The latest edition of the Yale Lions senior girls basketball team has always had a knack for making history.
Two years ago, the Lions’ current crop of Grade 11 and 12 players won the school’s first-ever Fraser Valley junior girls title.
On Tuesday evening, they added to that legacy, beating the Maple Ridge Ramblers 68-65 to clinch a trip to the B.C. AAA Basketball Championships.
“I’ve heard it’s the first time in 20 years that the senior girls have qualified for provincials,” enthused Lions head coach Euan Roberts. “For the school and the basketball program, it’s fantastic. All the girls are really excited.”
The Lions hosted one of the Fraser Valley Tournament’s preliminary quadrants, and they opened the regional playoff with a 68-65 win over Lord Tweedsmuir of Surrey on Monday.
The Yaleans met Maple Ridge in Tuesday’s quarter-finals with a B.C. berth on the line, and found themselves down five at halftime. But they cranked up the defensive intensity in the third quarter, out-scoring the Ramblers by 13 points in the frame, and expanded the lead as high as 15 points in the fourth quarter.
The Lions missed a bushel of free throws down the stretch to make the final score closer than it probably should have been, but they got the job done.
Point guard Kendra Arnold led the Lions with 20 points, while Hailey Kendall (15 points) and Jessica Collins (12) also scored in double figures. Hannah Klassen and Sara Kurath had big games in the rebounding department, with 13 and 10 boards, respectively.
“It had a lot to do with our defence,” Roberts said, noting that his team got a lot of mileage out of trapping the Ramblers’ ball-handlers when they crossed halfcourt. “We got some steals and some buckets out of our defence, which is what we preach all year. Defence leads to offence.”
In other AAA girls action, the defending provincial champion W.J. Mouat Hawks saw their season come to an end with consecutive losses to Maple Ridge (59-51) and Lord Tweedsmuir (56-51).
Mouat Secondary hosts the balance of the Fraser Valleys, and Yale faces Brookswood, the top-ranked team in the province, in the semifinals on Friday at 6 p.m. The bronze and gold medal games run Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 4:15 p.m., respectively.
HAWKS, LIONS, PANTHERS BOYS VICTORIOUS
In the senior boys AAA draw, Mouat, Yale and Abbotsford Collegiate were victorious in do-or-die elimination games on Wednesday.
Sixth-seeded Mouat crushed No. 27 Gleneagle 73-34, as their larcenous half-court defence paved the way for a series of fast-break layups in the second half. Jesse Coy paced the offence with 17 points.
Yale, seeded No. 8, sprinted past No. 25 Dr. Charles Best 101-73 at home, while No. 19 Abby Collegiate registered a mild upset by beating No. 14 Elgin Park 72-60.
The Robert Bateman Timberwolves, seeded at the bottom of the 32-team draw, suffered an 82-34 defeat against No. 1 Pitt Meadows.
Mouat and Abby Collegiate both play their second-round games at Port Coquitlam’s Terry Fox Secondary on Friday. The Hawks take on Princess Margaret at 6:15 p.m., followed by the Panthers vs. Terry Fox at 8 p.m.
Yale faces Centennial at Pitt Meadows (Friday, 6:15 p.m.).