There’s been a changing of the guard with the Vernon Panthers’ senior girls basketball program.
And it has nothing to do with a ball-handling, dribbling position player.
Longtime assistant Dave Tetrault assumes the head coaching role, taking over from Lonny Mazurak, who is now head assistant with former Panthers head coach Bobby Mitchell with the UBC Okanagan Heat in U Sports Canada West action.
“It is great to see Lonnie and coach Bobby Mitchell being rewarded for their dedication to girls basketball,” said Tetrault. “Both coaches helped make the program at VSS consistently strong with 15 straight provincial tournament appearances.
“It was an easy decision to step up from the assistant’s role. We have great kids. They are dedicated, positive, hard-working, and talented. I feel lucky to work with them.”
Tetrault’s Panthers ranked No. 8 in the B.C. AA pre-season poll, host their 10-team Pit Classic tournament Friday and Saturday. The Panthers open against the Kelowna Christian Knights in front of the student body Friday at 10:30 a.m. VSS will play the OK Mission Huskies of Kelowna Friday at 8 p.m. and face the Pen-High Lakers of Penticton Saturday at 2 p.m.
“I think this is year 30 coaching basketball,” said Tetrault, who guided his club to the final of the Kelowna Christian tournament last weekend, losing by one point to Penticton in the final. “I have been fortunate to learn from legendary Vernon coaches like Bob and Ross Shannon, Deloy Routley, Jack Yamoaka, and Jim Inglis. I hope I can pass on what they gave me to the young coaches at VSS like my assistants, Joel Brazier and Chad Butler, who have girls playing for the Panthers.”
The Vernon Panthers will host their annual Senior Girls tournament this weekend with the host squad opening the tourney at 10:30 am against Kelowna Christian.
Penticton beat VSS 64-63 in the Kelowna Christian Final. Vernon was led by player of the game Kelsey Falk who had 21 points. Grade 11 point guard Kelsey Watts had 18 while post Ashley Budgen chipped in with 10. Emi Durfeld was strong at the defensive end and had seven points.
Earlier in the tourney, the Panthers beat the Summerland Rockets 79-24. Falk had 34 points, Watts had 14 while newcomer and player of the game Sarah Butler had eight, as did Sarah Crerar, and Callie Bertram finished with six.
The semifinal saw the Cats handle the Rutland Voodoos 82-43. Falk had 31, player of the game Budgen had 16. Watts added 14, while Crerar and Butler had nine apiece.
“We played with lots of energy,” said Tetrault. “We need to work on our free-throw shooting to help with scoring.
The Fulton Maroons are part of the 10-team field at the Pit Classic.
The Maroons will play on their home court at Fulton at 12:15 p.m. Friday against the Summerland Rockets, then play twice at VSS Saturday: at 12:15 p.m. vs the Westsyde Whundas of Kamloops and at 6:45 p.m. against the Norkam Saints of Kamloops.
The Sa-Hali Sabres of Kamloops and Rutland Voodoos round out the field.
* Lumby’s Charles Bloom Timberwolves will go down as the winners of the first Seaton Sonics 27th Street Invitational Senior Girls Basketball tournament.
The T-Wolves finished on top of the four-team round-robin event, which also included the host Sonics, Kalamalka Lakers and Armstrong’s Pleasant Valley Sinners.
PVSS came second, the Sonics were third and Kalamalka finished fourth.
* Vernon Panthers opened their senior boys season with back-to-back home wins at the Panther Pit.
The Cats, who finished as Okanagan AAA runners-up to the eventual B.C. champion South Kamloops Titans in the spring, were anything but rusty after getting a late start to the season following the football team’s successful championship run, popping 29 points in the first quarter en route to an 82-75 win over Winfield’s George Elliot Coyotes.
Isaiah Ondrik scored 27 of his game-high 41 points in the opening half to pace the Panthers scoring attack while point guard Zack Smith contributed 16.
“We were pleasantly surprised by our shooting for our first game action of the year considering we’d only practiced as a team for a week,” said VSS head coach Malcolm Reid. “Elliott could shoot (hitting 11 three-point shots) which stretched our defence and allowed them to make it close at the end.”
Kayden Culic was high scorer for the Coyotes with 21 points, including three from behind the arc.
The Panthers opened league play against the Norkam Saints of Kamloops the following night and continued the scoring barrage in a 109-51 win. Ondrik netted a double-double, going 13 for 24 from the field (32 points) to go along with 12 rebounds. Norkam transfer Jimmy Atwal scored 13 in the fourth quarter to finish with 20 points against his ex-teammates while Trent Charlton bagged 17 in the win.
“There were a lot of good things to take away from this game,” said Reid. “We had five players finish in double-digit scoring (Liam Reid -13 pts, Zack Smith 16 pts) and had 21 steals in the game which was encouraging. On the flip side, we were 11 for 36 three-point shooting which leaves room for improvement and we got in early foul trouble which put us in match up problems later in the game.”
The Panthers have the weekend off before travelling to Abbotsford to compete in the Rick Hansen Tournament which features some of the top AAA teams in BC.
* Fulton Maroons went 1-2 at the Oliver Hornets season-opening senior boys tournament.
Dale Olson’s squad opened with a 70-57 win over the Summerland Rockets. Van Kozak was top scorer and rebounder for the Maroons, who then dropped an 85-67 decision to the Pen-Hi Lakers (Ravinder Dhanoa was the top scorer for Fulton, Kozak top rebounder).
Fulton finished the event with a 46-29 setback to the host Hornets. Alan Bargaso was top scorer, Kozak top rebounder.
The Maroons are in the G.W. Graham Grizzlies tournament in Chilliwack this week. They face the Delview Raiders of Delta in their opener on Thursday.