For the second year in a row, the Cedars Christian School Eagles claimed the city championship in senior girls high school basketball. To do it, they had to fight off a determined PGSS Polars team Wednesday night at the Northern Sport Centre.
In front of close to 1,000 fans, the Eagles downed the Polars 60-54. Earlier in the contest, Cedars seemed in position to run away with the victory but PGSS battled back with a strong second half and kept things interesting almost until the final buzzer.
The Eagles' win against the Polars was their first in four tries this season.
"We knew we were playing a good team," said Cedars coach Al MacDonald. "They've had our number this season and we had a game plan that we were going to jump out at them and see if they could handle our pressure and we had some success with it. But we knew they would bounce back. They've got a lot of weapons and they came back with a very strong third quarter."
The Eagles led 17-4 after a dominant first quarter and were up 25-18 at halftime. In the opening half, the Eagles gave the Polars little time or space when they had the ball and created a steady stream of turnovers. When PGSS did get shots away, they were tough ones. Cedars, meanwhile, generated points off the PGSS miscues and was generally sharper around the hoop.
In the third quarter, the Polars settled down and outscored Cedars 23-10. PGSS now had a 41-35 advantage but the Eagles never lost their composure. With 7:55 left to play, they moved back into a lead, 45-44. Down the stretch, Cedars was a little stronger on defence and got some key buckets from people like Kayla Gordon, Kayla Eby and Hannah Pudlas. Gordon applied the final dagger in the Polars' hopes of a victory when she drained a silky-smooth jumper from the paint with 34 seconds left. That gave the Eagles a 59-54 advantage and Pudlas completed the scoring when she hit one of two shots from the free-throw line with 15 seconds remaining.
"It's always a good game against them and it was really rewarding to [win] finally," said the Grade 12 Gordon. "It was a great game. I thought that we were in control for a lot of it and that we deserved to win."
Pudlas led Cedars with 15 points, while Gordon added 14. Kristin Anton, a Grade 11 post player who stands six-foot-two, chipped in with 11 points for the Eagles and was a rebounding machine at both ends of the court.
Mavia Nijjer, a Grade 12 guard for the Polars, paced her team with 20 points.
PGSS coach Ray Bourque bemoaned the Polars' slow start but gave his players credit for keeping themselves in the game and giving themselves a chance to win.
"We had three quarters [to fight back] so I told them it was one possession at a time," he said. "We had to keep concentrating on our defence and running our offence properly but it was the turnovers that were just unacceptable. That's very uncharacteristic of our team."
Last year, the Eagles beat the Duchess Park Condors for their first-ever city championship. They went on to finish second in the single-A provincial championship tournament and will have their sights set on gold when they host this year's provincials in March.
"Coming out first in the city is definitely motivation to play hard in provincials," said Eby, another Grade 12 member of the Eagles, who are ranked No. 1 in B.C. at the single-A level. "We work well together, we're practicing hard and we know what we're doing."
Later Wednesday night, the Duchess Park Condors faced the D.P. Todd Trojans in the boys city championship game. After three quarters, Duchess led 53-38. See Friday's Citizen for the complete story.