The bright young stars of Richmond girls basketball put on a show in front of a packed gym at Burnett Secondary on Thursday night.
The McMath Wildcats captured their sixth consecutive city championship with an entertaining 77-58 win over the Steveston-London Sharks. Both teams move on to the Crehan Cup Lower Mainland AAA Championships which start Saturday.
The McMath program raised some eyebrows back in November when their roster included a couple of talented Grade 8s in Marina Radocaj and Caitlin Kippan.
Would they even get quality playing time? Wouldn’t junior or juvenile make more sense? Three months later it’s hard to imagine where they would be without them.
Radocaj scored 16 points as a fixture in the starting five, while Kippan came off the bench to play a load of minutes and produce a team-high 23. The 6-footers also combined for a whopping 35 rebounds.
“Their development from from the first time we played Steveston-London in league play back in early December until now is incredible,” marvelled Wildcats coach Chris Kennedy. “They really came through for us with scoring and rebounding. There were just really assertive and all over the boards, using their size advantage.”
It was another example of why the honourable mention Wildcats feel good about their chances getting back to the B.C. AAA Championships at the Langley Events Centre.
On a night when league MVP Liz Kennedy managed a very quiet eight points and perimeter threat Jayna Wilson took a while to heat up, there were other scoring options.
Beside the brilliant work of the Grade 8s, Abby Bodden hit a couple of big first half 3-pointers that provided some seperation while Kate Carkner overcame foul trouble to produce back-to-back steals and baskets to close out the the second quarter.
“We are just a much more balanced team compared to last year,” Kennedy continued. “We do shoot the ball well but now we have some inside presence. And defensively, we can run. We’re like a cross-country team that can just keep going and going. But give Steveston-London a lot of credit too. That is a nice team that just won’t go away.”
The Sharks have no shortage of young talent too, led by Grade 10 guard Mina Chong who was outstanding with a game-high 28 points. Shir Dayan added 15 and Sharlene Siy, another Grade 10, had eight.
They simply gave up too many second and third chance baskets as they tried to overcome a height disadvantage. They did play McMath even (42-40) in the second half which is something to build on moving onto the Mainlands.
“Our girls played tough and with a lot of grit. I couldn’t be prouder of them. We made made some proper adjustments at the half but needed to do more than trade baskets with them,” said Steveston-London coach PJ Badillo, who watched his team pull out a thrilling semi-final win in double overtime against Boyd two nights earlier.
“This is a young team with a bright future ahead of them. We can hang with a lot of teams and need to just keep coming hard.”
Ironically, the Wildcats and Sharks could see each other again as soon as Monday afternoon. No. 9 Steveston-London takes on No. 8 Burnaby Central on Saturday. A win would set-up a quarter-final date against No. 1 McMath at Argyle. The Crehan Cup will conclude next Saturday at Lord Byng Secondary.
Here are the city individual award winners:
MVP: Liz Kennedy (McMath)
First Team All-Stars: Mina Chong (Steveston-London) Sharlene Siy (Steveston-London), Marina Radocaj (McMath), Kara Moscovitz (Boyd), Clara Hoh (Richmond Christian).
Second Team All-Stars: Jayna Wilson (McMath), Megan Estrada (Boyd), Veronica Lin (McRoberts), Rana Ghadymimahani (Palmer), Michel Doria (MacNeill).