The Vernon Christian School Royals stunned the hometown Kelowna Christian School Knights 49-45 in the final of the Okanagan Valley Senior Girls A Basketball Championships Saturday, Feb. 19.
The final horn started a huge celebration as the Royals experienced a number of historic firsts for its program: first time making a Valley final; first time winning a Valley championship; first time defeating Kelowna Christian (a perennial single A power); and the first time qualifying for the BC Provincial Championships
The Knights, seeded third in B.C., will host the provincial A finals March 2-5. The Royals, who were ranked No. 5 provincially heading into the Valleys, will likely get a top-three seed for the B.C. tourney.
“It was a gutsy team effort on both sides of the ball,” said Vernon Christian’s Mike Nelson, who shares coaching duties with Robere Gingras. “The girls embraced their roles and everyone stepped up sharing responsibility when faced with adversity.”
This was the first game in a long time where fans were allowed in the gym. VCS had a strong contingent of students, staff, and family out to support the team. The KCS gym was a rockin’ and Nelson said it was such a great atmosphere.
“So great for the team to have that support and experience what it feels like to be in a big game,” he said.
The Royals started the championship game strong but quickly encountered foul trouble to starters Caitlin Gingras and Kadence Sayer. VCS was also missing starting point guard Macie Lewis, sitting out the game with a knee injury.
VCS played long minutes without those two starters, and Player of the Game April Thompson held the fort, with Trinity Remple, Abby Vass, Karolien Hummelman, and Zoey Hamming really stepping up with gritty defence and excellent team basketball on offence.
The game was tied at half at 27.
The second half was back and forth with both teams hitting big shots. Again, foul trouble was an issue for the Royals, and the second unit “played unbelievable,” said Nelson.
Early in the fourth, there was a momentum-changing sequence highlighted by a drawn charge by Hamming, and back-to-back buckets by Vass and Hummelman.
Caitlin Gingras and Sayer were able to re-enter the game, and the Royals were able to hold on for a nail-biting win.
Gingras, the tournament MVP had 25 points and 10 rebounds – she averaged 27 points per game over the team’s three wins at the Valleys – while Thompson had 16 points.
VCS opened the tournament with a 64-23 win against the Similkameen Sparks of Keremeos. After a sluggish start, the Royals pulled away in the third quarter. Gingras led the attack with 26 points, and the Player of the Game was awarded to Lewis, who had 12 points and eight assists.
The Royals then played Kelowna’s Immaculata Mustangs in the Valley semi finals. The Royals capitalized on a strong third quarter and won the game 60-48. Player of the Game Gingras had 27 points, and went 13/15 from the free throw line. Thompson chipped in with 12 points.
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