The Penticton Secondary School Lakers junior girls basketball team will vie for a berth into the provincial championships on their home hardwood this weekend.
The seven-team tournament hosted at Pen High is one of several opportunities for teams to earn the automatic berth to the tournament which changed formats last year to expand from 16 to 24 teams. The qualifier kicks off on Friday evening with the Lakers playing the A.R. MacNeill Secondary School Ravens.
“We have a pretty strong team this year with a group of kids in Grade 10 that I have been coaching since they were about in Grade 6,” said coach Lesley Lacroix. “I think we have one of the best point guards in the Valley in Maria Iannone.”
Also part of that core group of Grade 10s are Team B.C. players Sophie Brydon and Jaden Yamamoto, along with Kayla Haukaas and Kate Glibbery.
“Then we have a strong group of Grade 9s that are athletic and really energetic. They are learning a ton and keeping up well with the older group,” said Lacroix. “We are a fast team which makes us a tough team to press. With Maria at point guard we can break the ball down the floor really quickly. We have also changed our defence to a full court press.”
The season for the junior Lakers started in December and already they have two tournaments under their sneakers. After defeating Kelowna Secondary School at their tournament (Dec. 11-12) in the semi-finals, the Lakers lost out to Summerland — taking second place.
“Beating KSS was a huge win for us. They are one of the top ranked teams. But, then we came up against a very strong Summerland team,” said Lacroix.
The following weekend in Vernon, the Lakers faced the challenge of not having Iannone in the lineup as she was away at a family function.
“It really changed the dynamic, but the team stepped up and we won all three games and took the tournament championship title defeating the host Fulton. Sophie Brydon had a great tournament for us,” said Lacroix.
The Lakers handily defeated Salmon Arm in their first game 71-22. Yamamoto had 17 points, Haukaas had 14, Glibbery finished with 12 points and Brydon had five assists. Yamamoto also took care of business on defence completing the double-double grabbing 12 rebounds. Player of the game honours went to Rebekah Young for her defensive hustle.
Yamamoto earned her second double-double of the weekend with 30 points and 14 rebounds in the Lakers 69-41 win over Seaton. Brydon also had a good game pitching in 14 points and four assists. Haukaas hit from the three-point line, earning eight points and four assists which led her to being named player of the game.
The Lakers played well on both sides of the court in the final, defeating Fulton 57-42. Yamamoto, who was named tournament MVP, scored 25 points. Brydon added 22 points for the Lakers. Vanessa Herman shut down Fulton’s point guard which earned her player of the game honours.