|Katelyn Gafka waits for a pass during the Agassiz Eagle’s 2019 provincial championship game against the Pemberton Red Devils. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)|
Agassiz supporters crowded the stands at Unity Christian School Saturday (March 9) to cheer on the Agassiz Eagles during the final game of the provincials, but their handmade signs and shouts of encouragement weren’t enough to snag the Eagles their first win of the championships.
Saturday (March 9) saw the Eagles play the Pemberton Red Devils for the final game in the 1A Basketball Provincial Championships, ending in a loss for Agassiz with a final score of 45-56 and putting the team in 16th place for the tournament.
“I think us getting here this year is a big success,” coach Greg Lawley said about the tournament. “We’ve been here the last two years after not making it. I think that’s great for the team and great for the kids.”
“I mean, it’s disappointing to finish 16th,” he added. “But out of 85 single-A teams, we’re 16th? I think we can kind of take that.”
The team had come fourth in the Fraser Valleys two weeks earlier, but got a spot in the provincials after winning a wild card game against Barriere. Their luck didn’t hold through the championships, however.
The Eagles’ first provincial game on Wednesday (March 6) against Lumby’s Charles Bloom Secondary School saw a strong start for Agassiz, but the team lost their lead by five points in first half. Despite a rally from the Eagles, that saw three shots in a row miss the hoop, the game ended with Charles Bloom scoring 55 points to Agassiz’s 53.
The Eagles fared no better against Grand Forks on Thursday (March 7), with a final score of 35-39. Friday’s game against Hagensborg’s Sir Alexander Mackenzie School (located near Bella Coola) saw fairly even scoring between the two teams until the end of the second quarter, when Sir Alexander Mackenzie surged ahead by five points. That game ended 64-48 for Sir Alexander Mackenzie.
Saturday’s match between the Eagles and the Red Devils also started with an even pace between the two teams, but a number of fouls and several shots from the three-point line pushed the Red Devils ahead in the final two quarters of the game.
“They were really in-your-face and pressuring,” Lawley said about the Pemberton team. “We were trying to do the same thing too.”
“We were trying to force some turnovers so we got some more opportunities, and sometimes that results in fouls,” he added.
The game saw 19 fouls for the Red Devils and 16 for the Eagles — numbers that are higher than average for the Agassiz team, but not unexpected in a provincial championship — and frustrations running high.
Katrina Lawley walked off the court after being subbed out following on of her fouls in the second quarter, and didn’t return until half-time. Coach Lawley spoke to both Katrina and fellow player Katelyn Gafka about their fouls at the start of the third quarter, and could be hear telling Gafka that she had three fouls already, “so hands off.”
“If it doesn’t go our way, we just starting getting lazy and mad,” Grade 12 player Rionna Vander Wyk explained.
Fellow Grade 12 Katrina Lawley agreed.
“It’s easier to swing than to run,” she said. “It happens a lot with us though, when we’re down by a lot or it’s a close game. And we’ve had a lot of close games this tournament.”
For the two Grade 12s, Saturday’s loss against the Red Devils marks the end of their basketball careers. But even though the final score said otherwise, it wasn’t really a loss for them.
“It’s still good to make it and kind of finish off with that victory” of just being in the provincials, Vander Wyk said.
The remaining players on the Agassiz Eagles are in Grade 9 and 10 this year, which means most of them will be going on to try for the provincial title again next year.
“In a couple years they’ll be like top five, top four in provincials,” Katrina Lawley said.
“They’re growing all together,” she added. “So I think that’s good for all of them to grow for four years instead of two years like … most teams.”
Between rising stars like Abby Wilson, Katelyn Gaftka and Hailey Baumfield, and new players coming on board next season, coach Lawley has high hopes for the team.
“I think we have a good solid base of Grade 9s and 10s, and some Grade 8s that are coming up,” he said. “Lots of kids got lots of playing time this year for the Grade 9, 10 kids, so we’ll just build on that next year.”