The Agassiz Eagles may have missed out on the bronze at the Fraser Valleys, but they aren’t out of the running yet for a provincial spot.
Surrey’s Khalsa School beat the AESS senior girls team 69-32 in the bronze medal match of the A-level senior girls basketball championships.
“Once we started breaking their press, we had some easy hoops,” Eagles coach Greg Lawley said. “But we really struggled to make good passes and get into our offence. They did a really good job at disrupting what we wanted to do.”
“You’re not going to win too many playoff games when you score 32 points,” he added. “Not against that team.”
Khalsa had been a strong competitor throughout the regular season and the Fraser Valley championships. The first game of the Fraser Valleys saw Khalsa trounce Hope Secondary 72-26, while the semi-finals saw Khalsa lose by 30 points to former provincial champions Unity Christian School.
“We lost to that team twice this year already,” Lawley said after the game. “We just turned the ball over too much today.”
The Agassiz senior girls had fought their way through the beginning games of the Fraser Valleys, winning by one point over Maple Ridge Christian School on Wednesday, Feb. 20. Katrina Lawley led the team with 21-points, securing them a place in the semi-finals Friday. But it wasn’t enough to get cinch them a semi-final win.
Playing on home turf Friday, Feb. 22, the Eagles lost 30-92 against Langley’s Credo Christian High School. It wasn’t unexpected, coach Greg Lawley said: the team had lost to Credo Christian School by more than 30 points both times the team had played them before.
That took the Eagles to Saturday afternoon’s bronze medal game, played against the Khalsa Lions at Columbia Bible College.
The game started strong for the Lions, with the team securing 13 points in the first quarter. The Eagles rallied in the second half of the first quarter, coming up only five points behind the Lions, but they couldn’t catch up to the Lions lead.
Although Khalsa played an aggressive defence, coach Michelle Kelly said she didn’t “think they played a strong game, to tell you the truth.”
“They didn’t execute it as well as they usually do, but they work hard,” she said.
During the final quarter of the game, Kelly called a time-out and could be heard telling the team to “get with it.”
“You’re in Grade 12; this could be your last year,” she could be heard saying. “Do you want to lose?”
Although some AESS supporters quietly questioned Kelly’s tactics from the stands, the Lions added a few more baskets to their final score after it, bringing the final score to 69-32 in favour of the Lions.
This marks the first time the Khalsa Lions have made it to the provincials. The high school only expanded to Grade 12 five years ago — before it had only gone up to Grade 10 — and it took a few years for the senior basketball program to catch up.
“They worked so hard last year,” Kelly said, talking about how far the team had come since the program started. “They practiced every day over winter break. They wanted to make it here, so it’s a big deal for them.”
Lawley said he expected the Khalsa team to be in the top 10 for provincials this year, noting that they were “very aggressive defensively.”
But although AESS didn’t get the bronze, or an automatic invite to the provincial championships this March, that doesn’t mean they’re out of the running.
On Tuesday (Feb. 26), the Eagles will be travelling up to Merritt to play in the provincial wild card game against the fourth-place Okanagan team. If they win, they’ll be off to take on the best A-level basketball teams in the province.
“We’re going to practice on Monday and work on not turning the ball over and being able to break through those presses,” Lawley said. “Hopefully we’ll go up to Merritt, come back and have a trip to provincials.”
According to Lawely, the Agassiz Eagles have already been in this wild card spot three times since he’s been coaching and never lost one.
“I’m pretty confident,” he said. “I think the Fraser Valley is strongest for basketball. I think we’re stronger. But we’ll see what happens on Tuesday.”