In keeping with tradition, the Vernon Panthers senior girls basketball team has punched its ticket to the B.C. AAA championships starting Wednesday, March 2, in Langley.
It marks the 17th consecutive year the Panthers have reached the Sweet 16 in their division (COVID stopped all championships last year).
“It is a testament to a lot of hard-working kids,” said VSS co-coach Dave Tetrault.
The journey to reach the championship included hosting the AAA valley championships at VSS. The team finished third beating the South Kamloops Titans 45-28 to qualify. Sa-hali Sabres beat the Valleyview Viqueens 62-41 in the all-Kamloops Valley final.
The Cats were led by senior Kaitlyn Budgen with 13 points and 10 rebounds in the win over South Kamloops. Grade 11s Beth Butler and Lauren Hoard had 10 apiece in the win.
In a season that included a delay to finish the volleyball season due to flooded highways, as well a cancellation of all tournaments due to COVID restrictions, the Panthers are happy to be playing in March.
“It has been quite the journey,” said Tetrault. “To have a chance to make the top 16 is a real gift. With so much adversity placed upon the kids, it is so rewarding to finish the season in Langley playing our best. Our kids feel thankful and are excited to keep the dance going.”
The Panther go into the championship ranked #10 and will face #7 Robert Bateman Timberwolves of Abbotsford Wednesday night with the winner making the top eight.
“It will be a battle of two hard-working teams that make defence a priority,” said Tetrault. “I expect both teams to be physical and limit offensive chances.”
The Cats finished the season with a 17-7 record and played all their games in the Okanagan Valley.
“This will be our first big trip of the season, so you can expect a lot of team bonding,” said Tetrault. “The girls have a true feeling of sisterhood and enjoy playing together and spending time off the court as a group.”
Three of the Panthers had their sisters graduate off the team two years ago. The legacy of following in big sisters’ shoes will be motivation for Maddy Hackman, Butler,and Budgen.
“It is so fitting in a school where the tradition of excellence in girl’s basketball is so strong,” said Tetrault.
Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.