Mouat senior guard Serena Sarowa scored a game-high 24 points vs. Kelowna on Wednesday

Mouat senior guard Serena Sarowa scored a game-high 24 points vs. Kelowna on Wednesday

Owls own the boards, rally past Hawks in provincial AAA girls basketball opener

The Mouat Hawks got off to a terrific start in their B.C. AAA championship opener, but they were ultimately worn down by the Kelowna Owls.

The W.J. Mouat Hawks senior girls basketball team got off to a terrific start in their provincial AAA championship opener on Wednesday, but they were ultimately worn down by the Kelowna Owls’ rugged rebounding.

Mouat raced out to a 14-point lead in the second quarter at the Langley Events Centre, but the Owls clawed their way back into it thanks to their carom-collecting prowess. Kelowna out-rebounded Mouat 67-45 for the game, including an eye-popping 43 offensive boards, en route to a 75-73 comeback victory.

“They were a rebounding machine,” Hawks coach Tara Burton noted afterward. “Most of their points were second-chance points.

“We talked about that going in, but in the second half, we couldn’t take care of it. They’re athletic, they’re long, and that’s a tough match-up for us.”

Mouat, back in the provincial tourney field after a one-year absence, was nursing a 58-54 lead heading into the fourth quarter, only to watch the Owls surge ahead 67-63 with less than four minutes left.

The Hawks cobbled together a 6-2 run to knot the score 69-69, via a pair of gritty drives to the hoop by Penielle M’Bikata and a steal and subsequent fast-break layup by Serena Sarowa. But Kelowna responded with a 5-0 spurt of their own to reclaim control, and they held off Mouat in the final minute.

Sarowa had a tremendous performance for the Hawks, going 4-for-6 from beyond the arc on her way to a game-high 24 points. It was particularly impressive in light of the fact she’s been limited in recent weeks by an ankle injury.

“She didn’t practice for several weeks, and was playing really short minutes (during the Fraser Valleys),” Burton said. “This was her first full game back in a few weeks, and she was very good.”

M’Bikata notched 20 points for the Hawks, while Carly Corrado and Cassidy Kapaiwai were the top Owls scorers with 14 points apiece.

Abbotsford’s other team in the AAA girls draw, the MEI Eagles, open against the Handsworth Royals of North Vancouver at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the LEC.