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Ravens’ absence opens the door in senior girls high school basketball

The defending provincial AAAA champions, the Terry Fox Ravens, does not have a senior team this season
Grade 11 point guard Avery Sussex is poised to take a leadership role for the Riverside Rapids as the team looks to attain the provincial AAAA championship it narrowly lost to the crosstown Terry Fox Ravens last season.

Diminished competition isn’t lessening the aspirations of senior girls high school basketball in the Coquitlam district.

The Terry Fox Ravens, the reigning AAAA provincial champions,, are taking a year away from the senior league to rebuild its program from the junior ranks while the Gleneagle Talons will play an exhibition schedule as the school tries to re-energize its program.

That’s opened the door for the Riverside Rapids to take care of some unfinished business after it lost last year’s championship final, 77-75, to the crosstown Ravens.

Already the consensus No. 1 team in the province after some impressive tournament results in December that included a 73-68 win over Walnut Grove in the final of the Tsumura Basketball Invitational, Rapids’ coach Paul Langford said he’s not taking the early successes for granted.

Already Riverside’s strength has been hobbled by injuries to senior wing Alexis Hart and junior Rae Roycroft, which has compounded the loss of last year’s leaders, Brooke Kendal and Venica Davignon, to graduation.

But with Grade 11 point guard Avery Sussex and senior post Natalie Curley ready to take on increased responsibilities, the Rapids show every sign of picking up where they left off last season. As well, Grade 10 guard Jorja Hart is getting better every time she steps on the court.

Langford said he’ll take full advantage of their strengths to sculpt a team that plays fast, fun basketball. Maintaining that through the busy months of January and February could be a challenge, though.

“Health is our main concern,” Langford said, adding if his charges can get healthy, “anything can happen.”

With four seniors on the floor, Centennial Centaurs coach Stephen Bruyneel is optimistic his team can compete for a place in the Fraser North district tournament and after that, who knows?

Leading the Centaurs will be 6’3” post Blessing Ibekwe, who spent last summer honing her skills playing high-level club ball and is headed to Trinity Western University next fall.

Supporting Ibekwe will be senior point guard Alex Austin, who can set up the offence, and shooting guard Jessica Ng, whose pinpoint accuracy can deliver points.

“We’ll play a game that focuses on getting post touches as much as possible,” Bruyneel said. “We’ll also try to press as much as possible.”

Just down Como Lake Avenue at Dr. Charles Best Secondary, Blue Devils’ coach Craig Percevault hopes his side’s mix of older guards and younger forwards will be the ingredients to get them to provincials.

“We bring a lot more experience into this year,” Percevault said. “We managed to retain a good, strong core group of players.”

At the centre of that core is Grade 12 point guard Eloise Herdman, who will initiate Best’s offence with her outside shooting ability and also contribute in the back court with her quick hands.

She’ll be complemented by another senior point guard, Josefina Rodriguez, who excels in all aspects of the game — attacking, shooting and defending.

Up-and-comers include guard Denise Mendoza and forward Avin Jahangiri, who are both juniors with a knack for scoring baskets while Grade 10 forward Jessica Parkinson can contribute from the inside and outside.

Still, Percevault said, any success Coquitlam district teams achieve will be somewhat coloured by the absence of Fox and Gleneagle.

“It is heartbreaking to see that Fox who won it all last year does not even have a team this year,” he said. “We feel badly for the schools who cannot field a team.”

With only two seniors returning to the Heritage Woods Kodiaks, head coach Andrew Lloyd said he’s looking for commitment and consistency from everyone on the floor.

“Our leadership must come from every player,” he said. “Our players understand their roles and seek to maximize their success within those roles.”

Grade 12 point guard Ella Nielsen and senior forward Kaitlin Mean will set the example for younger players like Izzy Lloyd and Anita Tavaszi — both in Grade 10 — to emulate as the Kodiaks look to play with pace while on offence and toughness while defending.

“This group of girls will smile in the face of adversity and over time, be ready to shine in the biggest moments,” Lloyd said.

Port Moody did not reply.