GW Graham Grizzly girls grow into provincial contenders

GW Graham's Grade 8 girls are competing in the Grade 8 basketball provincials this week, a first in school history.

Ken Heise has been around a long time and coached a lot of teams.

But this season might represent the most fun he’s ever had coaching basketball.

The former Sardis secondary school athletic director eased into retirement last summer. But he couldn’t stay away entirely, jumping over to G.W. Graham to run the Grade 8 girls hoops team.

“The girls were very green and fundamentally, I knew were in for a challenge,” Heise said of his initial impressions last fall. “Things were different every day, and as a coach, you don’t really have a lot of control over what happens on the court.”

The girls were scrambly and unprepared to make offensive and defensive adjustments. Many had never played the game before arriving at GWG.

“Things might look good in a timeout, but they get on the court and they run exactly where they’re not supposed to be,” Heise chuckled.

What the girls needed was playing time and encouragement.

“They finally got to the point where they could handle the pressure defenses without panicing,” Heise explained. “It was amazing to watch them grow. That’s the enjoyment I get working with the younger kids is you can really, really see the improvement.”

When his crew upset Brookswood 33-32 in the Fraser Valleys to get into provincials, their execution and the way they handled the pressure was absolutely amazing.

“At the beginning of the season, we wouldn’t even think of taking three point shots,” Heise said. “In that game, Katherine Holden hit three of them. There’s the physical skills like that, and their basketball IQ has improved greatly over the last three months.”

Heise’s chaotic crew finally arrived against Brookswood, and their smiles lit up the entire gymnasium.

Now they go to provincials, a first in the school’s short basketball history. Over the three day tournament that started today, GWG will face some top teams with girls who’ve been playing together for three years.

Heise has no doubt his team can give the big dogs some trouble, and he feels a top 10 finish is possible.

“The girls are very loose and excited and I really don’t think they have any expectations at all as far as placing,” Heise said. “They’re just overjoyed to have the opportunity to be the first team from GWG to play in that tournament.”

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