Richmond Senior Girls Basketball League tips-off Monday night with all 11 city schools flooring teams for the first time in seven years and perhaps an overdue rivalry in the making.
RC Palmer, Burnett and MacNeill are back in business this season and join the chase with seven other teams that are trying to reel in the McMath Wildcats.
The Steveston school is not only the five-time defending champion but is unbeaten in 41 games against city opponents.
Most nights the Wildcats are rarely tested, however, there could be some drama as soon as Monday.
That’s when McMath heads to the “Shark Tank” for a 7 p.m. tip-off against a Steveston-London team that features an aged up core that captured the Grade 9 provincial championship a year ago. The roster includes provincial MVP Sharlene Siy and all-star team selection Mina Chong. A third all-star — Katie Chan — has taken her hockey career to the Delta Academy.
The same group was second at the Grade 8 provincials and its main rival over those two years happened to be the Wildcats — reflecting the terrific development work of the Richmond Youth Basketball League.
McMath was third at Grade 9 provincials and key players Abby Boden, Kate Carkner and Hope Chan will also be playing senior.
The number of aged up players doesn’t stop there for McMath coaches Anne Gillrie-Carre, Chris Kennedy and Steve Flynn. They have also welcomed Grade 8s Marina Radocaj and Caitlin Kippan on board — two of the top talents in the province for their age group.
They all join a returning group that is led by Grade 11 First Team Richmond All-Star Liz Kennedy along with Second All-Star Jayna Wilson and Morgan Flynn, both in Grade 12.
Radocaj and Kippan are following the same path as Kennedy who jumped right to senior to help McMath reach the provincial final three years ago.
Other returning Grade 12s include Jazmine Tufnail, Madison Bigras, Leah Hillman and Bella Lawson. The Grade 11s also include Caitlin Bradley-Tse and Mackenzie Morton who were standouts for the junior team last season.
It all adds up to McMath being the lone Lower Mainland team in the provincial “AAA” pre-season rankings in what will be its final year battling Vancouver, New West, Burnaby and North Shore opponents for the Crehan Cup and provincial berths. Re-alignment by B.C. School Sports will put Richmond teams in the same zone as Surrey and Delta in 2019-20.
Last year’s runner-up Hugh Boyd Trojans are the team to beat among the city’s “AA” size schools and a veteran line-up should be competitive against McMath and Steveston-London. The Trojans host the Wildcats on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.