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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

December 11, 2015, Victoria, BC (ISN)  -The Lambrick Park Pride Senior Girl’s basketball team cruised to an easy victory on Friday morning, defeating Edmonton’s M.E. Lazerte Voyageurs 68-40 in the opening game of the 23rd annual Victoria Christmas Invitational Tournament at Lambrick Park High School in Victoria.

Lambrick Park’s Priya Johal (10) drives to the hoop for two of her 26 points in a 68-40 win over Lazerte in the opening game of the Christmas Invitational Friday at Lambrick Park (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Christmas Invitational is one of the largest and best girls basketball tournaments held in the country and this year features 32 senior teams and 16 junior teams competing all weekend at various high school venues across the city including Lambrick Park, Stelly’s, Spectrum, Claremont and Belmont, with the finals in the three divisions – two for senior and one for junior – to be held at UVic’s CARSA facility on Saturday.

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Lambrick’s Rien Milliken (3) would finish with 14 points against the Voyageurs (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Each season, several senior teams use this tournament as a springboard to advance to the BC Swee Sixteen AAA, AA or A tournaments, while many junior teams advance from this event to the BC Junior Championshiops in March.  Last season, 12 senior teams, including three of the final four, and five junior teams from this tournament advanced to their respective BC championship tournaments.

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Lambrick Park’s Megan Smith (15) goes in for an uncontested layup in the game against Lazerte Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

One of the teams hoping to do that will be the home town Pride, a perennial AA power, who are off to a late start due to a number of players being involved in volleyball.   The Pride are playing in the Gold Division of the tournament, along with cross-town rivals Pacific Christian, Parkland, SMUS, Belmont, and Spectrum.  The Purple Division includes other Victoria teams including Oak Bay, Claremont, and Stelly’s.  Victoria teams competing in the Junior Division include Belmont, Claremont, SMUS, Spectrum and Stelly’s.

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Lambrick’s Alyssa Gschiel (17) looks for a way to the hoop under the pressure of Lazerte’s Sunna Sahib (14) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Pride’s late start was nowhere in evidence on Friday, as the Lions cruised early, building a 42-15 first-half lead, were up 53-31 after three and never faltered the rest of the way to the final 68-40 score.

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Lambrick Park’s Himari Fujiyama (7 left) would be one of three Pride in double digits, scoring 10 points in the win Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Three Lambrick Park shooters hit double figures including Priya Johal who led all scorers with 26 points, Rien Milliken with 14, and Himari Fujiyama with 10.  Samantha Banes led the Voyageurs with 13 points.

The Pride now move on to play the winner of the Pacific Christian (Victoria) and JN Burnett (Richmond) game at 7:40 pm Friday at Lambrick Park.  The Voyageurs will play the loser of that game at 6:00 pm, also at Lambrick.

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With a grimace, Lambrick’s Atsuho Ito (1) drives to the net in an attempt to score against Lazerte on Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Games continue in the tournament all day Friday and all day Saturday with the finals at UVic’s CARSA gym beginning with the Junior final at 2:30 pm Saturday.  This will be followed by the Senior Gold final at 4:00 pm and the Senior Purple final at 5:45 pm.