Reaching the B.C. Senior AA Girls Basketball Championships for a 12th straight year is the ultimate pre-season goal for the VSS Panthers.
The Cats, coached by Lonny Mazurak, haven’t played a game but are already rated fourth in the province so their main goal will likely be met.
Until March comes around, the Panthers will strive for excellence in league and tournament play, starting at 2 p.m. today when they host the NorKam Saints in their seven-team PIT Classic.
Mazurak had one team cancel so is going with a seven-team round-robin format. The unofficial final goes Saturday, 12:30 p.m. with VSS battling the No. 9 Okanagan Mission Huskies of Kelowna.
The Panthers have five returnees, including Team B.C. guard/post Jordyn Cullum, who recently committed to a five-year scholarship with the UBC Okanagan Heat for next fall.
Jessica Melvin, Kristy Fugel, Katie MacGivillray and Anna Rice are also back from last year when VSS placed 12th in B.C. without ailing all-star Jordan Korol.
“I’ve coached this group since Grade 10 and they are a very special group,” said Mazaruk.
Said Cullum: “Maz has tinkered with things and we’ll have five out which is a different style for us. We’ll be spreading the ball around more and I’m hoping for the best. We should have a huge season.”
Grade 11s Brianna Falk, Megan Rouault, Megan Wiebe and Nevada Krog round out the roster.
The Huskies tangle with the Fulton Maroons, coached by Jessica Kirkland, today at 3:45 p.m.
Meanwhile, Glenn Garvie’s senior AAA boys crew opened North Zone league play Wednesday night by falling 69-65 to the Huskies in Kelowna.
“We definitely came out flat and just could not seem to get going.,” said Garvie. “Ben Hladik was frustrated in the post unable to find space and fouled out with five minutes to go. The team never found their rhythm all evening.”
Leon Schenker rang up 21 points for VSS, while Seth Blundell drained 17 and Jakob Marshall 10.
VSS ambushed the Pleasant Valley Saints 100-39 in exhibition action Tuesday night at the Panther Pit. Schenker, a Grade 10, sank 25 points, while Hladik and Charis Ondrik each netted 20 and Blundell collected 17.
VSS plays Princess Margaret Mustangs today in the Rutland Voodoos tournament.
Dale Olson chuckled when he saw the pre-season top-10 senior AA boys basketball poll had his Fulton Maroons ranked No. 4.
The Maroons went 0-4 at the South Okanagan Hornets Invitational to open the season last weekend.
“We are working hard right now and we were way over-ranked,” said Olson. “I told him (ranking official) we would be good by the end of the year but it will take some time. We are starting three Grade 10s and it will take a while for them to get up to speed. It will be better after Christmas.”
One of the Grade 10 starters is Olson’s son, Isaac, playing for his dad 33 years after Dale graduated from the VSS Panthers before going on to play for the UVic Vikings.
Fulton finished consolation play Saturday in Oliver by falling 71-62 to the LV Rogers Bombers of Nelson. Noah Alleyne and Hunter Krieger each pocketed 14 points, while Nathan Banga bagged a dozen and Olson grabbed eight rebounds.
The Maroons opened by losing 72-62 to the Princess Margaret Mustangs of Penticton with Alleyne supplying 18 points and five assists. Kreiger rang up 12 points and Olson earned nine boards.
Fulton lost Grade 12 guard Nick Berg to injury in Game 1.
The No. 1-rated GW Graham Eagles of Chilliwack ambushed Fulton 110-71 with the Maroons starting four Grade 10s. Alleyne drained 15 points and had six steals, while Banga fired 11 points and Kreiger nine.
In Game 3, the Mt. Boucherie Bears of West Kelowna iced the Maroons 69-51 Alleyne registered 13 points and five rebounds, while Kobe Romanovitch compiled eight points and three steals and Olson snagged seven rebounds.
Kreiger and Banga are also starting Grade 10s. Caden Doyle, a Grade 10, also started in Berg’s absence.
Fulton opened AA league play Tuesday by grounding the host Kalamalka Lakers 77-42 behind 16 points and four assist from Banga. Alleyne contributed 14 points and seven assists, while Doyle dialed up 10 points and seven boards. Kreiger knocked down 10 points and five rebounds, while Olson had six points and 15 rebounds.