It was a nail-biter of a championship weekend, with plenty of unexpected moments, but the small Junior Girls basketball team from Skeena Middle School ultimately came out on top at the Northwest Zone Championships at their home gym Feb. 15 and 16.
The tournament saw six teams divided into two pools battle it out. In Pool A was BVCS, ranked #1, Charles Hays, ranked #3, and Queen Charlotte Secondary School, ranked #6. Pool B consisted of Skeena ranked #2, Smithers Secondary School ranked #4, and Hazelton ranked #5.
Skeena, which had a small team consisting of nine girls all in Grade 9, led off the tournament with a game against Hazelton on Friday afternoon – the first time the team had gone in as a full team all season. It was a loud, exciting game for the girls, winning 51-21, with Hannah Jay making a heavy contribution to the scoreboard.
The second game on Friday against Smithers saw them double their opponent’s score and win 44-22.
But that Friday saw the dynamics of the tournament change, with Prince Rupert coming out with a strong win against the favoured BVCS, making Charles Hays the team to beat.
Semi-finals started Saturday morning, Skeena playing the second game of the day against BVCS – a team they weren’t expecting to see until the finals. Slow to start, the teams were neck and neck by the end of the first half. The game resulted in a too close for comfort 27-21 win for Skeena, advancing the Terrace team to the finals against Charles Hays.
“With Charles Hays coming into the finals with a flawless weekend as well was a little nerve-racking. We had seen them once before in Hazelton, and by then they had transformed into a larger much stronger team,” said coach Shayla Billy.
Skeena started the game noticeably nervous, and the game was even closer than the semi-final, with Skeena trailing in the first quarter by one and at the end of regulation the score was tied at 32 – this meant overtime. The two teams agreed to play a three minute quarter, but just like the rest of the game Skeena couldn’t get a lead, with the first overtime ending 36-36.
Fouls were building up and a few players had to leave the game, building the intensity and reminding the team that any mistake they made they would pay for – but the girls were on their best game and pulled out a tough 39-36 win to win gold and become zone champs.
“I am proud of my entire team,” said Billy, noting Anke de Wit stood out in the final and tournament MVP went to Carly Davies.