The Grade 8 girls basketball team from Abbotsford Traditional Middle School fashioned a fairy-tale story over the past week en route to the Fraser Valley title.
The Sabres, seeded 10th out of 32 teams at the Valley tournament, peaked at the perfect time, winning five games in a row to capture the championship.
All five victories were by at least 20 points, capped by a 66-44 triumph over the Colleen and Gordie Howe Bulldogs on Monday evening at Walnut Grove Secondary.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime dream team,” head coach Daryl Dix enthused. “These girls have grown up playing basketball together, and they all love the game. That’s what’s amazing about them.”
Heading into Monday’s Valley title game, the Sabres had lost three of four games against Howe this season, including a nine-point defeat in the final of the Abbotsford city playoffs.
But a renewed commitment to defence and rebounding yielded a breakthrough victory for the Abby Traditional girls, who move on to the provincial championships at Pitt Meadows March 10-12. Penielle M’Bikata was tournament MVP, while Nakisa Levale was named to the all-star team.
“We knew we’d have to play our strongest game to beat Howe, and that’s just what happened,” Dix said. “The last week or so, we’ve been playing really good basketball.”
The Sabres’ Valley title has created quite a sensation at Abby Traditional which, despite what its name might suggest, is not one of Abbotsford’s traditional basketball powerhouses.
“It means a ton to the school, because we’re not a big school and we don’ t have as many kids to choose from,” Dix said. “We’ve had so many people rally behind the team.”
MEI beat Walnut Grove 42-26 in the bronze medal game, and the fact that all three Fraser Valley medallists hail from Abbotsford underscores the strength of the local girls basketball scene.
“It just shows you how strong all the teams are, and the quality of coaches we have in the district,” Dix said.