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Seeded fourth and with experience on their side, the Okanagan Mission Huskies are considered legitimate contenders for a provincial senior AA high school girls basketball title in Langley this week.
The Huskies, with seven players returning to the provincial tournament, open the 16-team event on Wednesday against No. 13-ranked Smithers with an eye on playing in the championship game on Saturday at the Langley Events Centre.
While they’ll be concentrating on the proverbial “one game at a time”, looking ahead from KelownaNow’s vantage point, the Huskies will likely meet No. 5-ranked St. Thomas Aquinas Fighting Saints of North Vancouver in a quarter-final play on Thursday with the hopes of advancing to the semifinal on Friday, most likely against No. 1-ranked South Kamloops Titans.
But are the Titans — 28-6 overall this season and two-time winners over OKM earlier in 2018 — beatable?
“Absolutely,” says assistant coach, Cassidy deVeer. “It’s our depth that will be able to take us through this — once SouthKam’s starting lineup comes off the floor, their level of play really drops off. So that’s what we’re counting on.”
The Huskies go into the provincials having finished second to South Kamloops in the Okanagan Valley championship tournament, losing 72-59 in the final.
“Our girls came out flat, but we put that down to the fact we had already qualified for the provincials and that SouthKam just wanted it more,” said deVeer, whose team fell 60-59 to the same Titans in an OKM invitational tournament in January.
Jenna Robinson led the Huskies with a 13-point effort in the Valley final while Malley Richardson added 11 to go along with 10 by Stef Young, who came off the bench with a spark of energy in the first quarter.
OKM earned a berth in the Valley final by defeating the provincially No.10-ranked Westsyde Whundas 76-56 in semifinal play.
A 15-point, four-rebound performance by Jordyn Pink spearheaded the Huskies’ offence while Richardson, who averaged nearly 14 points a game this season, added 12 against the Whundas. Eleven of the 12 players on the roster scored for the Huskies.
In its opening game of the Valley tournament, OKM disposed of the Sahali Sabres of Kamloops 88-32, with Lily Pink scoring 20 points, 18 of which came from beyond the three-point arc. Richardson added 17 points while Melaina Corrado and Jordan Robb pitched in with 13 and 12 respectively.
The OKM coaching staff — including Meghan Faust (head coach), deVeer and Lisa Nevoral — believe the Huskies have all the skills and tools necessary to bring home a provincial championship pennant.
“They need to believe in themselves,” says deVeer. “If they play a solid 40 minutes of basketball for four games, they really have no limitations on what they can accomplish.”
The words of wisdom for the Huskies going into this week’s play?
“We’ll be stressing to the team to live in the moment and leave it all on the floor,” offered deVeer. “Not many people get this opportunity, so make sure to make the most of it.”