Quarter-final defeats ended the hopes of a B.C. title for both Pemberton Secondary School’s senior girls and boys basketball teams, though neither was far off a top-four finish in their respective Provincial ‘A’ Championships.
Pemberton’s girls finished fifth in play at Prince George’s University of Northern B.C. from last Wednesday to Saturday (March 7 to 10), while the boys placed seventh in their tournament at Trinity Western University in Langley.
The girls, who held the No. 5 seed, shook off a frustrating 72-63 loss to No. 4 Princeton on Thursday with back-to-back wins on Friday and Saturday. The fifth-place result marked a huge improvement over 2011, when the Devils finished 15th.
“They did awesome,” said head coach Mike Richman. “Three wins, one loss and all the wins were pretty convincing.”
Pemberton opened with a 79-63 win over No. 12 Immaculata from Kelowna to advance to Thursday’s quarter-final against Princeton. The Devils trailed by three in the fourth quarter when some unfortunate calls from the officials went Princeton’s way and hampered Pemberton’s comeback efforts. Richman said the Devils filed a formal protest over the game with the tournament director of officiating and later received an apology for the incident.
“What was really nice was that they rallied, came back and played good strong basketball the rest of the way,” said Richman.
Pemberton knocked off Nanaimo’s Cedar Community Secondary School 66-54 on Friday and beat Langley’s Credo Christian 75-47 in the fifth-place game.
Grade 12 guard Lucy Hawksbee led the team in scoring through the tournament and was selected as a second team all-star. Richman said he thought Emma Sturdy was worthy of such an honour herself as the team’s “defensive anchor.”
This year’s team also featured Emma Chadsey, Shaquel Pierre, Juniper Pierre, Jenna Wilkins, Tachona Jones, Thea Sturdy, Vera Edmonds and Sierra Townley.
“I’ve only got three girls returning next year, but they’re three strong ones and we have strong players coming up,” said Richman. “It’ll be a bit of a different look, but the fun thing about basketball is that there’s lots of different ways to play it.”
Pemberton’s boys, seeded eighth, also won their tournament-opener, defeating No. 9 Duncan Christian 65-57 after a slow start. The Devils trailed by 12 at the half, but Soren Elsay’s game-high 30 points helped Pemberton roar back over the final two quarters.
“I pretty much told them that the hill is to get the game tied, and once you’ve climbed that hill it’s all downhill from there,” said coach Shayne May. “As soon as they tied it, they never looked back.”
That put the Devils into a quarter-final match-up with the No. 1-seeded Kelowna Christian Knights.
Pemberton led early in the fourth quarter and got a 19-point effort from Toby Eslake, but the Knights were able to take advantage down low when 6-foot-4 forward Clint Samuels fouled out of the game. Kelowna went on to a 59-55 victory and later captured its fourth provincial ‘A’ title in five years.
No other team was able to hold the Knights under 70 points or keep their margin of defeat under 15 points during the tournament.
“We came really close against Kelowna Christian and nobody else really came close to touching them,” said Elsay. “At the time it was a painful loss, but looking back, I guess we’ve got lots to be proud of.”
The Devils scored a 54-42 win over West Point Grey Academy on Friday for the right to play their rivals from the sixth-ranked Bodwell High School in Saturday’s game determining fifth and seventh place. Elsay paced Pemberton with a 23-point performance against West Point Grey.
Pemberton lost Elsay to a concussion in the first quarter Saturday and the offence suffered, as Bodwell emerged with a 43-32 victory. Jesse Miller led the Devils with 12 points in the loss.
Elsay, who said his head was starting to feel better as of Monday (March 12), was named a second team all-star for the tournament. He said the honour was a nice way to finish off his high school career but credited his teammates for helping him to the award. Also on the Devils roster this year were Quin Alton, Sean Russell, Lane Gobert, Michael Fidork, Robin Esseltine, Phillip Bowden, Neil Walser, Luke Lattin, Norwell Vidal, Arnold Dan, Sam Schranz and Millar Wiltse.
Elsay added that both Devils squads were very appreciative of the community support they received in advance of their tournaments.
“We could really feel the support behind us and it definitely helped when playing our games.”