Video highlights: https://youtu.be/tP8uWvVimLw
A couple of late baskets to close the second quarter and then a chance to regroup at halftime helped the Semiahmoo Totems rally from 17 points down to capture the school’s first senior girls AAA basketball banner since 1953.
The top-seeded Totems trailed the No. 2 Walnut Grove Gators 28-21 at the half but the largely Grade 10 squad flipped the script in the second half as their offence found life with 51 points over the final two quarters for the 72-61 victory on Saturday.
The teams were capping off the B.C. Secondary School Girls AAA Basketball Championships with close to 1,900 fans packing the Langley Events Centre.
Deja Lee – who was named both the Championship Player of the Game and the Most Valuable Player of the tournament – hit a pair of three-pointers to close the half, trimming the Gators lead from 13 points down to seven. Semiahmoo then preceded to open the second half on a 13-3 run. A few minutes later, the Totems took the lead and never looked back.
With a roster which starts four Grade 10’s and only one Grade 12, perhaps being on the big stage had the Totems out of their normal rhythm. After all, not only was this team chasing a championship, but they were also looking to cap off their season with a perfect 40-0 mark.
“At halftime I had time to settle them down and they settled themselves down,” said Totems coach Allison McNeill, who has national team and university coaching on her resume as well. “No one was in panic mode because we were only down seven and Walnut Grove had played us unbelievably tough in the first half.”
“We held Walnut Grove to 28 points at the half and we were non-existent offensively so at half-time, we weren’t panicked.”
What happened in the second half was that Semiahmoo found their rhythm and after shooting 7-for-36 (19.4 per cent) in the first half, they more than doubled that percentage, nailing 20 of their 47 shots (42.6 per cent). And six-foot-three post Faith Dut – who is off to the University of Florida – was simply unstoppable, scoring 19 of her team-high 23 points in the second half. She also finished with 13 rebounds.
The Totems’ four Grade 10 starters also left their mark on the game with Lee scoring 19 points to go along with six rebounds, four steals and four rebounds, Izzy Forsyth contributing 17 points and 11 boards and Tara Wallack coming up with 13 points, nine rebounds, four assists, three steals and a pair of blocked shots. The fourth junior-aged starter, Raushan Bindra, didn’t find the scoresheet, but was credited with playing Gators’ leading scorer Jessica Wisotzki tough all game.
“Everyone did their job tonight,” McNeill beamed.
Walnut Grove played a great first half defensively, but just could not put enough points on the board.
“They made it difficult for us to score and to move and to do what we wanted. They disrupted us. And once Ro fouled out, we had trouble stopping Faith,” said Walnut Grove coach Darren Rowell, referring to the team losing Ro Taylor with seven minutes to go and the Gators trailing by just a couple of baskets.
“The better team won. They had lots of weapons and they adjusted. And Faith (Dut) down the stretch was really tough to stop, she was great.”
“That was two teams battling and a lot of warriors on the floor,” McNeill enthused.
The Totems outscored Walnut Grove by 18 in the paint (largely due to Dut’s presence down low) as well as in steals, with 11 compared to Walnut Grove’s two.
The Gators were led by Wisotzki’s 28 points and 13 rebounds and 19 points, nine rebounds and three assists from Tavia Rowell. Taylor finished with six points and a dozen rebounds.
The Gators’ Sophia Wisotzki, who is just in Grade 10, won her second consecutive Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award as well as Second Team All-Star. Jessica Wisotzki and Tavia Rowell were both named First Team All-stars as was Forsyth for Semiahmoo while Dut and Wallack were Second Team All-stars selections for the Totems. And Fania Taylor, just in Grade 9 for Walnut Grove, was an Honourable Mention All-star.
For the Grade 12 core of the Walnut Grove squad, this marked a great five-year run for the program. The team won the provincial title in Grade 8 and finished second in B.C. in Grade 9. They moved up to senior for their Grade 10 year and then capped off their high school careers with back-to-back silver medals.
“Obviously you want to win but getting a silver medal is a huge accomplishment,” Rowell said.
In the third-place game, it was the Brookswood Bobcats defeating the Kelowna Owls 73-62.
For full results, click here.
First Team All-Stars
Jenna Dick (Brookswood)
Izzy Forsyth (Semiahmoo)
Jaeli Ibbetson (Kelowna)
Tavia Rowell (Walnut Grove)
Jessica Wisotzki (Walnut Grove)
Second Team All-Stars
Kennedy Dickie (Kelowna)
Faith Dut (Semiahmoo)
Sammy Shields (Riverside)
Tara Wallack (Semiahmoo)
Sophia Wisotzki (Walnut Grove)
Honourable Mention All-Stars
Janessa Knapp (Brookswood)
Marin Lenz (Abbotsford)
Jessica Parker (Riverside)
Tana Pankratz (Yale)
Fania Taylor (Walnut Grove)
And the Riverside Rapids won the School Spirit Award while the Lord Byng Grey Ghosts were the Most Sportsmanlike Team.