The 2018 B.C. AAA girls high school champion Kelowna Owls: (top, left) Taya Hanson, Rylee Semeniuk, Kennedy Dickie, Paige Watson, Jaeli Ibbetson, Jordan Kemper, Jenna Holland, (front) Kasey Patchell, Rachel Hare, Dez Day, Kassidy Day and Kyara Klempner. -Image: Contributed

KSS Owls soar to B.C. senior girls title

KSS upsets Walnut Grove to capture the school’s and Okanagan’s first provincial AAA basketball title

Ranked No. 2 for much of the year, there was only one obstacle the Kelowna Owls had yet to clear during the high school basketball season.

On Saturday in Langley, the KSS senior girls crossed that final and triumphant hurdle with a 67-61 victory over the favoured and top-ranked Walnut Grove Gators in the B.C. AAA championship game.

The Owls, who had lost to the Gators in two previous meetings this season, put on a stifling defensive display—complimented by a finely-tuned, opportunistic offensive attack—to give KSS, Kelowna and the Okanagan their first ever provincial AAA girls’ title.

“I am just so proud of our team,” said Owls’ senior Taya Hanson. “All the work we put into it, just all being together and playing as one, it was an unreal experience.

“It really felt like the work all paid off,” she added. “To represent Kelowna and the Okanagan and win that championship, will definitely go down in history for us.”

Hanson, who returned from a year of basketball in Ontario to play out her Grade 12 season in Kelowna, sealed her high school career in style with 18 points, 11 rebounds and MVP honours for the provincial tournament.

Grade 11 post Kennedy Dickie delivered one of her best efforts of the season, leading the Owls with 21 points in the final, while Grade 12 guard Dez Day tossed in 11 points, including three conversions from beyond the arc.

Dickie and Jaeli Ibbetson both earned tournament all-star recognition, while Darren Semeniuk was named the top coach.

The Owls, coached by the son and mom team of Darren and Heather Semeniuk, and Quentin Thiessen, made a commitment to a full-court, pressure defense approach after Christmas. It turned out to be the perfect solution against the talent-laden Gators, featuring the likes of Tavia Rowell, Nathalie Rathler and Jessica Wisotzki.

“With Darren’s leadership and Quintin’s work on defense, we always believed defense was where the answer was,” said Heather. “A credit to the girls, they responded, followed the plan and believed in it, too. That was a really good team we beat.”

For seniors Hanson, Day, Rachel Hare and Kasey Patchell, it was their final games at KSS. With most players on the Owls coming up through the club system together, Semeniuk said it was among the tightest-knit, committed group she’s had the pleasure of working with in all her years on the hardwood.

“This is a very special and unique group, these girls are all really dialed into the sport, they’re all really invested in it,” Semeniuk said. “To get to that stage, to that big game and see how they competed, and then come through with the win was really special to see.”

For Hanson, who played at a prep school last year in Brantford, ON, it was the ideal conclusion to her high school career.

Next season, she’ll join the Arizona State University Sun Devils program in Tempe, AZ.

“I’m so happy I came back, what an amazing way to finish it off with just a lovely group of girls and people,” Hanson added. “We want to embrace this and make it last. We wanted to win this for each other. It’s something I’m sure we’ll never forget.”

In reaching Saturday’s B.C. final against Walnut Grove, the Owls posted convincing wins at provincials over Heritage Woods, Argyle and Semiamhoo.

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Owls’ senior Taya Hanson was named MVP of the provincial championship. -Image: Garrett James/Langley Events Centre

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