The award ceremonies at the BC 3A Girls Basketball Championships on Saturday reflected the end of an era and the start of another for the McMath Wildcats.
The seven-time Richmond champions closed out their campaign with an entertaining 76-70 overtime loss to the Argyle Pipers at the Langley Events Centre. The third place game between former Lower Mainland rivals was a fitting throwback in a season that offered significant changes with a brand new tier and zone.
Liz Kennedy concluded her decorated five-year career as a first team provincial all-star. The two-time Richmond League MVP is off to Nova Scotia next fall for the next chapter of her career and life at St. Francis Xavier University.
Earning second team provincial honours was rising Grade 9 star Marina Radocaj who recorded a double-double in the final three games of the tournament including 19 points and 13 rebounds against the Pipers.
The versatile 6-foot-2 forward is one of seven players eligible to return next season.
Caitlin Kippan is another promising Grade 9 who played beyond her years. She also had 19 against Argyle.
The young pair will lead this team going forward with the support of backcourt players Abby Bodden, Kate Carkner, Hope Chan, Kee Hohlweg and Quincy Hinds.
Chris Kennedy is expected to exit with his daughter — leaving the coaching reigns with Jamie Kippan, Anne Gillrie-Carre and Zoran Radocaj. He suggests it’s simply a case of maturity that could take the Wildcats to their first-ever BC championship over the next few seasons.
“What we saw this week was every girl had like 30 pounds on all our girls. They were just bigger. We have a very skilled group in young bodies still,” said Kennedy. “Another year of maturity and building bigger bodies. They just need some size so they are not going to get pushed around anymore.”
The tournament went almost exactly to script.
The Wildcats were seeded third and advanced to the semi-finals with wins over No. 14 Mark Isfeld (82-36) and No. 6 MEI (60-58) before falling to the No. 2 Okanagan Mission Huskies (80-67) on Friday. The Huskies then fell to No. 1 Abbotsford 85-77 in the title game.
It was basically a coin toss between the Wildcats and Pipers as the tournament’s third best team and the game certainly played out that way. McMath’s downfall was managing just three points in the second quarter but better play and some halftime adjustments nearly produced a comeback win.
“We knew we had to have a real effort to knock off Okanagan Mission. They are better than us and just have better players. I thought both us and Argyle gave good competitive games in the semis," added Kennedy.
“(Today) was a fun way to end the year. We just couldn’t hit shots in the second quarter. They were really aggressive on defence and kept us far from the hoop. We were tentative and it got us in a hole. But a really gutsy effort in the second half. We began to play a little bit more zone on defence and did some things to get Marina involved in the high post more.”
Bodden also finished with 19 points thanks to going 6-for-9 from three-point range.