Tori Chabot (left) of the Kalamalka Lakers looks to make a play against a Summerland Rockets’ defender at the Okanagan Valley Senior AA Girls Basketball Championships Thursday in Kamloops.

Tori Chabot (left) of the Kalamalka Lakers looks to make a play against a Summerland Rockets’ defender at the Okanagan Valley Senior AA Girls Basketball Championships Thursday in Kamloops.

Panthers prowl Valley final

Vernon Panthers advance to Okanagan Valley Senior AA Girls Basketball final, and earn berth in B.C. championships.

The Vernon Panthers played some of their best basketball of the season, rallying to upend the Oliver Hornets 66-54 at the Okanagan Valley Senior AA Girls Championships Friday in Kamloops.

The win advanced the Cats to Saturday’s championship game against the host Sa-Hali Sabres. It also earned them a berth in the B.C. championships, March 7-10 at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops.

“We are extremely proud of our girls and the fight they showed,” said Bobby Mitchell, who co-coaches the Cats with Lonny Mazurak. “To be down 20-plus points and compete to get back in the game shows a lot of character.”

Oliver, who grounded the Fulton Maroons in their Thursday opener (no scores available), got out to a fast start and led 33-12 late in the first half.

“Our kids didn’t quit and continued to play with a lot of effort, but trailed by 13 points at halftime,” said Mitchell. “We had a strong third quarter and were down three points at the end of the third.

“We dominated the fourth quarter and pushed the pace which Oliver couldn’t match, and our depth showed as kids came in and made big, timely shots.”

Vernon’s top scorers were Quincy Leier, with 15 points and 15 rebounds, Sage Blundell had 12 points,  and both Karley Fugel and Mary Rice chipped in nine points.

Karley supplied a career-high 20 rebounds.

On opening day, VSS snuck past the Okanagan Mission Huskies 58-50.

“This was a grind from the start,” said Mitchell. “We trailed by eight after the first quarter and both teams were in serious foul trouble all game long.”

VSS hit the break leading by nine points, but were unable to extend it.

Blundell dialed up a clutch three-pointer with less than two minutes to go, putting Vernon up by six, which pretty much sealed the win.

Leier pocketed a career-high 27 points and 15 rebounds, while Blundell finished with a dozen points and Heather Campbell  added seven.

“This was the perfect example of a team win,” said Mitchell. “Everyone stepped up at different points in the game. Bailey Limb and Heather Campbell were big for us tonight, and two Grade 10s – Meghan Johnston and Jessica Harvie – gave us solid minutes tonight.”

No scores were reported from either the senior AA girls or boys Valleys, which are also in Kamloops.