Junior and senior girls hit the hardwood Thursday for the first day of play at the seventh annual Vancouver Girls Basketball Association Langara Challenge.
The tournament, starting after the Courier’s print deadline, gives players in the city a unique opportunity to go up against Vancouver teams they wouldn’t otherwise challenge, according to the event’s co-chair Robyn Wilson.
“You don’t have many other tournaments that are specifically set up to have independent schools and public schools come in and have that competition right off the bat,” she said.
Five public and three private schools are invited to play in the senior division, while the junior division includes an even four public and four independents.
Every team will play three games with Langara as the main host Friday and
This year’s competition is predicted to be more wide open. In the past, the AA level York House Tigers and Britannia Bruins dominated leading to extreme blowouts. This time around teams are more evenly matched, Wilson said.
“It should be a good tournament for each of the games.”
Players on teams not invited to the tournament can still attend the spectator-favourite, three-point shooting competition, held Saturday evening and open to any Grade 8 to 12 player from a Vancouver school.
The tournament was previously known as the Telus VGBA Challenge, but as reported earlier in the Courier Telus announced the end of its sponsorship of the tournament last year. The last of the Telus funds, a minimum of six scholarships worth $500 each, will be awarded at the closing ceremonies this weekend, according to Wilson.
A minimum of two different $1,000 Langara scholarships will also be awarded.
The new name of the event reflects the contribution of Langara College, which has played host to the last six tournaments. Four or five generous individual donors have already stepped up to support the tournament for next year, Wilson said, but more money is needed.
“We are definitely keeping our ears and eyes open for a company or a person who would want to take over that name sponsorship,” she said.
Mike Evans, head coach of the Bruins, which is tied for first place in Vancouver at 5-1, said for some girls the benefit of this tournament is much more than getting to dribble on a college court against teams outside their league.
For many young players, just walking around the college campus may influence their futures.
“If they haven’t done that before, maybe it doesn’t seem quite as scary,” said Evans, who also sits on the board of directors for the VGBA.
Bruins captain Naomi Morcilla, 17, has played at the Langara tourney three years in a row.
The Grade 12 point guard said the chance at a scholarship is one of the biggest draws of the tournament for her this year.
“Me being someone from a low-income family, it really does help with school for next year,” she said.
For more information on the tournament go to vgba.ca/tournament.