Carmelle M’Bikata of the W.J. Mouat Hawks drives to the hoop against the Kelowna Owls during Century 21 Classic action last week.

Youthful Hawks learning to fly

It’s entirely accurate to refer to the W.J. Mouat Hawks as the defending B.C. AAA high school girls basketball champion.

It’s entirely accurate to refer to the W.J. Mouat Hawks as the defending B.C. AAA high school girls basketball champion.

But it’s worth noting that this year’s edition of the squad bears little resemblance to last season’s title team.

Five Hawks grads are now playing post-secondary basketball, and former head coach Paula Thompson has moved down to coach the Mouat juniors.

New bench boss Tara Burton, an assistant under Thompson last season, has a promising if inexperienced group on her hands – there are just two Grade 12s on her roster.

The new-look Hawks spread their wings for the first time last weekend, finishing eighth against a stacked field at their home tournament, the Century 21 Classic.

Mouat beat the MEI Eagles 59-36 in their opener, with Jessie Gunther picking up player of the game honours, but lost their next three games to No. 6 Oak Bay, Kelowna and Fleetwood Park.

“It was a lot of great, competitive games to start the season,” summarized Burton, whose team is an honourable mention in the AAA rankings. “We’re a young group, so there’s a lot to learn. But it’s a keen, athletic group of girls. It’s now just about getting it all to come together on the floor.”

The Riverside Rapids of Port Coquitlam made a strong early-season statement by winning the Century 21 Classic, which has grown into one of B.C.’s elite high school girls basketball events. This year’s edition featured five of the top seven teams in the provincial AAA rankings.

The No. 2-ranked Rapids blasted the No. 3 Brookswood Bobcats 79-50 in the gold medal game, with Fiona Beales earning tournament MVP honours.

“Riverside looked great,” Burton observed. “They’re experienced, and that group has now been playing senior ball together since they were in Grade 10. They’re definitely one of the teams to beat this year.”

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