Crusaders recapture Firefighters’ crown

The Holy Cross Crusaders are once again atop the Surrey high school girls’ basketball mountain after they captured their second city championship in three seasons.

The current provincial class AA champs atoned for a loss in the championship game of the 2013 Surrey Firefighters Goodwill Basketball Classic by cruising past the defending champion Fleetwood Park Dragons 76-46 in the 2014 final at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary Saturday in Cloverdale.

“This is definitely a date on the calendar our girls have been looking at,” said Holy Cross coach Steve Beauchamp. “That loss in the final last year is something we’ve been able to talk about at different times last season and again this season. It’s never about revenge, but our girls were determined to take care of business today and its nice to see them do that.

“This is pretty special tournament for us and we’ve been fortunate to be at the top in two of the last three years. The firefighters do a great job so it’s a good day for us.”

Currently ranked third in the province, the Crusaders were rarely pushed before the rematch with Fleetwood Park in the biggest game of the tourney. The Crusaders dispatched Earl Marriott 94-21 in their opener and then downed Lord Tweedsmuir 82-37 in the semifinals to punch their ticket to Saturday’s elite Axe Division finale.

On the other side of the draw, the Dragons did not make many missteps en route to a rematch with Holy Cross. Fleetwood warmed up with a 73-28 win over Panorama Ridge and then took down Elgin Park 61-31 in Friday’s semifinal round.

In the championship game, Holy Cross raced out to a 31-13 lead midway through the first half only to have Fleetwood battle back and cut the gap to 38-25 at the break.

In the second half, Fleetwood trimmed the Holy Cross advantage to just nine points in the first three minutes, forcing the Crusaders to re-evaluate their approach.

“Our press was pretty effective, especially in the first half, but we ran into some foul trouble in the second half and that limited all of the things we could do,” Beauchamp said.

“At times we were over complicating things and making things more difficult than they needed to be. We got out of it by running some set plays and we had some good success with that. It seemed to settle the girls down and when we made a couple of hoops, that kind of took the steam out of Fleetwood.”

The Crusaders quickly re-established their control of the proceedings, building a 60-39 lead at the midway point of the second half and holding off the Dragons the rest of the way to seal the win.

“They have a lot of talent and a lot of size, including their coaches – they look like they’re all seven-feet tall too,” joked Fleetwood coach Pam Reynolds. “I’m really happy with our effort. Holy Cross has some good athletes who run the floor well and push the ball up the court. Our goal was to slow them down and I thought we did a good job of it. We hung in there two and a half quarters and then ran out of gas.”

Michelle Bos led the Crusaders with 18 points, While Rachel Beauchamp chipped in with 17 more and 10 rebounds. Pint-sized dynamo Cyrille Butac was the top Dragon with 16 points.

In the second-tier Ladder Division final, the Enver Creek Cougars captured their first significant hardware in 11 years by rallying from a five-point halftime deficit to beat Surrey Christian 47-36. Harleen Atwal was the top Cougar scorer with 17 points, while Megan Leite keyed the Surrey Christian response with 12 points.

Crusaders’ guard Nicole Vander Helm was named the MVP of the Axe Division as well as the tournament’s top defensive player. Enver’s Jennifer Russell took MVP honours for the Ladder bracket.

Scholarship winners included, Keesha Kherhra (North Surrey), Sonia Sahota (Fleetwood Park), Megan Leite (Surrey Christian), Jasleen Bains (Princess Margaret), Sarah Buckingham (Lord Tweedsmuir) and Christine Wang (North Surrey) Surrey Christian’s Taylor Williamson was awarded the Beauchamp Foundation Scholarship.