There’s an unmistakable championship feel in the hallways of Immaculata Regional High School this week.
At the conclusion of a season that can only be described as magical, both the Mustangs senior boys and girls teams captured their respective B.C. high school A basketball titles.
The Immaculata boys captured their first ever provincial banner Saturday night in Kamloops, while the girls were winning the school’s sixth B.C. title at the same time in Prince George.
The underdog Immaculata boys, ranked No. 5 heading into provincials, made the most of their first ever appearance in a B.C. championship game.
In Saturday’s gold medal game, Alex Hart scored 31 points as the Mustangs downed St. Pat’s 67-51. Michael Gini hit six three-pointers and finished with 20 points, while James Casorso was named player of the game.
Head coach Dino Gini had plenty of praise for his boys’ team and their first ever B.C. crown.
“Team play, team first, and preparation was all perfect,” said Gini. “On the defensive side the Mustangs were outstanding, and they were rewarded with a very hard fought and well deserved blue banner.”
Immaculata pulled off the upset of the tourney in the semi finals, defeating No. 1 West Pt. Grey 54-46. Hart had 29 points and Gini 13, while Chris Macdonnell was solid defensively.
“It was a huge win for the team and a huge win for our program,” said Gini, who is assisted by Doug Sperling, “as the semi final game bit us in the butt a couple of times in previous years, so proud of the boys.”
The Mustangs opened the tourney with a 81-52 victory over Glenlyon from Victoria. Hart scored 43 points, while Gini added 13.
In Game 2, Immaculata downed a big, physical Unity Christian team 63-56. Hart had 23 points and Casorso added 18.
Hart was named the tournament’s MVP, Michael Gini was named to the first all-star team, while James Casorso earned second team honours.
A few hours north in Prince George, with coaches Brian Grant and Leah Kouwenhoven guiding the ship, the No. 2 ranked Immaculata girls celebrated the B.C. championship with a thrilling 58-54 victory over top-ranked Cedars Christian.
Tournament MVP Olivia Johnson paced the Mustangs with 15 points in the final, while Emma Johnson scored 14 and Jaedyn Penkala had 13 as Immaculata won the school’s first B.C. crown since 2007.
“The Immaculata senior girls had a tremendous season, a talented and athletic group of girls have put the Mustangs back on top,” said Mustangs head coach Dino Gini.
“I have had the pleasure to step back into the girls program with a group of girls that are focused and athletic and most importantly a group of quality individuals, they are a special group and this special group has brought home a special blue banner.”
Along with Olivia Johnson’s MVP performance, younger sibling Emma Johnson was named a first team all-star, while Jaedyn Penkala was named to the second team.
Immaculata opened the tourney with a 111-25 win over Fraser Lake, with Emma Johnson and Siobhan Fitzpatrick scoring 20 points each.
In Game 2, Emma Johnson had 23 points as the Mustangs whipped Fernie 110-45.
In the semis, Emma and Olivia Johnson had 23 points each as the Mustangs took care of Pacific 81-53.
In addition crediting his players for a solid effort at provincials, coach Brian Grant says Dino Gini’s leadership and commitment to the Immaculata program over the years has been invaluable.
“He’s the backbone of the program. He’s been there 15 years,” Grant told the Prince George Free Press. “(Dino’s) the one who won the first five provincial championships with the girls in the last 10 years, so basically because he had to go there, he turns over the reigns of the herd to me and the other coach, coach Kouwenhoven.”
For Gini, two provincial titles for Immaculata in the same season is his most satisfying basketball experience yet.
“Two teams, one dream,” Gini said. “What a journey…what a season…what an experience.”