It’s been a long dry spell for Penticton Secondary School junior girls basketball, but their name is back on the Okanagan Valley Championship trophy.
The Lakers qualified for provincials, held at the Langley Events Centre Feb. 28 to March 3, and took the Valley Championship defeating Kelowna Secondary School 57-53. The Lakers last won the pennant in 2005.
“We battled hard all game against KSS, going into the changeroom at half with a nine point lead. I knew it was a tenuous lead as KSS has some athletes that can shoot and drive and most of all love to compete,” said coach Lesley Lacroix.
KSS point-guard Japleen Chahal led the second half charge for her team, narrowing the Lakers lead to two points as they went into the fourth quarter.
“The pace was frenetic as KSS chose to full court press us all game, forcing us into a bit of a haphazard offense that at times looked as good as senior girls ball, and at times as bad as middle school ball,” said Lacroix.
However, the Lakers managed to limit their turnovers, convert into lay ups at the other end and pull ahead in the last minute of the game to win by four and earn the first spot in the Okanagan berth into the provincials. Chahal finished the game with 22 points and a tournament all-star award. For the Lakers it was Maria Iannone who led with 15 points, including four three-pointers. Teammate Kayla Haukaas scored 14 points, Jaden Yamamoto had 13 and Sophie Brydon chipped in nine.
In the Lakers first game at the Valley Championship they faced Sahali from Kamloops, building a 10 point lead (36-16) as they headed into the lockers at the halftime.
“We continued to hold our advantage with some strong defence by Kayla Haukaas who shut down Sahali’s top shooter, allowing her only two points in the game,” said Lacroix.
The Lakers came out with the win, 59-35. Haukaas earned Player of the Game honours as she also added 10 points for the Lakers’ offensive drive. Iannone sunk four from the three-point line and led all scorers with 14 points. Yamamoto added 12 points and Sophie Brydon had 11 points.
In their second game, the Lakers met up against a tough Okanagan Mission Huskies team that were hitting three point shots and driving to the lane against the Lakers defence.
“But we came back in the last 39 seconds of the game, down by four. Two turnovers by the Huskies were capitalized on by Jaden Yamamoto as she scored under the hoop to bring it to a two point difference, then hit an amazing running lay-up with 10 seconds left to tie up the game,” said Lacroix. “The play continued with us gaining possession and Sophie Brydon driving hard through the lane to score a hoop. She was intentionally fouled by OKM, hitting the floor and end wall hard.”
Kate Glibbery came in to shoot two free throws in place of Brydon. She missed the first but nailed the second leaving only 1.9 seconds on the clock. As the foul was intentional, the Lakers also had possession after the free throws and gave them the win by one point, 52-51.
Top scorers for the Lakers in the tight match were Yamamoto with 18 points. Julia Devito scored 10 points and earned Player of the Game honours. Brydon and Iannone each had nine points.
For their strong play all weekend, Yamamoto was named to the all-star team and Iannone was named the Okanagan Valley most valuable player.