It wasnâ€™t pretty, but it doesnâ€™t always have to be to win a championship.
The Brookswood Bobcats are queens of the province, when it comes to B.C. senior girls high school Triple A basketball, and they accomplished the feat with equal parts grit and effort.
The â€™Cats clawed to a 64-57 win over the Oak Bay Breakers from Victoria in Saturdayâ€™s gold medal game at the B.C. Triple A championship tournament, which ran March 5-8 at the Langley Events Centre.
The win ended an eight-year drought for the Bobcats from Brookswood Secondary, who last stood at the top of the provincial mountain in 2006, under the guidance of then head coach Scott Reeves.
That was the final year of a Brookswood dynasty in the mid-2000â€™s. The Bobcats won three consecutive B.C. titles from 2004 to â€™06
The 2014 win was redemption for the Bobcats. In last yearâ€™s B.C. championship game at the LEC, they lost 59-49 to the South Kamloops Titans.
There was no denying the Bobcats this time around.
The â€™Cats led 29-28 at halftime, 49-43 heading into the third quarter, and held a 60-54 advantage with under a minute to play.
Oak Bay came into the game with momentum on on its side.
The Breakers rallied from 12 points down in the second half on Friday to stun the Fraser Valley champion Holy Cross Crusaders in the semifinals.
Many would have expected a Brookswood/Holy Cross showdown for provincial gold.
Last month, the Crusaders edged the Bobcats 69-66 in the Fraser Valley championship game.
But against a somewhat unexpected dance partner in the B.C. final, the Bobcats did what they had to do to scratch out a victory.
â€™Cats post Tayla Jackson battled her Grade 11 Oak Bay counterpart Lauren Yearwood head-tohead and had the biggest game of her career, not only equalling Yearwood for the gameâ€™s high in points at 20, but grabbing a game-high 23 rebounds.
Bobcats head coach Neil Brown lauded the play of Jackson: â€œShe got a lot of rebounds, defended Yearwood… this was emotionally her best game ever.â€
Also hitting double figures in points for the Bobcats were Grade 10 guard Aislinn Konig (19), and Grade 12 guard Jesse Brown (14).
â€œWe said [before the game], itâ€™s a very emotional time, both teams are going to be wound up. The team that keeps its s**t together will win in the end and we just did that,â€ Brown said. â€œWe made a couple foul shots, we defended, we got some key rebounds, so it was more of an effort win than a skilled win.â€
Reflecting on the loss to South Kamloops in the 2013 B.C. championship game, Brown said, â€œlast year was a good game, we just played a better team. Tonight we were in the game. We beat â€™em [Oak Bay] twice before, so it was a case of just doing our thing. Last year we would have to do something super to beat them [the Titans].â€
Bobcats guard Marissa van Noort was thrilled after the victory.
â€œIt was amazing,â€ she said, right after the game. â€œEven though we were going to meet Holy Cross, it was like Grade 8 all over again. I donâ€™t feel like itâ€™s over, yet. Itâ€™s for real, itâ€™s our last game, itâ€™s crazy.â€
Jessie Brownâ€™s final game in a Brookswood uniform was the most satisfying for her.
â€œItâ€™s all worth it; itâ€™s the best feeling in the world,â€ Brown said. â€œI know what itâ€™s like to lose a championship and I donâ€™t want to do that again.â€
Brown said having Konig join the team â€œreally bumped up our chemistry.â€
It was an emotional night for Konig, who was named tournament MVP.
â€œItâ€™s my first time being with this team, because I came from the US, and for a lot of these girls, this is their last game, and they havenâ€™t won a banner in the last couple years,â€ Konig said. â€œIt was mostly for them that I was feeling it [emotional] for, because this was their last chance, and Iâ€™m happy we were able to get that for them.â€
Earlier in the provincial tournament at the LEC, they rolled to the final after beating two Abbotsford teams: the W.J. Mouat Hawks 89-58 on Friday and the MEI Eagles 88-65. The Bobcats opened their tournament last Wednesday with a 99-39 win over the Prince George Polars.
Brown and Jackson were named to the tournamentâ€™s first all-star team.
The B.C. champion Bobcats are Michelle Mehner, Louise Forsyth, Aislinn Konig, Kayla Hamel, Jessie Brown, Peyton Winslade, Kelly Bordreau, Amanda Boettcher, Madi Heggie, Marissa van Noort, Tayla Jackson, Hanna Loewen, Natasha Tadic, and Julia Marshall.
– With files from Vancouver Province reporter Howard Tsumura.
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