A young McMath Wildcats team nearly produced the biggest upset of the B.C. AAA Girls Basketball Championships and went on to gain some valuable experience.
The Richmond champions and No. 11 seed opened the 16-team tournament with a 70-68 loss to No. 6 seed and eventual third place finisher Brookswood Bobcats. The Wildcats then went on to place 12th by going 1-2 in consolation play — defeating Royal Bay 76-69, followed by narrow losses to Lord Byng (67-64) and Mount Baker (60-58).
The Brookswood defeat was undoubtedly the highlight of the week and proved what the Wildcats were capable of.
They overcame a 41-30 halftime deficit by outscoring the perennial Fraser Valley powerhouse 22-9 in the third quarter — setting the stage for a back-and-forth final 10 minutes. The next closest margin of victory on opening day was 14 points and that was a match-up between the tournament's No. 8 and No. 9 seeds.
“We had a week to prepare and probably watched more Brookswood games and than Brookswood parents have,” laughed McMath head coach Chris Kennedy. “We were really ready with a great game plan and great execution. Just if one bounce goes the other way in the last minute we pull that one out.”
With plenty of underage talent logging loads of floor time, the Wildcats headed to the Langley Events Centre with modest expectations. Yet, it was hard not to think about the narrow loss over the next three days and it was struggle to find their top form again.
“I think it’s easier to come back the rest of the tournament if you get blown out by 40 on the first day rather than lose a close one and see that team go to the semi-finals,” continued Kennedy. “I just felt that Brookswood game sucked everything out of us. But from an experience side this was really great for us.”
Guard Jenya Wilson, who poured in 28 against Brookswood, is the lone senior starter graduating.
Players returning including Grade 8s Marina Radocaj and Caitlin Kippan who made remarkable progress and became valuable contributors in the rotation, especially over the last half of the season. Grade 10s Kate Carkner Caitlin Bradley-Tse and Abby Boden are also key players moving forward, joining Grade 11 and city MVP Liz Kennedy.
The team also featured: Morgan Flynn, Frann Trahan, Hope Chan, Leah Hillman, Jazmine Tufnail, Amani Mahamoor, Mackenzie Morton and Bella Lawson.
Dramatic changes to senior girls basketball will take place next season with Richmond set to be part of a new South Fraser zone with Surrey and Delta schools, along with a new AAAA tier.
Regardless where the Wildcats end up, the future is a bright one.