For five Grade 12s on the Mount Douglas Rams, this weekend’s AAA Island girls basketball championship has been four years in the making.
Rae Griffin first coached the five-some of Carly McAndrews, Julia Murray, Chloe Mead, Jamie Morch and Holly Dickinson as junior players in Grade 9.
Griffin took over the senior team the next year and brought with her all five girls, still in Grade 10 at the time. Three years later, they are the core of the Rams’ senior team, and are taking their last stab at a provincial berth. The Rams host the AAA Island championships, which started on Thursday (Feb. 23) and culminates with the final at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
“Having five players who’ve been seniors for three years gives us a great base in leadership and experience,” said Griffin, an ex-Rams player herself. “Nothing is going to surprise them, and they know they’ll have to compete at an extremely high level this weekend.”
Of the five, Murray and Dickinson have received interest from college basketball programs in B.C. Mead is equally adept, if not moreso on the soccer field and will continue her athletic career in cleats.
Griffin, who played for the Camosun Chargers, has been amazed by the growth and development of her senior Rams in the last four years.
“We hosted Islands two years ago with no Grade 12s. The goal then was to get to Islands, and we made it as the last seed. This year we are reaching for higher goals.”
Up for grabs this weekend are 2.5 spots at provincials, which run March 7 to 10 at Capilano University. First and second place teams qualify automatically. Third place will play a mainland team in a challenge game for the final spot at provincials.
The Claremont Spartans enter as the first seed from the Lower Island and are looking for their third straight Island title, having won the Lower Island final over the Oak Bay Breakers on Saturday. Mount Doug beat the Spectrum Thunder by 25 points in the third place game – a 54 point difference from a recent game between the two teams, which the Thunder won by 29 points.
“It was Mount Doug’s biggest win of the year and has the team feeling really good going into Islands,” Griffin said.
On the floor, the Rams aren’t an overly tall team and rely on blocking out their opponents. The Rams came within four points of beating the Spartans in the Lower Island semifinal last Friday.
Griffin sees a lot of parity among the Rams’ seven guests: Claremont, Oak Bay and Spectrum, as well as the Stelly’s Stingers, Alberni Armada, Dover Bay Dolphins (Nanaimo) and G.P. Vanier Towhees (Courtenay).
The Armada, in particular, are on a roll, having defeated Dover Bay 55-45, for Alberni’s first North Island title since 1987.
City champions Claremont, however, are surprising no one, Griffin says.
“The Spartans have been forerunners since the beginning of the year. They lost to Oak Bay early in the season, which shows there are no weaker teams in this tournament.”
Rams toast tradition
The Camosun Chargers women’s basketball program is leading the way this weekend in helping the Rams raise a cup to the legacy of the girls AAA Island basketball championship.
Previous athletes will be on hand, and a 10 person selection committee of female Chargers (five present, three alumni) and UVic Vikes players (one current, one present), will pick the weekend’s all-stars and MVP winner.
“We want to do this as classy as we can, and seeing ex-players coaching, and having ex-players coming back to support is a really clear sign that (this tournament) matters,” Griffin said. “It really promotes the importance and tradition from this tournament, something that gets lost in female sports.”
Griffin pointed to the many local high school teams coached by former college and university players.
Aside from herself, there are fellow Chargers alumni Carmen Lapthorne at Mount Doug; Vikes grad Kim Graves at Claremont; Vikes grads Rob Kinnear and Mitch Gudgeon, as well as current Vikes star Ryan MacKinnon, with Oak Bay; and ex-Charger and Spectrum alumnus Kate Carlson back at Spectrum.
High School girls AAA Island basketball championships at Mount Douglas, Feb. 23 to 25.
Thursday: Round 1
Alberni vs. Spectrum 3:15 p.m.
Oak Bay vs. G.P. Vanier 5 p.m.
Mount Douglas vs. Dover Bay 6:45 p.m.
Claremont vs. Stelly’s 8:30 p.m.
Friday: Round 2
Consolation: Alberni/Spectrum vs. Oak Bay/Vanier 3:15 p.m.
Consolation: Mount Doug/Dover Bay vs. Claremont/Stelly’s 5 p.m.
Winner: Mount Doug/Dover Bay vs. Claremont/Stelly’s 6:45 p.m.
Winner: Alberni/Spectrum vs. Oak Bay/Vanier 8:30 p.m.
5th/7th place: 9:30 a.m.
6th/8th place: 11:15 a.m.
3rd/4th place: 5 p.m.
1st/2nd place: 7 p.m.
Top two teams qualify for provincials. Third place earns berth in challenge game versus mainland team for final provincial spot.