Practice makes perfect and while they were not perfect, it certainly did pay off for the Dr. Knox Falcons.
Trailing the St. Michaels University School (SMUS) Blue Jags by one point with just over six minutes remaining, the Falcons scored their final nine points (all from the free throw line) to capture the school’s first-ever championship at the Junior Girls Basketball Provincial Invitational Tournament on Saturday at Langley Events Centre. The final score was 52-48.
The Falcons, who were the top seed at the 32-team tournament, went to the line 12 times over the final six minutes as they edged the third seed Blue Jags. The second-place finish was a best-ever result for the Victoria school. They had previously placed eighth back in 1996.
Dr. Knox made no field goals in the fourth quarter, scoring all 10 of their points from the charity line and finishing the game 17-for-25 from the charity stripe.
“it’s so funny, developing over all these years with these kids, I said our goals this year was to become tougher passers and better free throw shooters, so we took 30 free throws every single practice for the entire year. And tonight, it paid off,” said Falcons coach Lisa Nickle, adding that the team also did mental training.
“We have mentally trained for free throws because they are so young, I wanted to give them that gift.”
The championship final – played in front of more than 700 fans – saw the Blue Jags come out firing to build a 7-0 lead. But by quarter’s end, the score was knotted at 13 and the Falcons took a 25-21 lead into the half. SMUS would find itself down 32-25 in the third quarter before they closed the period on a 14-7 run to close the game to three points with a quarter to go.
“They are so resilient. When they got little runs, taking my timeouts properly, letting them get gas in their tank, letting them know that I love them and we are going to be just fine,” Nickle said of her team which was in its third consecutive tight game in the fourth quarter.
Reegan Bond, who was named Most Valuable Player, scored 14 points for the Falcons while Ryenn Schutz had a team-high 16 points, including hitting on six of eight of her fourth-quarter free throw attempts. Avery King was the player of the game and finished with 10 points.
“We were all nervous but a bunch of us have been together since second grade so we all trust each other and we all know that no matter what that together we were going to get through and make it to the end,” said Bond.
“I could never imagine us being able to do this at the beginning of the season but now it is just surreal, just incredible, like able, like a dream.”
Bond is also Nickle’s daughter and the coach was emotional afterwards.
“I can say that is something that her and I will have for the rest of our lives. They are all my daughters. I love each of them,” she said.
Dr. Knox is a middle school which goes to Grade 9 meaning the entire Falcons roster will be off to Kelowna Secondary for their Grade 10 year. The Owls junior team finished third at provincials with a 62-40 win over the Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs in the bronze-medal game.
And Nickle credited the Owls for making her team better as they battled six times during the season.
“They are one of the reasons why we are stronger and tougher because they pushed us to the limit.”
Makena Anderson led the Blue Jags with 16 points with Jojo Tupas-Sing scoring a dozen and Brianne McLeish adding 10. Of the team’s 10 players, only three were in Grade 10.
All-stars and awards
Jojo Tupas-Singh (SMUS), Ryenn Schutz (Dr. Knox), Avery King (Dr. Knox), Makenna Anderson (SMUS) and Phoebe Molgat (Kelowna) were named First Team All-Stars.
Sidney Giesbrecht (MEI), Cassidy Buchanan (Brookswood), Claire Huang (Churchill), Kennedy Day (Kelowna) and Adia Pye (Claremont) were Second Team All-Stars.
The Blue Jags’ Lauren Rust was the Most Outstanding Defensive Player.
And the Nisga’s Nighthawks were selected the Most Sportsmanlike Team.