The Burnaby Central Wildcats wrapped up the season as only they know how – with plenty of smiles and a lot of noise.
Anyone who’s spent time around a group of Grade 8 girls could tell you, those would be a best-case scenario.
The Wildcats captured the B.C. Grade 8 girls basketball title last week, defeating the W.A. Fraser Falcons 60-52 in what was a season of wins.
The squad ran the table and went undefeated, making the last victory all the more special for first-year head coach Jalynne Huynh.
“Honestly, this is just a great, young talented group of ladies who came out and worked hard every game,” said Huynh, a first-year Douglas College student.
“At the beginning of the year we kind of set the goal just to have fun and to learn a lot. They certainly did.”
In the final, while the game was close right down to the end, Burnaby trailed only a couple of times and maintained the lead much of the second half.
“We just stuck to our game plan, which was getting back quickly, guarding the lanes and half-court defence,” noted Huynh.
It was a recipe that worked in the previous three games of the tournament, too.
Swingman Ankita Chopra was named the tourney MVP, while Jayla Huynh was selected to the first all-star squad and teammate Vobia Kalome earned a second all-star team honour.
All three play together on the Coquitlam Excel Baskeball Club.
Coach Huynh said the season has been a continuous progression as the players – some of whom had little experience in the sport prior to the start of the year – built up chemistry.
“Throughout the season, I found it was important to get everyone some playing time,” she said. “Down the stretch we talked about how we would need to rely on our more experienced players, but everyone contributed.”
In the semifinals, the Wildcats defeated Mulgrave 58-53 in another close battle. The opposition provided an interesting challenge, with a pair of six-foot-tall players to post up.
“The key for us was rebounding and crashing the boards,” said coach Huynh. “They had two tall players, and they could put up the ball. We were able to change things up and make it harder on their guards to move the ball.”
Burnaby Central also defeated Burnsview 65-51, after opening the tourney with a 60-43 victory over Elgin Park.
The expressions on the players’ faces after the final whistle sounded brought it all home, said coach Huynh.
“You could see all the excitement in their faces, they jumped off the bench and embraced their teammates,” she recalled. “It’s such a special feeling when you win for your school.”
The Wildcats lineup includes: Ankita Chopra, Deleena Dade, Aikum Gill, Sonia Hayre, Jayla Huynh, Vobia Kalome, Ruza Kos, Alba Lando, Simran Minhas, Selam Mohamed, Sophia Morton, Aishwarya Nair, Ella Rickets, Jean Sagla and Gabriella Virsam.