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Vernon Panthers roar to first in Kelowna’s Sweet 16 tourney

The junior girls team has their sights set on attending the provincial championships in Langley

Vernon took home a sweet tournament win over the weekend.

The Vernon Secondary School (VSS) jr. girls basketball team competed at – and won – the Immaculata Sweet 16 tournament in Kelowna.

They started off the weekend with a tough matchup against St. Thomas More Collegiate from Burnaby.

“STMC is a well-coached team that always plays hard,” said Panthers head coach Warren Cullum.

After a slow start, VSS was able to pull away in the second half off of strong defensive play from Lily Schommer and Isla Jolly.

In the quarterfinals, the Panthers dismantled the AAAA Penticton High Lakers, as Mya Fotheringham, Pearl Fogel, and Alee Whibley flexed their offensive muscles.

Next, the semifinal pitted the Panthers up against Kelowna’s Okanagan Mission Huskies. In two prior meetings this year, the Huskies won, which led to a motivated VSS team.

“Our energy was off the charts in this game,” said Cullum. “We would adjust, and they would adjust. It was such a back-and-forth game and we were down some key players due to injury, but their energy and support on the bench has been amazing to watch.”

Clinging to a fourth quarter lead, the Panthers were able to hang on, despite a late surge from the Huskies, to win by three and vault themselves into the final.

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Crofton House from Vancouver was the opponent for the final, a team that VSS hadn’t played yet this year.

A unique 1-3-1 zone flummoxed the Panthers throughout the majority of the game, causing difficulty getting shots off. Down 10 with less than six minutes to play, a timeout seemed to flip the switch for Vernon, who then exploded offensively.

Paige Leahy’s quick steal and lay-up sliced into Crofton House’s lead. Then, after a couple defensive stops, Adie Janke banged a massive three to tie the game. After another stop, it was Kenidy West’s turn to clang in a triple. Another stop and free throw iced the game as the Panthers would bring home the trophy.

“I am so happy for our kids,” Cullum said. “They earned this championship this weekend because they fought hard and never gave up.”

Leahy was awarded top defensive player of the tournament, while Charlotte Schommer was named to the All-Star team for her impressive weekend performance. Schommer also took home player of the game honours in the final. Janke was the leading scorer of the tournament, and was also named to the All-Star squad.

The next competition for the Panthers is the Okanagan Valley Championships, which will take place from Feb. 17-18 in Kamloops.

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Bowen Assman

About the Author: Bowen Assman

I joined The Morning Star team in January 2023 as a reporter. Before that, I spent 10 months covering sports in Kelowna.
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