The Smithers Secondary junior girls basketball squad continued to show their growth and skill with a series of fantastic performances in Prince George at a B.C. qualifying tournament last weekend.
Competing against teams which they would not ordinarily meet, the girls opened with an impressive 60-27 win over Kelly Road. Olivia Davey and Mackinley Unruh lead the way with 13 and 10 points respectively.
In the semi-final, they faced provincially-ranked Panorama Ridge, a perennial Surrey powerhouse. The girls responded with a nearly perfect team effort en route to a 58-50 upset win. Haley Hanchard led with 18 points while Aleigha Young- Lowry added 15 more for a commanding performance. Tamiya Ness added eight points, including a pair of critical three-point bombs.
That win placed them in the final against another Surrey giant, Earl Marriott. The nature of the draw meant virtually back-to-back games and, although they had only a short break between contests, the girls put in a remarkable effort.
Despite leading 24-21 in the fourth quarter, Smithers just could not hold on and fell 37-27. Hanchard and Unruh led the Gryphons on the scoreboard, but invaluable contributions were presented by all team members on the weekend.
Coach Chris van der Mark was more than pleased with the performance of his charges.
“Every one of them gave all they could and we surprised a lot of people,” he said.
van der Mark explained that in the junior competition, all teams in the province compete in the same division while senior championships are divided into three categories. As a result, a smaller team like Smithers might never compete against traditionally strong teams such as those from Surrey once they are in the senior ranks.
He was also pleased that the team had received an honorable mention in the latest rankings for the province. He also felt that since the Gryphons had beaten a top 15 team (Panorama Ridge) there was a chance that the squad will break into the top sphere of teams.
The girls were off to Kelowna Tuesday, where they were once again testing themselves against some of the best in the province.