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Walnut Grove Gators take second at Tsumura Invitational

Kiera Pemberton named MVP
Walnut Grove Gators scoring sensation Kiera Pemberton was named Most Valuable Player at the Tsumura Invitational despite her team coming up short in the championship final on Saturday, Dec. 17 at Langley Events centre. (Langley events Centre)

After 64 basketball games over four days featuring 32 teams in three brackets, champions have been crowned at the 2022 Girls Tsumura Basketball Invitational at Langley Events Centre.

On Friday, Dec. 16, the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers and South Kamloops Titans won their respective 8-team brackets, while on Saturday night, Dec. 18 the Riverside Rapids defeated Walnut Grove Gators to take home the 2022 TBI Tournament Title for the 16-team bracket.


For the second straight season, the Riverside Rapids are TBI champions.

The Rapids built an 11-point halftime lead and then held off the second-half charge of the Walnut Grove Gators – who got the lead down to a single basket twice in the fourth quarter – but could not complete the comeback as Riverside won 73-68.

Holding Walnut Grove to 23 first-half points was instrumental as was the fact 6-2 centre Natalie Curley was able to stay on the floor the entire fourth quarter despite playing with four fouls, said Riverside coach Paul Lanford.

And while last year’s TBI title victory was a near-perfect game, the veteran coach said, this thing was far from perfect.

“We didn’t play as well as we do normally and (on defence) we reached too much. A lot of times you don’t learn when you win, but hopefully we can learn from those mistakes,” he said.

READ ALSO: Walnut Grove Gators and Riverside Rapids book finals at Tsumura Invitational

Making things difficult for Riverside was the fact they were lined up against Walnut Grove scoring sensation Kiera Pemberton.

Pemberton scored 21 of her team’s 23 first-half points and finished with 48 points. It marked the fourth straight game Pemberton scored more than 40 points – she also had 47, 43 and 47 points in the first 3 games of the TBI. She was named the Most Valuable Player despite her team coming up short in the championship final.

Langford called the 6-0 guard unbelievable, especially her balance as she drove the lane and was able to manoeuvre her way in the paint, despite the Rapids having 3forwards standing 6-2, 6-0 and 5-10.

The Gators used a strong third quarter to cut the deficit from 11 points down to four with 10 minutes, but every time Walnut Grove made a push – getting within 3 points twice and 2 points on another pair of occasions in the fourth, Riverside had an answer.

The Rapids had 4 players reach double figures, led by Avery Sussex’s 21 points. Jorja Hart scored 16, Curley had 14 and Annabelle Neufeld finished with 11, including a trio of 3-pointers.

Sussex was her team’s Vancouver Bandits Player of the Game while Kyanna Knodel picked up the honour for Walnut Grove.

Sussex was coming off a 33-point performance in the semi-final round and while her scoring may have been down in the championship coach, Langford said, her ability to do everything else is what makes her so valuable.

“Avery is wonderful to watch. Avery brought the ball up every time, she made sure the ball was looked after, she went to the foul line, she knocked down her shots. Avery is so wonderful to coach, the whole group is,” he said.

In the third-place game, the Okanagan Mission Huskies defeated the Mulgrave Titans 87-83 in overtime.

READ ALSO: Langley Christian Lightning and Victoria’s Spectrum Thunder crowned champs at Tsumura

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