A pair of South Surrey senior girls basketball teams were crowned as champions of their region last week, and now have their eyes set on provincials later this month.
The Semiahmoo Totems – who’ve cruised undefeated through B.C. competition this season – continued their run of victories at the quad-A level, defeating Earl Marriott 96-43 in the South Fraser championship final Saturday at Semiahmoo Secondary, with both teams punching their ticket to provincial championships Feb. 26-29 in Langley. Cloverdale’s Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers finished third, winning the bronze-medal game over North Surrey.
Two days before the Totems won the quad-A crown on their home court, the Southridge Storm senior girls did the same at the double-A level, overcoming the loss of one of their best players to defeat Holy Cross 72-28 in the title tilt Feb. 12.
The Storm were playing without starting guard and leading scorer Karina Gill, who was injured in the team’s final game of their own KFACE Klassic tournament earlier this month. The Grade 11 star will miss the remainder of the season with a torn Achilles tendon – which required surgery to repair.
News that she would be sidelined long-term was delivered to the team a few days after the Klassic ended, just as the team was preparing for a league game against Holy Cross, which resulted in a deflated team taking the court, head coach Paul Chiarenza said.
“We just went in there and laid an egg,” he told Peace Arch News. “We couldn’t hit a shot, we couldn’t do anything. We ended up sneaking out a win – we won by four – but it was definitely a wake-up call for the girls.”
With the knowledge that they’d be without Gill for playoffs, Chiarenza said the team “re-invented ourselves a little bit” and tweaked the game plan ahead of the South Fraser tournament. The adjustments produced the desired results, as the Storm opened with an 87-27 win over Richmond Christian and followed up with another convincing victory on Day 2, this time over Richmond’s R.C. Palmer Secondary.
Matched up against Holy Cross again in the final, Chiarenza said it was important for his team that they put forth a better effort than they had in the earlier four-point win.
“That first game, this was a team the girls thought they could handle with relative easy… it was probably hard for them not to have some doubt, playing our first game without Karina and having it go that bad,” he said.
“So when we played them again (in the South Fraser final), it was important for us to know that we could still play well and were still a level above, and the score certainly shows that we did that.
“I don’t think we could have played better.”
In the final the Storm were led by point guard Suhaana Bhatha, who finished with 20 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.
“She was fabulous,” Chiarenza said. “They all were. They’ve realized the importance of playing their best basketball now, and they all seem to have found another gear, which is exciting. It’s a testament to their resilience.”
The win was made even more special by the surprise appearance of Gill, who Chiarenza said had had surgery earlier that day, but convinced her parents to bring her to the gym after being released from the hospital.
“She was there, sitting with kind of a hazy smile, but when the girls saw her (walk with her crutches) into the gym, that was a great moment,” he said.
Now, they’ll take some time to prepare for provincials, as will Holy Cross, which also qualifies.
At the quad-A level, the defending provincial champion Totems will also spend the next week practising in advance of provincial tip-off. Semiahmoo dispatched their South Fraser competition with relative ease, beginning with a first-round forfeit victory over Enver Creek, followed by a win over Panorama Ridge in semifinals.
Deja Lee was named tournament MVP, while Tara Wallack and Izzy Forsyth were named to the all-star team, as was Earl Marriott’s Elena Sireni, Tweedsmuir’s India Aikens and North Surrey’s Sara Uppal.
“We’ll just have a good week of practice and get ready to play four great games (at provincials),” Semiahmoo coach Allison McNeil said.