Charles Hays Senior Girls basketball team had a strong start to the beginning of 2018, going 2-1 and finishing second place in the Viqueen Invitational Basketball Tournament on Jan. 6 in Vanderhoof.
“We went in hoping to do the best we could, and working as hard as we could to get as far as we could,” said Anna Ashley, the team’s coach. “I think they learned a lot because they had to go through some situations against tough competition.”
Ashley said a combination of illness and injury depleted her squad as they made their way through the tournament, but the players showed resilience and had key contributions from junior players who joined the team on the road trip.
The Rainmakers first game was against Valemount, a single A school ranked fifth in the province. The team got off to a quick start and established a 27-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. Ashley said communication on defence and aggression on the offensive boards were the key to the Rainmaker’s early success. The team went on to win the game 76-53 behind 20 points by Ruby Mason, 15 points from Ruby Grant, 14 points from Payton Henry and 11 points from Tara Robinson.
The Rainmakers played their second game against Caledonia. This game was tighter in the first quarter, as the Rainmakers only held a narrow 11-8 lead going into the second. A 12-1 run at the beginning of the second helped the team build a 23-9 advantage midway through the quarter. Ashley said communication on defence was key to this run as well.
“They did well and were talking to each other out there,” she said.
The Rainmakers went on to win the game 62-45 behind 28 points from Payton Henry and 10 points from Chantae Helin, setting up the final game against hosts Nechako Valley. By this point, the Rainmakers were missing their starting point guard due to illness, meaning that other players had to step in to fill the void. The disruption to the starting lineup combined with a tough zone defence by Nechako Valley threw the Rainmakers off their rhythm and they fell behind early 24-9 in the first quarter and 34-24 at the end of the first half.
Ashley said despite the early deficit, her team fought their way back into the game. The Rainmakers also switched to a zone defence, which helped them get some stops in fourth quarter and get the game within three points 54-57.
Despite their efforts, the Rainmakers were not able to get over the hump and eventually lost 60-69. Ashley said she was proud of how the team played.
“I was really happy with how they played in the second half especially,” she said. “They pulled it together, they were frustrated, but they pulled it back together and played the way I know they can.”
The team travels to Smithers next week for a play day. Ashley said they still have room to improve their offensive execution and defensive communication, but was encouraged by the mental toughness displayed during the tournament. “As long as the girls come to practice and stay committed and work hard, we’ll have solid hopes for our season,” she said.