Coming out short for just the second time in 36 games this season, the Kelowna Owls returned home on Saturday with a silver medal from the B.C. junior girls basketball championship tournament in Langley.
Only the unbeaten (34-0) No. 1-seed Terry Fox Ravens of Port Coquitlam were able to get the better of the Kelowna Secondary School representatives during the 2018-19 season — the second time being a 76-36 decision in the provincial final yesterday at the Langley Events Centre.
Playing most of the game without starter Avery Chalmers — hindered significantly by a broken hand suffered in Friday’s semifinal win over the Riverside Rapids — the No. 2-ranked Owls, except for opening the scoring with a free throw basket, trailed throughout the game against the Juggernaut Ravens. It was 19-10 for Terry Fox at the quarter, 38-19 at the half and 50-30 going into the final quarter.
“I think nerves played a role in our offence struggling,” conceded KSS head coach Robin Espenberg. “Fox capitalized on our mistakes which took us out of the game mentally. We definitely didn’t give them our best game.
“But give credit where it’s due. The Ravens showed their strength. they are the strongest junior team I’ve ever had the pleasure watching play and their multiple years of playing school and club baskeball together was evident all during the week.”
Still, Espenberg said his group represented the school and the Okanagan well on and off the court.
“The girls worked really hard all season and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Abby McCann, showing her speed with four steals in the game, also led the Owls with 11 points while Tessa Bentley, chosen as a provincial all-star, contributed 10 points, as did Paris Kirk, who along with Talli Richards were strong on the glass throughout.
Chelsey Macaulay continued to show her strength as a leader under relentless pressure from the Ravens — made up of entirely Grade 9 players — while Shiah Holmes, another tournament all-star, was solid at both ends of the court.
The Owls won three of their four games at the provincial tournament. They opened with an 83-38 win over Belmont of Victoria, defeated Fleetwood Park of Surrey 53-35 and Riverside 56-44 in their semifinal game.
Meanwhile, the Okanagan Mission Huskies, second-place finishers to the Owls in the Okanagan and seeded 11th, won four of five games to place fifth among the 24 teams competing at the Provincials.
A 41-34 upset victory over the Claremont Spartans of Victoria capped a solid performance by the Huskies, whose only loss was at the hands of No. 3-ranked Riverside Rapids (50-45) in their first game in the championship round.
The Huskies, made up almost entirely of Grade 9 players (one Grade 8) , opened with a win over Sir Winston Churchill and then upset No. 6 Argyle Pipers of North Vancouver for the right to take on Riverside.
On the consolation side of the championship bracket, they knocked off No. 10 Fleetwood Park 56-52 to advance to the fifth/sixth-place game against No. 9 Claremont.
Stella LaGrange was the top scorer and rebounder for OKM with nine points and nine boards in their final game, eight of which came in the third quarter, while player-of-the-game Shaelyn Faitala and Kanani Coon both contributed eight points.
Tatum Wade of the Huskies was named to the tournament’s second all-star team.