If anyone knows how the Immaculata Mustangs will approach the gold-medal game its their opponent, they Cedars Christian Eagles.
For the third straight year the Eagles have earned a spot in the B.C. senior girls A basketball championship game but its the first time the Prince George school will enter the gold-medal game with the target on their back.
The top-ranked Eagles earned the berth with a 73-49 win Friday over the fourth-ranked Princeton Rebels in front of a packed house at the Northern Sport Centre, while the second-ranked Mustangs, a Kelowna-based school, beat the third-ranked Pacific Christian Pacers 81-53 in the other semifinal.
In the last two season Cedars has entered the title game ranked second to the Houston Christian Wildcats, settling for silver both years. With the Wildcats not qualifying a team at the 2013 tournament, the veteran Eagles are the favourite while the Mustangs are looking to do what the Eagles never could and upset the top team.
Mustangs assistant coach Leah Kouwenhoven said after they played, and lost to, Cedars about a month ago during a cross-zone tournament in Princeton they know what to expect.
We know their game and weve been preparing hard for it for the last couple of weeks since we won regionals, said Kouwenhoven, adding they lost the semifinal game to Cedars by about 12 points. We feel that if we come out like we know we can, we have the confidence that we can do this.
After the first quarter of Fridays second semifinal it appeared the Mustangs might be the favourite for gold as the Rebels held a 18-16 advantage over the Eagles, but Cedars showed why theyve been ranked No. 1 all season in the second quarter to take a 38-26 lead into the halftime break. The Eagles were led in points during the first half by Hannah Pudlas (14) and Shannon Kragt (10). Ciara Bamford led the Rebels with seven first-half points.
In the second half the Eagles used their height advantage to frustrate the Rebels, outscoring them 21-7 in the third quarter. Princetons tallest player, six-foot-two Julia Reichert, left the game in the third quarter holding a hand over her eye.
The Mustangs only lost three games all season, winning about 30, said Kouwenhoven, and know shutting down Eagles floor-leader Kayla Gordon will be a key to beating Cedars.
We know No. 5 is a strong player, said Kouwenhoven. We definitely felt the heat from her the last time she scored a lot of points against us. We need to focus on working as a team to make sure that doesnt happen again.
Gordon had 19 points in the semifinal against the Rebels while Pudlas put up a game-high 21. Bamford added five points in the second half for Princeton to finish with 12.
Besides the loss to Cedars, the Mustangs also dropped an early-season game to Vernon secondary and lost to Holy Cross, the top-seeded team at the AA provincial tournament.
The Mustangs finished ninth at the single-A provincial tournament in 2012 but have captured five titles since 2003. Immaculata also has six Grade 12 players, all in their third seasons on the senior team, while the Eagles have just two, Gordon and Kayla Eby.
Kouwenhoven said the Mustangs are a fast-break team with several offensive weapons. Before the Pacers held them to 81 points in the semifinal, the Mustangs had put up triple-digit scores in both their early tournament games. Against the Pacers, Immaculata was led by the Johnson sisters Olivia, Grade 12, and Emma, Grade 10, each with 23 points.
Theyre intense and theyre fast and just fantastic ball players and fantastic leaders, said Kouwenhoven.
The Pacers and Rebels will face off for bronze today, 4 p.m., at the NSC with the Eagles and Mustangs going for gold at 7 p.m.
Hopefully itll be a little back and forth to keep the game exciting, said Kouwenhoven.