Lakers return to valley championship after two-year absence

The Lakers senior boys basketball team are going to valleys after defeating the Rutland Voodoo

PEN HIGH LAKERS coach Colin Cook and the bench react to Cam Gunning drawing a foul after making a basket during the Lakers 75-67 win over the Rutland Voodoo Tuesday night at Pen High. The win clinched the Lakers a berth in the Okanagan Valley Championship for the first time in four years.

PEN HIGH LAKERS coach Colin Cook and the bench react to Cam Gunning drawing a foul after making a basket during the Lakers 75-67 win over the Rutland Voodoo Tuesday night at Pen High. The win clinched the Lakers a berth in the Okanagan Valley Championship for the first time in four years.

A 24-point performance by Jake Stokker helped push the Pen High Lakers senior boys basketball team into their first valley championship appearance in two years.

Stokker and the Lakers hung on to defeat the Rutland Voodoo 75-67 in a must-win game Tuesday night at Pen High. Kieran Loewen drained 18 points, while Kyler Phillip and Isaiah Kozak were the Lakers’ best defenders.

“It was a huge win. We pulled together as a team,” said Lakers captain Thomas Edis.

The home team had a 33-29 lead at the half, then dominated the third quarter 32-9 for a 27-point lead. The Voodoo didn’t go away in the final quarter, outscoring the Lakers 29-10. The Voodoo were more aggressive on the ball as they intercepted Laker passes and managed a few steals. On a few occasions the Lakers were forcing plays. Edis said they allowed the Voodoos press to get to their head.

“We just couldn’t pass the ball,” said Edis.

“There was a lot of pressure to win last night as it decided whether or not we made valleys so that’s why we were a bit sloppy in the fourth,” said Lakers coach Colin Cook. “We are also not accustomed to playing with a large lead and Rutland is a tough team and weren’t just going to roll over. However, we were able to grind out a win.”

Cook added he thought his team played well and said their press was very effective for the first three quarters. He also said their ball movement and decision making was the best it’s been all season. The Lakers wrap up their regular season with a tilt against the Salmon Arm Gold at Pen High at 5:45 p.m.

The Lakers’ win completed the sweep of the Voodoos as the senior girls teams picked up a convincing 89-48 win. The Lakers’ big three of Tessa Lannon-Paakspuu, Natasha Reimer and Haylee Robertson put up big performances.

Lannon-Paakspuu hit another triple double with 23 points, 13 assists and 15 steals, while Reimer drained 24 points and hauled down 21 rebounds and Robertson added 23 points with four steals.

Following a close  start to the opening quarter, the Lakers maintained their pressure on the ball and excellent communication in their defensive transition to build a solid 20-point lead by half time.

“In the second half we took off, ramping up the pressure and finishing nicely in transition,” said Lakers coach Lesley Lacroix, whose team is 6-3 heading into the final weekend of league play.

Also enjoying a strong performance was Grade 11 Sydney Clarke. She was tough in the key on defence and chipped in seven points and grabbed eight boards.

Lacroix said the win was important as they are neck and neck with two other teams for second place, making every game key in having a chance for a bye into the valleys. During the matchup Lacroix wanted to see her bench players step up and fill roles.

“Taking control of our key defensively is a concept we have struggled with and Sydney Clarke was tough in there, making it difficult for Rutland to score inside,” she said.

What Lacroix liked most about the win was how the entire team executed a full court press instead of one player.

“All of our forwards and posts are challenging passes and the opponent’s transition, making them use up valuable shot clock minutes and getting them out of their offensive patterns,” she added.

On Friday, the Lakers host the NorKam Saints at 11 a.m., then face the Salmon Arm Jewels

at 4 p.m.