A perfect record of eight wins and no losses in league play is nice to have, says the head coach of the Riverside Rapids’ senior girls basketball team. But the road to the provincial championships in Langley is about to get a lot rougher.
The Rapids are the third seed heading into the Fraser Valley regional championships that are now scheduled to begin Wednesday after they were postponed by wintry weather on Monday. The tournament is now scheduled to wrap up on Sunday at Riverside secondary.
Paul Langford said what his team lacks in height and strength, they’ll have to make up with speed, determination and being able to adapt to opposing defensive strategies.
“We need to keep pressure on other teams,” Langford said, adding the Rapids will also have to share the ball “to get it to the right person.”
The Rapids went into the regular season schedule against a competitive division of teams flush with established, experienced seniors confident they could outrun and outscore them.
They succeeded, as evidenced by their unblemished record. The Rapids scored 648 points in their eight games — 166 more than their nearest rival, the Centennial Centaurs — and allowed just 409, lowest in the Fraser Valley North.
But to truly prime his charges for post-season success, Langford scheduled them to play in some tough tournaments, including a trip to California over the Christmas break at the prestigious Surf ’N Slam tournament in California, and a win in the Victoria tournament earlier in the season.
“It’s made us better,” Langford said of the rigours of tournament play.
The Rapids have a solid corps of seniors, led by Jessica Parker, who’s had a breakout season, including being named to the Surf all-star team at the California tournament. Tessa Burton, Alanya Davignon and Adrienne Willems have also stepped up their game in anticipation of ending their high school careers as winners. And sophomore Sammy Shields, who debuted with the senior team last year when she was in Grade 9, has kept pace.
Still, Langford said, he has to be realistic about the team’s shortcomings that could end up costing them if they don’t keep their nose to the grindstone.
“We don’t rebound well,” he said. “We need to force teams into loose balls and turnovers.”
That strategy can be gruelling, and fraught with danger. In their final regular season game the Rapids struggled to generate any kind of momentum in the first quarter against a determined Centaurs squad that was able to build a lead of as many as 16 points. But Riverside’s frenetic ability to force opponents to panic and make bad passes or cough up the ball eventually took hold, and they were able to storm back for a decisive 80-51 victory.
Langford said his Rapids will need some breaks to come their way to go all the way.
“You need to be healthy and lucky at this time of the year and hope you’re playing your best,” he said.
• Heritage Woods Kodiaks are seeded seventh heading into the Fraser Valleys, while Centennial is the 11th seed. Terry Fox is ranked 12th and Dr. Charles Best Blue Devils are 15th. Championship round play is scheduled to begin Friday at Riverside secondary with the title game set for 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Story updated to include information about weather postponement.
Story updated to reflect new schedule for championships.