As good as they’ve been for two seasons, winning back-to-back city championships and twice reaching the girls high school AA BC championship final, the Britannia Bruins may have played their best basketball in the fourth quarter of the last game of their 2012 post-season campaign.
Down nine points to start the final frame of the title game Saturday night at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, the Bruins finished huge at both ends of the hardwood, scoring 21 points and holding Victoria’s Lambrick Park secondary to just two baskets in 10 minutes.
With the monstrous run, Britannia clinched the championship 69-61.
"We wanted it the whole year," Bruins shooting guard Karen Li told a Kamloops Daily News reporter after the emotional finish. "Last year we missed out on first place, so we made it our goal and this is a big accomplishment for our team."
Li was named the tournament’s most valuable player. "We represent the whole East Side," she said. "We come from such an inner-city school, this means a lot to us. It's overwhelming."
After wining consecutive B.C. AA crowns in 2011 and ’10, Vancouver’s York House Tigers moved up a rank to play at AAA ball. They reached the final this Saturday at Capilano University but finished second to South Kamloops.
Bruins head coach Mike Evans made one key adjustment to start the second half, but the defensive press didn’t begin to pay off until the fourth quarter as Lambrick’s guards were increasingly, incessantly worn down.
Becky Fernandez, Britannia’s Grade 12 post who is headed to Thompson Rivers University next year, was the second key factor down the stretch. She scored 14 in the fourth quarter alone and finished with 28 points and nine rebounds.
“She scored outside shots, she drove to the hoop, she showed why we believe she is going to be a good CIS player. She showed us things she hadn’t done before,” said Evans.
Fernandez, who played with shin-splints all season, rolled her ankle in the opening seconds of the final. Assistant coach Trevor Stokes taped the joint and she played through discomfort and pain.
Fernandez and Grade 11 guard Jilliane Vina were named tournament all-stars. Jennifer Carpio was the defensive player of the tournament.
At least three graduating Britannia Bruins have signed on to play basketball at the next level.
Fernandez will join the Wolfpack at TRU and Jojo Crossley will play alongside Carpio with the Langara Falcons.
Li is still weighing her options. Said Evans, “It can’t hurt her being MVP of this tournament.”