Port Alberni basketball fans got a look at the future of the Armada senior girls basketball team and that future looks bright.
The Alberni District Secondary School senior girls basketball team beat the Parklands Panthers 69-62 to win their first Totem girls division title.
The victory wasn’t just special because the Armada came from behind to win it. It was also because they clinched the title while playing four junior players and one senior player on the floor for nearly the whole fourth quarter.
“The Grade 11 girls really stepped up and showed leadership when we needed it the most,” Armada head coach Al Seredick said. “I am so proud of our girls. I can’t say enough about their character.”
Armada guards Julia Hudson and Denae Edgar scored 16 points and 14 points respectively.
Parkland guard Kristy Gallagher scored 37 points and was named tournament MVP.
The Panthers led the scoring through three quarters. But the Armada switched from a man-to-man defense to a box-and-one zone, and with the score 39-30 for Parkland at the half they were within striking distance.
The Armada seemingly had no answer for Gallagher, who took it through the Armada paint at will, scoring 15 of the team’s 19 points in the first quarter. The Armada challenged Parkland offensively though, cutting through seams in their zone defense and pitching the ball back out to shooters on the perimeter.
Fouls plagued both teams. Parkland lost its heart and soul in Gallagher, who fouled out in the fourth quarter. “When they lost her and Breanna Clooney I had a sense that it was ours now,” Seredick said.
The Armada also had its troubles, losing Grade 12’s Heather Kennedy, Denae Edgar and Taylor Paquet – three quarters of its starting lineup – to fouls. Grade 11 player Chelsea Charlesworth also fouled out in the fourth quarter but not before scoring six of her 12 points on the night.
With Gallagher gone Parkland scored 10 points in the final quarter. Armada Grade 11 players lead by Julia Hudson – the sole Grade 12 left on the floor – combined for 20 points. They grabbed the lead 60-58 and never looked back.
The Armada beat Parkland by eight points in exhibition play earlier this season, something that steeled the team. “We knew this would be a dog fight but we also knew now that they were beatable,” Seredick said.
The Grade 11 players never wilted during a critical moment. “They kept going after them and they found a way to win,” Seredick said. “And I can’t say enough about Julia. She held the Armada wheel while the ship weathered a storm.”
In the end, the will to win was just as critical as the skill to win. “It came down to heart. The girls really wanted to get this win and they got it,” he said. “They’ll remember this experience for the rest of their lives.”
With league games underway this week the intensity is about to ratchet up. “Playoff spots are in the mix so everything is on the line,” Seredick said. “Now the real dog fights begin.”