Canada’s club national basketball championships wrap in Langley

Lower Mainland teams dominated 41 teams competing in four girls’ divisions – U13, U15, U17 and Open.

Teams came from various parts of Canada, but the championship trophies are staying in British Columbia, and more specifically, the Lower Mainland.

That is the result after four days of action wrapped up on Monday as Langley Events Centre hosted the 2018 bballnationals, Canada’s club national basketball championships, with 41 teams competing in four girls’ divisions – U13, U15, U17 and Open.

“As exciting as the on-court product was, the tournament organizers are more excited about the continued growth of the club basketball community,” said Winston Brown, the event’s executive director. “Not only did we have a greater number of teams from more provinces, but a number of influential people in Canada’s basketball community acknowledged the importance of an event like this to grow the game.”

And the big winner was the Lower Mainland-based VK Basketball Club, which won the first three divisions while also snagging runner-up status in both the U15 and U17 Division finals.

In the U15 final, it was VK U15 prevailing 65-50 over VK U14, turning a 24-13 deficit into a 65-50 win while the VK U17 team defeated their VK U16 counterparts 71-58.

The U13 final saw VK U13 rally 53-44 over Manitoba’s Big Country Basketball.

And in the Open Division, the Vancouver Fusion scored a 73-66 victory over the Burnaby Ballers.

Open Division

With the score tied at 60 and four minutes to play, there was no panic on the Vancouver Fusion bench.

The Fusion, a mismatch of assorted players, many of whom were playing together for the first time this weekend, held off the upstart Burnaby Ballers 73-66 to capture the Open Division title.

Leading the way for the Fusion was Meg White, who went on a personal 13-0 run to snap the tie. The Ballers had no answer for White, who continuously found her way to the hoop with four lay-ins – two of which were three-point plays after drawing the foul – as well as hitting another shot from beyond the arc. When all was said and done, White had gone off for 36 points in the victory.

The Fusion led for most of the game while the Ballers had a trio of leads, but never by more than three points.

The two teams also played during round robin with the Fusion eking out the 61-58 victory.

U13 Division

After a first half where little went right, the message to her team was simple: control the things they could control, such as effort and concentration.

For the first 16 minutes, coach Maylinn Smith watched the team miss too many easy shots and free throws and on the defensive side of the floor, her VK U13 troops were uncharacteristically undisciplined. All those things played a big factor in her team trailing 26-20 to Big Country Basketball in the U13 Girls Division final.

This was the same team VK defeated 48-33 during round robin play to claim top spot in the pool with Big Country finishing second.

The second half was a different story, however, as VK opened on an 18-2 run and never looked back, capturing the title with a 53-44 victory. And while the final margin of victory was single digits, VK led by as many as 18 points.

“Our team has played a lot of halves like this second half, so it was muscle memory for us just to get back to what we are used to doing,” Smith explained.

Caitlin Kippan led the charge for the victors as after a quiet first half – much like most of her teammates – where she had a single point, she exploded for 14 over the final 16 minutes.

Marina Radocaj, who scored 14 points, was named MVP for VK.

“We had some kids really step into roles. We watched them grow all summer and we saw them bloom this weekend, which is great to see as a coach,” Smith said.

U15 Division

For the majority of the first half of the U15 final, the young, upstart VK U14 team was in full control against the VK U15 squad.

The younger team led 24-13 but while youth can at times be an advantage, size, age and experience tend to win out. And that is what transpired in the championship of the U15 Division championship game.

“We were just bigger and stronger and were able to take over,” said VK U15 coach Paul Langford.

Trailing by 11, the U15 team closed the half on a 12-0 run to take the lead, 25-24. And while the U14 team would briefly regain the lead to start the second half, that would be it as their older, more experienced competitors cruised to the 65-50 victory.

The bulk of the damage was done by tournament MVP Grace Elliott, who finished with 20 points.

Sophia Wisotzki added a dozen points in the victory.

Lauren Clements led the U14 team with 12 points.

U17 Division

There was no chance the VK U17 team was going to take their VK U16 counterparts lightly when the championship final tipped off.

After all, it was just last year at the 2017 bballnationals when the U17 team was the younger team which knocked off their senior VK rivals to claim the championship trophy.

“They said we have to take care of business, we are not letting them do the upset on us,” said VK U17 coach Anthony Beyrouti, who also oversees the entire VK Basketball program. “And it was cool to see them execute and take care of business.”

And while the three previous championship games played on Monday were relatively close at the half – the deficits were six, six and one point, respectively, the VK U17 team raced out to a 19-point lead and never looked back, finishing with a 71-58 victory.

Nikki Cabuco had 15 points for the winner, earning most valuable player honours as well, as she led a balanced attack which saw four players finish with double digits. Talia Sireni had 13 while Jessica Parker and Karsen Look each had 11.

The VK U15 team was led by 20 points from Marin Lenz and 10 from Gemma Cutler.

The U16 and U17 squads have combined to play 106 games this summer.

“What has been cool to see is that dedication to getting better every day and the improvement from the start to the finish has been massive,” Beyrouti said.

With the girls’ championships in the books, the 2018 boys bballnationals tips off at Langley Events Centre on Aug. 9 and wraps up Aug. 12.

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