Maddy Gobeil was an ice woman. The Walkley twins were bulldogs. Olivia Morgan-Cherchas was a towering rebound demon. Kendra McDonald was clutch.
Together, the South Kamloops Titans proved unstoppable at the BC Secondary School AA Girls Basketball Championship, knocking off the G.W. Graham Grizzlies of Chilliwack 73-67 in an overtime thriller to win gold on Saturday at the Langley Events Centre.
“It’s an unexplainable feeling,” Lauren Walkley told KTW seconds after the final buzzer, still processing the ending to a game that ruined nerve endings and made parents weep.
“We persevered all season and, somehow, we always come through. We always pull through. It feels amazing. I couldn’t ask for a better team.”
Lauren and sister Katherine, both Grade 12 guards, were flirting with heartbreak in their last chance at a provincial title, the Titans trailing the Grizzlies by two points with 19.2 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
South Kam inbounded and the ball went to Gobeil, but her shot was well-defended by Grizzlies’ standout Deanna Tuchscherer, who swatted away the rock and with it, seemingly, South Kam’s championship dreams.
But Grade 10 forward McDonald gave the Walkleys a parting gift when she snared the loose ball and scored with 6.2 seconds remaining to force overtime.
“Oh my gosh. I was so nervous and I knew everyone else was,” said McDonald, who finished with 12 points. “It was so stressful.
“It felt amazing. The crowd was cheering. I was thinking about my team. I just wanted to pull through for them and make that last shot.”
Ear-piercing shrieking from frenzied onlookers, hair-raising noise that started before tip-off and persisted throughout the game, was accompanied by the continuous sound of tin being crushed.
The G.W. Graham faithful travelled well and a select contingent brought trash cans to batter incessantly.
When Gobeil stepped to the free-throw line, she cut through the noise and delivered a message to the aluminum-annihilating Grizzlies’ fan base — get that weak garbage out of here.
The Grade 11 forward and tournament MVP was 14-for-16 from the charity stripe and connected on seven of eight free-throw attempts in overtime, when pressure reached its zenith.
“All season long we’ve been tested, through injury, through illness, and we’ve faced a lot of adversity, some tough games and tough times,” an overwhelmed Titans’ head coach Del Komarniksi said after the game. “All season long, these girls have dealt with it. I couldn’t be more thrilled with a group of young ladies.”
Gobeil did not have her best shooting day, finishing 6-for-28 on field-goal attempts, but was not deterred. At halftime, in a sight not often seen during a provincial final, she ran herself through a shooting drill.
“Practise, practise, practise — it’s what we’ve been working on the whole year,” said Gobeil, who had a team-high 27 points. “Believe in your shot. Believe in yourself and the team.”
The Walkleys were attending their brother’s wedding in Mexico and were unable to play in the 2017 provincial championship, in which the Titans placed fourth. When Lauren badly sprained her ankle in December, she must have wondered if Sweet Sixteen success just wasn’t meant to be.
Any doubts about her health were vanquished on Saturday. Lauren, who set the tone early by calmly draining a jump shot for the game’s first points, was named MVP of the championship tilt.
She had 20 points, five rebounds, five steals and four assists in the final, and was named a tournament first-team all-star.
“I can’t even describe the feeling,” Katherine said, standing alongside her sister. “At Okanagans, we were all sick. We’ve had injuries. If we’re down or close, we have to stay with it and keep pushing. That’s how we made it here.
“We love our team so much.”
South Kamloops had an 11-point lead halfway through the second quarter, but G.W. Graham quickly whittled it, thanks mostly to junior national team member Tuchscherer, who tallied a game-high 32 points.
The game remained close the rest of the way, with the Grizzlies taking their first lead late in the third quarter.
“We are not quitters,” said Komarniski, whose coaching stable includes Ken Olynyk, Rachel Lee and Dave Whalen. “We play. We compete. It feels great.”
Morgan-Cherchas, a Grade 11 forward, put her 6-foot-6 frame to good use, grabbing a team-high 14 rebounds and adding nine points. She was named a second-team tournament all-star.
Katherine Walkley’s best work was done on defence, but she also pitched in with five points.
Fiona Brisco was the only other Titan to see the floor, a brief spell to relieve Katherine Walkley, whose dogged defence landed her in foul trouble.
The No. 1-ranked Titans dispatched No. 5 St. Thomas Aquinas of North Vancouver 71-52 in semifinal play on Friday, No. 8 Langley Christian 72-59 in a quarter-final clash on Thursday and No. 16 Selkirk of Kimberley 84-22 in Round 1 on Wednesday.
Westsyde downed Smithers 55-33 on Saturday to place 13th.
The Titans who sat on the bench on Saturday will have their day in the sun next season. Lexi Foley-Norris and the Walkleys are South Kam’s only graduating players.
Gobeil, Morgan-Cherchas, McDonald, Brisco, Rohkeya Diaou, Anika Komarniski, Max Kopytko and Jenna Dandurand are eligible to play again next season.
“This just feels like the beginning for me,” McDonald said. “And it’s a great feeling.”
VIDEOS BELOW, MARTY HASTINGS/KTW
The Titans celebrate the championship win:
The Titans tie the game to force overtime: