It’s a fairy tale ending to a near-perfect season.
After going almost undefeated this season, the Smithers Secondary Grade 8 girls’ basketball team can call themselves champions after capturing the northwest zone banner for the first time in recent memory.
The Gryphons defeated the Prince Rupert Middle School Storm with a convincing 49-13 victory at home last weekend.
“In the morning I thought we were a bit sluggish, but in this game in particular after the first couple of minutes, I thought we played the best three quarters of our season and that’s what you want,” said head coach Chris van der Mark.
The team kicked off the northwest zone championships with a convincing 52-20 win over their cross-town rivals, the Bulkley Valley Christian School to lift them to the finals.
In the finals, the Gryphons tipped off against the Prince Rupert Storm.
They took an early lead, finishing the first quarter up 15-2, including a three-pointer from Ivy Bell.
In the second, the Storm had many opportunities to even up the scoring, but were unable to finish around the basket. They were no match for the Gryphons’ offence and went almost the entire second quarter without scoring.
The Gryphons on the other hand were aggressive on the rebounds, making interceptions and had a number of fast-break layups from Mackinley Unruh and Haley Hanchard to finish the first half 26-6.
The second half of the game, the home team continued to dominate play and they closed out the victory 49-13.
“Our team played really good and it was fun,” said Unruh, who was named tournament MVP.
“I worked hard for it.”
According to van der Mark, Unruh’s emergence in the finals as one of the team’s lead scorers earned her the title.
“Mackinley’s improvement over the year has been staggering. Both offensively and defensively, she was sensational,” he said.
“They’re a very dedicated group . . .
You see it in their passing and their footwork and they do stuff that some Grade 8s don’t and that’s because they work really hard.”
Point guard Haley Hanchard also had a monster game, but despite her success, she was quick to point out their victory was a team one.
“I thought everyone did really well in both games,” she said. “We worked together in that we had so much friendship and teamwork.”
This year’s all-star group included Lexa Steenhof from BVCS (who finished third overall after defeating Hazelton 26-25) and Austin Carroll from SSS. Angela Jennings was named the top defensive player.
Up next, the team will decide if they will go to Grade 8 provincial invitationals in Pitt Meadows.
“They could be a force if they keep working. They’re very high-end athletes for young girls,” added van der Mark.
Grade 8 boys zones
Grade 8 boys from BVCS and Smithers Secondary also battled for the northwest zone banner last weekend.
The Gryphons fell in their first game against Centennial 52-24, while the Royals also lost 58-21 to Hazelton.
The cross-town rivals met each other to play for third place and in the end, the Royals squeaked by with the win 36-25.
“They definitely showed improvement, even today as they went along,” said Royals head coach Ben Dejong.
“When they remember their role in the team, that’s when they get the most points.”
Smithers Secondary finished fifth.
“They definitely worked hard, they’re a very enthusiastic group,” said Gryphons head coach Glyn Doyle.
“Their defence tightened up a lot today.”