Finishing on a winning note was a nice reward for the Pemberton Red Devils at last weekend’s B.C. Provincial Girls’ High School ‘A’ Basketball Championships, as the team put on a bunch of gutsy performances despite a short bench that got shorter during the tournament.
The eight-player team finished 15th with a 1-3 record at the tournament, which wrapped up Saturday (March 9) at the University of Northern B.C. That was a step back from last year’s fifth-place finish at provincials, but coach Mike Richman said he was proud of the effort his players put forward in their four tournament games.
“Every game they came out determined, that’s for sure,” said Richman, whose team was seeded 13th in the draw. “They played their game, did their best and there was absolutely no shame in what they did out there. They represented us absolutely fabulously.
“Things were starting to click at the end of the season and that’s how they pushed themselves into provincials, they were starting to figure things out,” Richman continued. “We were pleased just to be there in the first place — but of course you always say that but want to end up on the winning side of things. But all in all, it was an awesome experience.”
With just three players on the bench to start their first game against No. 4-ranked Princeton, Pemberton was quickly down to two reserves for the remainder of the tournament when Jenna Wilkins rolled her ankle. With one of the Devils’ key defenders and scorers out of the lineup, Princeton rolled to a 71-47 victory.
“That put a lot of pressure on the other starters and made it very difficult,” said Richman. “You look at the winning teams over there and they were carrying 12 or 13 girls with them, running hard and pressing. We didn’t quite have that.
“It was disappointing to see Jenna go down, but in the games to come, the girls never backed down.”
The loss moved Pemberton to the consolation side of the bracket, where the team met Bulkley Valley for its second game. The Devils found themselves behind early and were never able to make up the deficit, eventually falling 66-42.
In their next matchup, the Devils led by three points early in the second half against Duncan Christian, but Pemberton’s shortage of fresh bodies seemed to play a factor down the stretch and Duncan went on to a 73-62 victory.
In their last game of the tournament, the Devils managed to avoid going winless in Prince George in a come-from-behind triumph over Fraser Lake. Pemberton found itself down by six early in the fourth quarter, but the team chipped away at the deficit and walked out of the gym with a 61-59 win.
Wilkins, Thea Sturdy and Tachona Jones will graduate this year, but Richman will have a solid core returning next year, as Lauren Phare, Desirae Townley, Ashley LeBlanc, Bailey Raimondo and Emma Eslake can still suit up for the Devils next season.
“They got a chance to see what it takes to win (at provincials),” Richman said of his Grade 11s. “I think we already surpassed expectations by making the tournament … with so many Grade 11s on the team.
“But at the end of the season they pulled together as a team … and any one of the girls could really be the difference-maker.”