Not for the first time and far from the last, Alisha Roberts took control of a basketball game and drove the York House Tigers to a momentous double-digit victory Wednesday in the opening round of the AAA high school girls basketball championships.
Working a zone defense in the first quarter against the Kelowna Owls, she swiftly side-stepped between two taller opponents, shuffling back and forth to deter a pass into the post. When the shot went up, hers were the first fingers on the rebound as she tipped the ball to Laura Baker, named the game’s MVP.
Building on a comfortable 32-16 lead before the half, Roberts then took on three Kelowna defenders, freezing one at the three-point line to challenge a six-foot centre in the key. Roberts faked right, then stepped past for a left-handed lay-in. Later in the game, she tested the odds and drove to the hoop alone, one-on-five. She scored off the glass.
“Alisha can contribute just with her competitive fire and without even scoring, she can often pick the times when she just decides to take over a game,” said York House assistant coach Megan Dalziel. “Today she had moments where she was trying to get other people involved and then moments where she just decided it was time for her to score. She just does it, she just manufactures hoops whenever she wants.”
Roberts had a game-leading 18 points and nine rebounds in York’s 80-52 win over the Owls.
For the first time in its school history the small, West Side independent school is playing up from the AA level after winning back-to-back provincial titles. Ranked No. 3 in B.C., Roberts and the Tigers are contending for the crown as the best team in B.C.
Her father Norm watched from the stands. An MVP point-guard with the Rhodesian national team for three years in the mid-’70s, he put a basketball in the hands of each of his three daughters and all pursued varsity success in the sport.
His youngest may go the farthest yet.
“Alisha is tough. She’s tougher than I am,” he said. A ball-handler and play-maker who looked to distribute the ball, he identifies the same skills in his daughter—and more.
“She can do the work of point-guard, but then she’s taken her abilities so far she’s a shooter, too,” he said. “She’s gotten better every single year.”
What has she learned from her dad? In one word: “Everything.”
Selected to play for Team B.C. the past four years, Roberts was at a tournament in Seattle last summer when she was scouted by Pepperdine University. In November, she signed on to compete for the NCAA Division 1 Pepperdine Waves.
“As a player they run the offense that I think fits with what I do,” she said. “They’re very fast-tempo. That’s what I love, I love being a competitive person, getting in my opponent’s face, I don’t want them to get by me. That’s definitely their mentality and as soon as I saw that, I knew it was perfect.”
A friendly 45-minute call from assistant coach Kristen Dowling set a positive tone. Roberts was contacted by six U.S. universities and eight Canadian universities. She turned down a full-ride scholarship to the University of B.C. which was offered after her stellar performance at the Telus Basketball Classic in November.
The drive along the Pacific Coast Highway south of Los Angeles to Pepperdine’s Malibu campus, didn’t hurt. Roberts said she was hooked by the coaches, the practices and the campus. Her York House coaches knew it.
“When she came back from her recruiting trip, she was glowing,” said Dalziel.
Expect Roberts to make an impact on the Pepperdine Waves, immediately at practice and eventually on the court. As a freshman, she knows she won’t see the same minutes as she does as a starter with York House. So she’s drawing on the lessons from her first year on the school’s senior team when she played as the sixth and seventh man off the bench—even if she was in Grade 9.
“That motivates me to work harder because I want that starting spot. It’s going to be unfortunate that I’m not starting but it’s going to make me work harder,” said the player who’s up each morning to shoot hoops.
“I’m going to want it so badly, I might not get that much playing time in my first year but I’m going to work for every second I get and hopefully by me second year I’ll be starting.”
Dalziel put it this way: “When Alisha makes up her mind to go to the hoop, it’s hard to change that mind.”
That’s also how she’ll earn her place on a NCAA Div. 1 starting line-up.