The Grand Forks Secondary School (GFSS) junior girls basketball capped off a strong season with a third place showing at the West Kootenay Championships at L.V. Rogers in Nelson on Feb. 27.
The Wolves had two strong showings at the championships, which were compressed into a one day tournament with each team playing twice.
Coming in as the #4 seed and having to go through a two-game qualifier on Feb. 25, GFSS faced the host and #1 seed L.V. Rogers Bombers first. The Queen City squad had not lost a single game all season to a West Kootenay team and had beaten GFSS by 33 two weeks before using a smothering press.
After falling behind by 10 early, the Wolves fought back with some strong passing and solid defence to cut the Nelson lead to 14-12 early in the second quarter.
The Bombers made a couple of lay-ups off steals and went up 23-16 at half and eventually pulled away for the 49-35 win to advance to the final.
“Considering how badly we lost the first time we played Nelson that was pretty good,” said coach Craig Lindsay. “Our players really did a good job of sticking to the plan. Our press break was really the key. Keyra Stoochnoff and Alyssa Makortoff in particular, but everyone really, did a great job being patient and passing the ball through the traps. The first time, Nelson really stunned us with their aggressive trapping, but this time we had no problems.”
Makortoff and Veronica Bolton led the Wolves with eight points each, while Stoochnoff added six.
Allie Zondervan led Nelson with 14 points.
L.V. Rogers went on to thrash Trail’s J.L. Crowe in the final to win the West Kootenay title.
GFSS had to bounce back from their semi-final to face a young but tough Mount Sentinel team from South Slocan.
“We had split with Sentinel before,” said Lindsay. “They only have one grade 10 but they are very well coached (by former Simon Fraser University star Tekki Brown) and they play hard.”
The Wolves got off to a strong start using an aggressive man to man press and some strong shooting from a couple of their own grade nines, Charity Starchuk and Makortoff. GFSS led 14-6 after one quarter, 17-12 after two, and were up 25-14 after three; however, the smallish but hard-working team from South Slocan wouldn’t give up and kept clawing back.
GFSS was able to weather the storm and hold on for the 30-26 win led by nine points from Chloe Skerritt and seven from Makortoff.
“It was kind of tough,” said Lindsay. “We got up by a lot early but just couldn’t finish them off. They kept coming at us. But I give our girls credit. Once again, they stuck to the game plan and didn’t get frustrated or point fingers when Mount Sentinel had their big rally in the fourth quarter. We got the job done, once again led by our tenacious defence.”
The tournament capped off a season where the GFSS junior girls went from one win last season to a very solid 14 win, eight loss season.
“With five grade nines all showing improvement and contributing all season, next year’s junior squad is in very good shape,” said Lindsay. “The seven grade 10s improved as well and showed good leadership and commitment. Hopefully, the senior team will return next year (this year’s GFSS senior team folded in January) and these girls will help that program excel.”
Lindsay added that grade 10 guards Sarah Heric and Nicole Nuyten both showed good leadership and were solid contributors on the court in Nelson.
“Their contributions don’t really show up on the score sheet,” he said. “But Heric, along with Skerritt, ran the team from the point guard spot and showed cool leadership bringing up the ball and running the offence. Nuyten almost lost a tooth on Tuesday after getting hit hard in the mouth in our play-off qualifier. But she was determined to play in Nelson and we certainly appreciated her gritty defence and rebounding.”