With four straight Island basketball championships, the Claremont Spartans shouldn’t be surprising anybody.
But that’s just what the girls AAA team has done this year. The latest addition to the Spartans’ “tradition of success” came on Saturday night (Feb. 25), with a 63-53 win against the Oak Bay Breakers in the Island final at Mount Douglas secondary. Host Mount Doug Rams finished third, beating the Dover Bay Dolphins 78-55, earning the right to play Terry Fox Ravens on Tuesday for a spot at provincials (see Saanichnews.com for results).
“Claremont has been in so many big games and they know how to win,” coach Kim Graves said.
“I don’t think anyone expected a lot out of us because we lost big names (from last year). But half this team was in the 2011 provincial final and half of them won the (2011) provincial (high school) soccer championship. These girls work hard because they believe in themselves, and are doing things nobody thought they could.”
Versatile Spartans guard Nikki Turner was named the tournament MVP, and tied Sam Lee for the team lead with 14 points in the final. Jill Cooper led the Breakers with 18 points.
Going into the Lower Island AAA girls championships Feb. 16 to 18, the Breakers were the favourite, ranked No. 4 among AAA teams in B.C.
But Claremont, which was ranked an honourable mention, defeated the Breakers in the Lower Island final – the first of two championship wins over Oak Bay in the span of seven days.
Still, Graves said she wouldn’t be surprised to see Oak Bay in the top-four at provincials, and relishes the opportunity to have three Island teams in the top-four.
“Oak Bay’s got all the parts to win at provincials, are well coached and work hard.”
Claremont is the third team since 1957 to accomplish four straight Island titles, joining the 1974-77 Vic High Tigers and 2002-05 Mount Doug Rams.
Blue Jags win AA Islands
For the first time in three years, the St. Michaels University Blue Jags have qualified for the AA boys’ basketball provincials without panic.
The past two seasons, the Blue Jags squeaked in with comebacks and close wins. But on Saturday (Feb. 25) they hosted and won the AA Islands, bettering Brentwood College 57-38.
“We played our most complete game of the season,” Blue Jags coach Reagan Daly said. “To hold them to 38 points, we relied on some tough defensive assignments and our guys were amazing.”
Liam McLure earned the tournament MVP award for his defensive game, part of a standout effort by the Jags’ Grade 12 core with Derek Hyde-Lay, Joe Erlic and Dave Lafleur.
“This time we had the type of final you hope to have. We played a great game, and our Grade 12s were awesome.”
Lambrick Park beat Ladysmith in the third place game and will join St. Mikes and Brentwood at the AA boys’ provincials in Kamloops, March 7- 10.
Rams top AAA cities
The Mount Douglas Rams beat the Oak Bay Bays 83-79 in the Lower Island boys’ AAA final at Oak Bay High on Saturday (Feb. 25). Those teams, as well as the Belmont Bulldogs and Claremont Spartans will represent the south at the AAA Islands in Duncan this weekend, March 1 to 3.