The Duchess Park Condors are expected to contend for a medal at provincials. Their first step was qualifying for the tournament and that's exactly what they did Friday night on their home floor.
In the first final of the north central zone championship, the Duchess Park junior girls basketball team rolled past the Nechako Valley Viqueens 76-20. The victory gave the Condors a spot in the 16-team provincial gathering, March 6-9 in Langley.
The Duchess girls entered zones as the third-ranked team in B.C. Now that they've guaranteed themselves a trip to the season-ending provincials, they're breathing a little easier.
"It's a relief," said Condors coach Louise Holmes, who works alongside Al Erricson. "We hadn't played [the Viqueens] since December and we knew they had improved and worked on a lot of things. Our kids came out focused and ready and took care of business right off the opening tip. It makes Al and I really proud that they took care of business like we asked them to."
The Condors had a 22-0 lead part way through the first quarter and, at that point, took off a full-court press they had been using against the Viqueens. At the half, Duchess was ahead 49-2.
Even though the outcome wasn't in doubt, the Viqueens played hard the rest of the way and were rewarded with a more successful second half.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, Grade 9 post player Marcie Schlick had 23 points for the Condors. Madison Landry added 16 points and Nicola Erricson scored 12.
Jordan Andres replied with six points for Nechako Valley and twin sister Sydney finished with five.
The Viqueens can still qualify for provincials by winning a second final today at 4:30 p.m. at Duchess Park.
In the Condors' other games at zones, they beat North Peace of Fort St. John 80-25 and downed the Cedars Christian School Eagles 85-15.
Shanna Olsen, a Grade 10 guard who is a defensive dynamo for the Condors, said it felt "really good" to nab the first berth to provincials. Teammate Emily Holmes added that the task now is to refocus and be as prepared as possible.
"We'll work on all the little things that we could do better," she said. "It's kind of a bonus to go down and compete and have tight games and have fun."
Currently, the top two teams in the province are W.J. Mouat of Abbotsford and Riverside of Coquitlam.
The Condors played W.J. Mouat in January and lost by 19 points. Duchess Park has no previous game experience against Riverside.