Taylor Claggett (with ball) of the MEI Eagles senior girls basketball team drives to the hoop against the Handsworth Royals as teammate Tessa Ratzlaff looks on.

Taylor Claggett (with ball) of the MEI Eagles senior girls basketball team drives to the hoop against the Handsworth Royals as teammate Tessa Ratzlaff looks on.

Eagles enduring steep learning curve at AAA B.C.’s

For the youthful MEI Eagles, the B.C. AAA senior girls basketball championship has been an educational experience, to say the least.

For the youthful MEI Eagles, the early portion of the B.C. AAA senior girls basketball championship has been an educational experience, to say the least.

Over their first two games at the Langley Events Centre, the Eagles have shown flashes of brilliance, but they’ve come up short in the end both times.

In Wednesday’s opener, MEI raced out to an early 12-1 lead against the Handsworth Royals, only to watch the North Vancouver squad battle back to tie the game 43-43 at the end of the third.

The fourth quarter was all Royals, though – they held the Eagles scoreless in the final frame en route to a 61-43 victory.

“We saw probably the pinnacle of what we hope to become, but we’re not there yet,” MEI coach Rick Thiessen said. “We had the game under control through three quarters against one of the top teams in the tournament, but we couldn’t finish it off.

“We had decent looks, but we just didn’t hit anything (in the fourth quarter). And then we panicked, started turning it over. Their experience was difference.”

On Thursday, the Eagles ran into a hot-shooting Prince George Polars squad, falling 80-55.

“I thought our athleticism inside would give them trouble, but they shot the ball much better than I expected,” Thiessen said. “We tried some different things defensively, but it didn’t seem to matter who was taking the shot – they’d make it.”

The Eagles’ next game on the consolation side of the draw is at 10 a.m. Friday morning vs. the Claremont Spartans.

To this point of the provincial tourney, it’s been a steep learning curve for the MEI girls, who are long on potential but short on experience. The Eagles start one Grade 12, two Grade 11s and two Grade 10s, and their first two players off the bench are in Grade 11 and Grade 10.

“It’s unfortunate that it has to happen at the provincials,” Thiessen said, referring to the losses, “but this is absolutely something we’re going to learn from. I’ve been saying to the girls that you need to understand that you can never take a quarter off at this level if you want to be successful. That’s what we’re finding, in a variety of ways.”

In other AAA senior girls provincial action, the Mouat Hawks – coming off a heartbreaking 75-73 loss to Kelowna in their opener – bounced back with a 68-65 win over the Burnaby South Rebels on Thursday.