about 95 per cent of her usual self all weekend but in the second half she sucked it up and was 100 per cent jumping to block passes, shots and save back and over passes and out of bounds passes and plus she was deadly down the stretch. And we wouldn’t have been in this game if not for Tavia (Lochhead’s) effort in all four games. An all-star well-deserved.”
Earlier Saturday, the Maroons knocked off the Princess Margaret Mustangs of Penticton 61-47.
Lochhead flushed 23 points, while Thompson sank 15 points and Karlee Webb added 10.
“Karlee (Webb) played her toughest game in two years under the hoop against their big girl and Grade 10 Hana Ouchi jumped in and played exceptionally,” said Inglis.
Kal outgunned the South Okanagan Hornets 59-56 earlier Saturday with Rogers hitting a three-pointer with nine seconds left to eliminate the Hornets. Kal got great rebounding by Kaelyn Parmalee and Jaswal. Meghan Tetrault and Epp were tenacious on defence.
Meanwhile, the VSS Grade 8 girls are off to the provincials, March 10-12, in Pitt Meadows.
Dave Tetrault’s crew stopped Fulton 55-29 in the North Zone final, getting a dozen points from Steph Mintz and 10 from Mackenzie Kreeft.
Jenna Lazar and Mintz each canned eight points as VSS toppled Len Wood of Armstrong 39-21 in the semifinals.
“We played our best game of the season,” said Tetrault. “The growth shown by all the girls from November has been incredible. I want to thank my assistant Jenna Hunter, who really molded the team’s skills.”