Sports

Twin terrors lead Grizzly basketball attack

Kaitlyn McDonald (left) and Jenika Bannerman of G.W. Grahams senior girls basketball team. - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS
Kaitlyn McDonald (left) and Jenika Bannerman of G.W. Grahams senior girls basketball team.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

High school basketball season is just getting started, with local teams hitting the floor in early league play.

Today, a close look at two GW Graham stars, and a peek at how the Grizzlies, Sardis Falcons and Chilliwack Storm are shaping up.

 

What does 40 points look like?

For Kaitlyn McDonald’s overwhelmed opponents, it’s a terrible thing to behold.

GW Graham’s most dangerous offensive player gets into this zone where she’s nearly unstoppable.

Every move is the right one.

Every shot hits nothing but net.

She’s bombing away from beyond the arc, draining three after three after three, and there’s nothing they can do.

Their only option is to try and match her offensive pace, basket for basket.

But when you get into a track meet with the 2012-13 Grizzly girls., odds are you’ve already lost.

Because McDonald isn’t alone.

Slow her down if you like, but what about sharp-shooter Aveen Rezends, just as lethal as McDonald from the outside.

Focus on them and GWG’s ‘big man,’ Kassia Bednarzcyk, chews you up in the paint, or Katie Sutherland drives you nuts creating turnovers.

Stop them all and you’ve still got Jenika Bannerman to contend with — a dominant force offensively and defensively, and only in Grade 11.

Small wonder coach Sarah Mouritzen looks at this roster and sees provincial tournament potential.

“There are a lot of extremely competitive AA teams in the Fraser Valley and the province,” she says. “When we play with defensive intensity and a focus on the little things, we believe we can compete with anyone.”

McDonald agrees.

Every morning she and Bannerman hit the gym at 6 a.m., working on strength and conditioning because they think this is the year. After falling one game shy of provincials in each of the last two years, she anticipates a breakthrough in her final season.

“I really want us to get to provincials, and from there who knows what can happen,” she says.

McDonald’s early morning workouts aren’t a new thing. Mouritzen watched her work her butt off in the offseason trying to improve her speed and agility.

She was already one of the top players in the province before putting in the extra hours. McDonald identified a weakness and worked to improve it.

Now, she’s got that one extra step that makes her even more dangerous.

Quicker to rebounds and opposing players. Quicker to open spaces and quicker to get her shot off.

She hasn’t scored less than 20 points in a game this season.

Lethal.

“It’s the best feeling in the world, and I can tell right away whether it’s going to go in or not,” McDonald said of her speciality, those three point daggers. “I didn’t shoot much at all in Grades 9 and 10, but it’s something I practised a lot, and I’ve got a lot of confidence in my shooting now.”

Bannerman is the perfect complement.

She spent a season with the Team BC U-16s and there’s no secret why she was included in that elite group.

She’s tall, but fast.

She’ll beat you to the ball in the paint.

Once she has it, she’s perfectly capable of lowering her shoulder and powering past for a layup.

She’s just as capable of stepping back to knock down a 15 footer.There is no easy way to defend this girl.

“She can do it all,” Mouritzen says. “She’s a great outside shooter, she can post-up and she’s our best defender.”

Mouritzen plays Bannerman at guard, which creates some epic mismatches. How’s some little five-foot-nothing opponent supposed to contend with a girl who stands nearly six feet tall?

Get a hand in her face and hope for the best?

“To see her game two years ago and see it now, it’s awesome,” McDonald said. “She was playing all sorts of sports then, but now she’s focused on basketball, and she’s putting everything she’s got into it.”

For all the problems she poses for an opponent on offence, Bannerman’s making her biggest impact on the boards.

She is a rebounding machine.

“I just book it to the hoop, box out and grab the rebounds,” she says with a laugh, making it sound so easy. “I’m tenacious!”

After a torrid preseason in which they looked almost unbeatable, the Grizzlies dropped their regular season opener to Heritage Park. But they beat Mission by 35 in their last game before Christmas, and Mouritzen hopes they’re back on track.

McDonald too, because she doesn’t want a repeat of last year.

Hopes were almost as high in January of 2012.

“We were one game away the last two years, so close I could almost taste it,” McDonald says. “It wasn’t pretty in the locker room after the last game last year. We got so far, and no one thought we could do it. There were a lot of tears.”

Regardless of where the team ends up this year, Bannerman knows she’ll have at least one more crack at it next year.

Still, she feels the urgency to get things done for the departing seniors (McDonald, Rezends and Bednarzcyk).

“We don’t want a repeat of the last two years, and I think that’s what’s pushed us through the offseason,” she says. “What happened last year, it’s still a bit of a sensitive topic for us.”

The Grizzlies play at Rick Hansen tonight, then travel to Vancouver for tournament action this weekend.

Get girls b-ball information online at bcssgba.ca/

— The Chilliwack secondary school senior girls are playing their final season in the ‘old airplane hangar’ before moving into their new digs next year.

Coach Joe Ogmundson has talent to work with, but it’s young talent. With only two returnees from last year, he characterizes 2012-13 as a rebuilding year that should pay large dividends in the future.

“These are terrific kids and good quality athletes who want to learn the game and represent their school and their community,” Ogmundson says.

Ogmundson will rely heavily on his two seniors, guard Rachel Vandenberg and forward Kylie Gauley.

In Vandenberg, Ogmundson draws comparisons to 1996 star Janet Adam. Like Adam, Vandenberg is a lead-by-example type with ability at both ends of the floor.

Ogmundson calls Gauley the hardest working forward since Charise Conkin patrolled the court in 2004.

An intriguing player who isn’t well known now, but may be in the near future is Zuzana Urbaniova. The five-foot-nine guard comes to CSS from the Slovakian U-18 regional team.

“She will face lots of learning,” Ogmundson cautions. “It’s a big challenge to go from middle to secondary school in one year without the transition at the junior level.”

Ogmundson has his crew playing tier two this season to allow for less pressure and more development. He will have three Grade 11 players and seven Grade 10s.

“High school sports is about dedication, peer relationships, team work, time management, sacrifice of social life and making hard choices,” he says. “We have those kinds of athletes this year  and that’s how I know we will have a great year.”

CSS faces Robert Batemen in league play Thursday.

They host the Chilliwack Shootout tournament starting Friday.

— Sardis secondary’s senior girls are led by three returning seniors; Haley Lightle, Lauren Kempers and Heena Toor.

But Michaela England looks like she will be the key to the offence. She has been scoring between 15-20 points per game through the preseason and early league play. Shauntelle Small and Holly Cherniwchan are two Grade 10 players who are new to the progam and have played well so far.

The Falcons opened the regular season with a pre-Christmas win, beating Earl Marriott 40-39.

The Falcons are on the road tonight, taking on Johnson Heights in Surrey.

Sardis hosts Clayton Heights at home Thursday, with a 6:15 p.m. tipoff.

Sardis secondary’s senior girls are led by three returning seniors; Haley Lightle, Lauren Kempers and Heena Toor.

But Michaela England looks like she will be the key to the offence. She has been scoring between 15-20 points per game through the preseason and early league play. Shauntelle Small and Holly Cherniwchan are two Grade 10 players who are new to the progam and have played well so far.

The Falcons opened the regular season with a pre-Christmas win, beating Earl Marriott 40-39.

The Falcons are on the road tonight, taking on Johnson Heights in Surrey.

Sardis hosts Clayton Heights at home Thursday, with a 6:15 p.m. tipoff.

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