The Abbotsford Panthers senior girls basketball team celebrates its first provincial title in 36 years. The club defeated the Okanagan Mission Huskies 85-77 in Saturday’s final at the Langley Events Centre. Paul Yates/Vancouver Sports Pictures

CHAMPIONS: Abbotsford Panthers senior girls finally win the big one

Abby wins first senior girls bball title since 1984, Fraser earns Grade 8 silver, Yale wins bronze

It’s been a long title drought for the Abbotsford Panthers senior girls basketball program.

A championship banner for the team hasn’t been hung since 1984, but that all changed after a remarkable run ended with a 85-77 win over the Okanagan Mission Huskies in the 3A provincial final in Langley on Saturday.

The fourth quarter proved to be the difference, as the Panthers outscored the Huskies 20-15 to earn the win.

Marin Lenz, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player, put the team on her back in the first half and collected 44 points, eight rebounds and four assists in the championship game.

Lenz was also named the B.C. girls basketball player of the year last week at the annual senior girls banquet.

Her younger sister Malia Lenz contributed with 11 points, 11 rebounds and four steals. Other top Panthers performers included: Lindsey Roufosse (10 points and 12 rebounds) and Lakresha Edwards (10 points and three assists).

It helps ease the disappointment the program felt in 2o17, when they lost to Lord Tweedsmuir in the provincial final. Marin was on team and in Grade 9 at the time. Her father Prentice Lenz, who has coached the team for years, said it feels incredible to be on the winning side.

RELATED: VIDEO: Abbotsford Panthers fall in AAA senior girls final

“You know what it feels like on the other end,” he recalled. “Even though you had a phenomenal year, there’s still only one team that ends up not losing. And it’s a pretty special feeling when you’re that team.”

Prentice said the second half saw the entire team step up to secure the victory.

“Our supporting pieces really stepped up for us today,” he said, praising the rebounding and defence of Roufosse, Chelsey Dulku and Riya Sahota. “It was a really great job by a number of different people in that fourth quarter really made the difference.”

He said those players helped clear up space for Marin, and his daughter managed to continue to make big shot after big shot.

Marin, who played on that second place team with her sister Sienna Lenz, said the big win takes away some of that disappointment. But that it winning the title was a team effort.

“Remembering that moment and how it felt and then putting in the work the next couple of years and then showing up here and trying to get it done,” she said. “It’s super exciting to see all the hard work we’ve put in all season long pay off in the end. We had Lindsey and Chelsey down low getting rebounds and had Malia running the wings, it was good.”

The Panthers, who entered the tournament ranked first in the 3A, opened with a 98-33 over Magee on Wednesday. They followed that up with a 76-49 win over Duchess Park in the quarter-final on Thursday and then took down Argyle 65-58 in Friday’s semifinal.

Edwards and Malia were also named tournament first team all-stars.

In other girls basketball news, the WA Fraser Falcons lost 60-52 to the Burnaby Central Wildcats in the Grade 8 girls provincial final at MEI on Saturday.

The Falcons punched their ticket to the final after a dramatic 45-43 victory on Friday, with Hannah Singh scoring a buzzer beater to win the game. Singh and Addia Currie were both named tournament first team all-stars. Falcons player Ava Heppner was named a tournament second team all-star.

In the 4A tournament, the Yale Lions senior girls had an excellent showing and earned bronze.

Yale defeated Walnut Grove 86-67 in Saturday’s third place game to earn the hardware.

The Lions had a strong run at the tournament, opening with a 73-36 win over Handsworth on Wednesday and then downing Riverside 74-52 in Thursday’s quarter-final round. The Lions then lost 81-69 to Terry Fox in the semifinal on Friday to end the team’s championship dreams. Semiahmoo defeated Terry Fox to win the 4A crown.

The third place finish is the highest result ever for a Yale senior girls basketball team at the provincials.

Yale’s Karishma Rai was named a tournament first team all-star, while Neelam Rai was named a second team all-star.

The MEI Eagles also had a solid result in the 3A tournament, finishing sixth overall in the province.

MEI opened with a 66-51 win over Vernon on Wednesday, but then lost 60-58 in a heartbreaking loss to R.A. McMath in the quarter-final round on Thursday. The Eagles bounced back with a 56-53 win over Valleyview on Friday, before falling 58-48 to South Kamloops in Saturday’s fifth place game.

In the 2A tournament, the first-ever trip for the St. John Brebeuf Bears to the provincials proved to be a successful one as the club finished seventh in the province.

The Bears beat Southridge 61-48 on Wednesday, but then fell to the eventual 2A champions Brittania 79-52 on Thursday. The Bears also lost 74-42 to St. Thomas More Collegiate on Friday, but ended the tournament on a positive note with a 57-54 win over Notre Dame in the seventh place game on Saturday.

Brebeuf’s Marijke Duralia was named a tournament second team all-star for her efforts.

The junior girls tournament saw the MEI Eagles place seventh in the province, with Sidney Giesbrecht named a second team all-star. The Yale Lions placed 14th at the event, and the Robert Bateman Timberwolves finished 19th.

For complete results from all the events, visit bchighschoolbasketballchampionships.com.

With files from: Dan Kinvig and Joshua Watkins

B.C. High School Basketballbasketball

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