For the third year in a row, the Semiahmoo Totems have city-wide bragging rights, after the senior girls basketball squad finished atop the standings at the Surrey Fire Fighters Goodwill Classic.
The Totems – who are currently the top-ranked quad-A team in B.C. – successfully defended the title Saturday in front of a packed gym at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary in Cloverdale, beating the host Tweedsmuir Panthers 97-46.
The game marked the third consecutive year that the two squads have squared off in the final of the all-Surrey tournament, with Semiahmoo winning each time. Last year, they won 82-53 and in 2018 won by a 76-62 score.
“It’s been three years against Tweedsmuir now so it’s become quite a fun rivalry,” said Semiahmoo co-coach Allison McNeill, the former Canadian national women’s team bench boss.
“It’s exciting. It’s a great tournament and it’s special to have so many teams from Surrey involved. And it was packed (Saturday) so that was pretty neat.”
While the environment – playing on the Panthers’ home court – was intense, the action was fairly heavily tilted in the top-ranked Totems’ favour, as the score would suggest. Much like last year, in which the South Surrey team cruised through the event unscathed, Semiahmoo faced little in the way of adversity en route to the gold-medal matchup.
They defeated Enver Creek handily in the first round before beating the Southridge Storm 92-46 in semifinal action Wednesday. In the latter tilt, McNeill told Peace Arch News that Southridge “played us close for a fair bit” before the Totems pulled away in the second half.
McNeill told Peace Arch News Monday that while the games were not particularly close, they tried to take something from each one, whether it was working on a particular part of their team game or simply giving the younger players a chance to shine.
Grade 10 Maddie McKinnon, McNeill noted, had an especially strong week with boosted playing time, and notched eight points in Saturday’s final.
“Maddie is really coming into her own,” McNeill said.
“We’re trying to get something out of every game and also give our opponents something in every game. I’ve been on both sides of those types of games… so we don’t press much. We always start that way, because that’s how we play, but once we get a lead we back off.
“Whether you’re winning or losing, you try to take some lessons from it and get better for the next game. We set some goals for each game and try to reach them.
“We do get to work on some things. Tweedsmuir is a pretty good team – I think they’ve been in the honourable mention top-10 in quad-A – so we knew they’d be tough, so we just wanted to play hard and try to get better.”
While McNeill was impressed with the team’s youngest players, it’s the squad’s core group of eight Grade 11s that drives the team.
On Saturday, guard Tara Wallack led the offence with 28 points, while Izzy Forsyth had 21 and Deja Lee 15.
Emma Wubs and Nicole Pajic each had nine, with Pajic’s points coming on three successful three-pointers.
Forsyth was named tournament MVP at the conclusion of Saturday’s final, while Lee was named top defensive player and Wallack was picked for the tournament all-star team.
While McNeill admitted it can often be tough to pick individual performances out of a team game, she acknowledged that tournament organizers “definitely got it right” by naming Lee as the top defensive player.
“We quite often give Deja the toughest defensive assignments and she always rises to that challenge,” McNeill said.
“She loves to guard the best players, and she gets those 50/50 ball and she’s also a really good defensive rebounder. She’s not the biggest player out there but she’s a very, very good rebounder.”
The Totems and Panthers are set to renew their rivalry again this week, when they face each other Wednesday in the first round of the Top Ten Tournament, the annual showdown at Coquitlam’s Centennial Secondary. And next week, they’ll play again, this time in league action.
“We know each other pretty well by now,” said McNeill.