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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

December 12, 2015, Victoria, BC (ISN) – It was a busy day of high school hoops on Saturday as the 2015 Victoria Christmas Invitational High School Girls Basketball Tournament crowned their champions. Langley’s Walnut Grove Gators (Junior), Victoria’s Pacific Christian Pacers (Senior Gold) and Coquitlam’s Riverside Rapids (Senior Purple) all went home with gold medals following a busy triple-header at the CARSA Gym at the University of Victoria.

Lord Tweedsmuir Panther Alina Wutke (centre) finds the going tough between Gator defenders Leah Fortin (right) and Rolande Taylor (left) as she drives to the hoop for two of her 11 points in the Junior loss to Walnut Grove (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Well, at least the Victoria based Pacific Christian girls and their coaches went home, as all the visiting mainland teams were forced to stay here on the Island for another night, thanks to another day of crazy fall weather that saw all ferry sailings from 3:00 pm onward cancelled for the day.

Junior Final: Walnut Grove 68 Lord Tweedsmuir 62

In the Junior final, the closest and most exciting match-up of the day, Surrey’s Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers faced off against the Gators and started well, jumping out to a 5-2 early lead and holding that lead half-way through the first quarter. The Gators would then begin to dominate, going on an 11-0 run at one point to take a 25-17 lead into the first break.

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Lord Tweedsmuir’s Breanne Homenuik (15) would lead all Panthers scorers with 19 points in a losing effort (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

After extending that lead to 34-25 at the half, the Panthers would begin to regroup in the third, cutting the Walnut Grove lead to 52-47 after the third and scoring two more to start the fourth to make it 52-49.

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Walnut Grove’s Tavia Rowell (13) goes up for two of here 29 points in th Junior win over Walnut Grove (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The game would then go through three huge scoring turns to effectively decide the outcome. First, the Gators would go on a 7-0 run to take what appeared to be a commanding 59-49 lead with somewhere around six minutes left to play. The Panthers would then go on a surge of their own over the next four minutes, pouring in 13 unanswered points to lead 62-59 with 2:10 remaining.

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Lord Tweedsmuir’s Sedona Arabsky (12) lets a jumper fly, in a bid for two of the 11 points she would score against Walnut Grove in the Junior final (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

After a crucial time-out by coach Darren Rowell to change the momentum, the Gators would do just that, forcing some key turnovers on defence and hitting their next four shots in a row, plus a free-throw, to close out the exciting 68-62 win.

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Although she would be denied because of a foul here, Walnut Grove’s Natalia Monro (31) would go on to score 15 points in the win over the Panthers (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Leading the way for the Gators was Tavia Rowell, who was all over the court, finishing with a game-high 29 points. Natalia Monro, with 15 and Rolande Taylor, with 10, also hit double digits for Walnut Grove.

For the Panthers, Breanne Homeniuk led her team with 19 points. Heena Sidhu (with 13), Alina Wutke (with 11) and Sedona Arabsky (with 11) also contributed big in the losing effort.

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Junior Champions – The Walnut Grove Gators (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Senior Gold Final: Pacific Christian 78 SMUS 49

In a highly anticipated all Victoria match-up that perhaps should have been closer than what occurred, the powerful Pacific Christian Pacers used their size in the middle to roll to an easy 78-49 win over the Blue Jags.

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St. Michael’s Leah Sparkman (12) would spark her team with a 17-point effort, but it would not be enough as the Blue Jags fell to Pacific Christian in the Gold Division final (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Pacers jumped out to a big lead early, going on an 11-0 run before the Blue Jags notched their first point – from the free throw line – well over four minutes into the game. The Pacers would continue their dominance from there, holding a 19-9 lead after the first-quarter and then going on a 11-0 run at one point in the second, to hold a 40-27 lead after the first half.

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Pacific Christian’s Bethany MacDonald (10) would find the going tough here, but would go on to lead all scorers with 23 points in the Pacers big Gold Division win over SMUS (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Fearing an ability to get inside on the Pacers twin towers of sisters Cassandra and Jasmine DeVries – both standing at 5’11” – SMUS shooters would attempt a number of perimeter shots, many of which were well off the mark. The Pacers meanwhile, would seem to work the ball effortlessly into the blue paint, scoring all of their 78 points without the benefit of a single three-point field goal.

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The Blue Jags would have a tough time with the Pacer’s twin towers of Cassandra (13) and Jasmine (24) DeVries who would score 16 and 19 points respectively in Pacific Christian’s 78-49 win over SMUS (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Pacers would be led on the scoreboard by point guard Bethany MacDonald, who would finish with 23 points. She would be followed close behind by the DeVries sisters, with Jasmine netting 19 points and Cassandra with 16. Rachelle Easton would also hit double figures with 12.

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Pacific Christian’s Jenna Wild (8) goes up for a shot in the Gold Division final against SMUS (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

For the Blue Jags, Leah Sparkman did her best to keep St. Michaels in the game, finishing with 17 points, while Shalese Jordan added 11.

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2015 Gold Division Champions – The Pacific Christian Pacers (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Senior Purple Final: Riverside 84 Bishop Grandin 60

The Senior Purple final featured a heavy-weight match-up between the 2014 tournament defending champion Riverside Rapids of Coquitlam and 2014 semi-finalists, the Bishop Grandid Ghosts from Calgary, the only non-BC team to advance to a final this season.

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Riverside’s Shae Sanchez (6) was simply unstoppable Saturday, scoring 34 points in the Rapids 80-64 win over the Bishop Grandin Ghosts in the Purple Division final (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Things started well for the visiting Ghosts, as they jumped out to an early 6-0 lead, before the Rapids got on the board and then went on a 12-0 run to help build an 18-5 lead before closing out the first quarter with a 21-15 lead.

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Bishop Grandin’s Marina Kehrig (8) soars to the hoop for two of her 20 points in the loss to Riverside (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Ghosts would then make like ghosts and disappear for most of the second quarter, getting outscored by the Rapids 24-2 at one point to find themselves down 40-27 at half-time.

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Bishop Grandin’s Erin Kehrig (12) shows perfect form on this shot over Riverside’s Ozioma Nwabuko (5) on Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

While they would do their best to rein in the surging Rapids, closing to at one point within seven points after a 15-3 run in the third quarter, the Rapids, like the wild Victoria weather happening outside the building, were unstoppable, cruising the rest of the way to the easy 84-60 win.

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Riverside’s Amanda Matsui (left) would hit five three-point shots to finish with 16 on the day while teammate Ozioma Nwabuko (right) would add 13 points in the Rapids win over the Ghosts (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

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Riverside’s Marti Chambers (at the free throw line), hits a shot for one of her 14 points in the Rapids win over Bishop Grandin (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Leading the way for the Rapids, also seemingly unstoppable was guard Shae Sanchez who dominated the scoresheet with 34 points, including four field goals from beyond the three-point arc. Three other Riverside players were also into double figures with Amanda Matsui scoring 16, including five three-pointers, Marti Chambers adding 14 and Ozioma Nwabuko chipping in 11.

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Bishop Grandin’s Emily Wagner (4) goes up for a shot to score two of her 10 points in the losing effort to the Riverside Rapids (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

For the Ghosts, three players would hit the double-digit mark, with Marina Kehrig leading the way with 20 and Emily Wagner and Shaenia MacIsaac both adding ten points each.

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2015 Purple Division Champions – The Riverside Rapids (Senior Team back row), Junior Team (front row) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)