Richmond high schools senior girls' basketball preview
For the first time in school history, Steveston-London is ranked in the provincial AAA high school senior girls basketball poll.
The Sharks are No. 12 in the pre-season ranking.
Longtime coach Les Hamaguchi said it’s a nice recognition, but cautions there is much that can change over the course of
the season. However, the season-ending rankings do help determine zone and provincial seedings, he noted.
“I think we’re in the mix and we’re going to be competitive,” said Hamaguchi, who expects the Sharks to contend for a berth in the AAA Lower Mainland playdowns and hopefully the provincial championship.
Realistically it’s long shot that the Sharks will contend for either title, but should again challenge for Richmond league honours which they claimed last season. But even finishing first in Richmond isn’t a given, said Hamaguchi,
whose strategy is for the Sharks to be playing their best basketball when it counts most—at season’s end.
“We won our first Richmond title last year but it was a difficult game (42-39 over the McMath Wildcats in the playoff final),”
he said. “Everything gets ramped up at the end and I don’t expect that to change regardless of where we finish in the standings.”
As always, the Sharks’ offence will centre around Anmol Mattu. The Grade 12 point guard is a rare talent, who grew up around the game and has been the player who has stirred the drink since she first played for the senior squad in Grade 8. Though only five-foot-four, she has grown into one of the province’s elite players and sports a rare combination of skill, leadership and maturity. Once again the offence will be built around her.
“Obviously when Anmol first started playing for us in Grade 8 she was a bit tentative but has always been mature and has progressed as a leader,” said Hamaguchi. “Everything she could control—unfortunately height is not one of them—she’s improved upon. That said, I don’t look at (her height) as a disadvantage and I don’t think she does either. Some of the things she can do is because of her height and athleticism.
“You’d be crazy not to utilize those talents, but every coach draws up an offence based on their group of players,” he continued. “While we don’t have as much depth as previous years, we’ve got a solid group of kids.”
The Sharks’ starting five is particularly good. Led by Mattu, it also features guard/forward Alyssa Graeme, guard Aliya Prasad (a Grade 10 student),
and forwards Alyssa Critchley and Shayla Kaplen. Hamaguchi hopes their experience and athleticism will provide the potential for more balanced scoring. An overall lack of height will mean most of their points with again come from the perimeter, though they’ll need to develop a better presence in the paint if they’re to realize their potential. They’ll try to do that by being quicker and hopefully smarter than the opposition.
“But everything is focused toward peaking at the end of the season,” said Hamaguchi. “The first half is about building and you’re going to go through peaks and valleys. So we have to be patient and see the big picture."
Coach Gaby Narciso has plenty of reason to be optimistic about the Marlins’ chances of topping the league this season.
After all, the team has six returning players, including starters Kimmy Yuen—who is a true three-point shooter whose quickness also makes her a valued defender—and Pia Lore, a natural scorer. Point guards Gail Boquiren and Andrea Lynn both see the floor well and are proficient passers, while Danielle Baker—whose work ethic is unsurpassed—provides the Marlins with a strong rebounding presence.
Coach Arjun Khurana is bullish on the mix of talents the starting five bring to the floor.
“We have a good combination of ball handling, shooting, defence and a little bit of height,” he said. “And overall our team is quick to adapt to new changes.”
Khurana is a big believer in the importance of practice and is constantly challenging the players to exceed their comfort levels.
“We are constantly finding ways to improve our game and adding something new to practices and we expect 110 per cent at practice (because) we see an unlimited amount of potential in this team,” he said.
McMath Wildcats narrowly missed out on winning the Richmond playoff title last season, and coach EJ Bugayong expects they’ll be hungry to reverse fortunes this season. He added the talented core of Grade 12s will be complemented by a skilled group of Grade 11s .
“We’ll focus on the fast break and hope that will help us realize our goal (of winning Richmond),” said Bugayong.
The Wildcats are starting a little behind the other teams since many of the players were on the senior girls’ volleyball team that placed sixth in the province.
•Charlotte St. Cyr
MacNeill’s senior girls basketball team is primed for a bounce-back year this season after last year—a building one—ended with a disappointing loss in a tie-breaking game to qualify for the playoffs. “We understand basketball, just like life is a process.... you can’t succeed without failing first.” co-captain Denise De Jesus said.
To the team’s credit, the girls used missing the playoffs as motivation for improving with many committing their summer to practice and playing in the Mac Hoops summer league.
With eight returning players, including De Jesus who was a first team district all-star last season, coach Fred Chiang believes the optimism surrounding the team is well deserved.
HUGH BOYD TROJANS
The Hugh Boyd Trojans are very much still a work in progress, with coach Stuart Ruttan explaining that he and associate coaches Sean Berda and Alix Ruttan have yet to decide on their starting lineup.
But it’s not for a lack of talent. Quite the opposite, in fact.
“We are still processing our skill set and where there are some needs,” said Ruttan. “There are some Grade 11s making a very strong presence. The internal team competitiveness is really positive.”
The returning seniors are Mikee Hertez, Sarah Olson, Solome Dede, Rachel Ang and Cassie Goh while the Grade 11s—which last season as Grade 10s helped Hugh Boyd top the Richmond junior league with an 11-1 record—include Victoria Dengler, Jacqueline Yan, Emma Kallner, Callee Yuen and Jellica Nohay.
“They’re (such) strong athletes and they are intelligent. Both aspects are an asset,” said Stuart Ruttan, who expects the Trojans’ to be in title contention at season’s end.