Ethan Bartha (left) is an elite defender and a slashing offensive force for the GW Graham boys’ team while Deanna Tuchscherer (right) is one of B.C. top’s senior girls’ stars. ERIC J. WELSH/ THE PROGRESS

Basketball preview: GW Graham basketball teams among B.C.’s best

The Grizzy girls are led by Deanna Tuchscherer, one of the top players in the province.

High school basketball season has started and will get rolling at full speed early in the new year.

Today’s preview looks at the boys’ and girls’ senior teams at GW Graham.

SENIOR GIRLS

The 2017-18 GW Graham senior girls’ basketball team is looking to make a run at a championship this year.

The Grizzlies have qualified for provincials the last two seasons, gaining valuable experience against the best of the best. With only one player moving on from last year’s squad, a roster loaded with strong veterans and skilled rookies has tons of upside.

Deanna Tuchscherer and Jaya Bannerman form a one-two punch to match any foe, combining athleticism with speed, muscle and straight-up skill.

Grade 11 standout Tuchscherer is one of the top players in all of B.C. She is a rare high school player with international experience, having donned Team Canada colours at a tournament in Argentina. She spent the summer playing for B.C. United in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) circuit. Tuchscherer is strong, smart, skilled and a handful for any opponent.

Bannerman is a Grade 12 guard who joined Tuchscherer on the summer circuit, both of them picking up several all-star selections. Bannerman is athletic with lightning fast hands and has added a deadly three point shot to her game.

Julia Sprott and Sydney Fraess are seniors who bring depth and experience to the floor. Fraess is a long tall body who can battle inside and knock down the outside three. Sprott offers strength and competitiveness in her rebounding and her ability to get to the hoop gives the Grizzlies many options.

Rounding out the starting five is Aliza Dueck, a speed and spectacular athlete who adds great defence and a sweet pull-up jumper.

Sofia Armengual rounds out the returning players. After battling two shoulder injuries over the last eight months, she is ready to bring her fierce competiveness and heart to the team’s defense and transition game.

The rookies this year are going to be counted on immediately and play a key role in any success the team has.

Grade 10 twins Megan and Sydney Owens are great ball handlers, sharp shooters and overall smart basketball players. As they adjust to the speed of senior basketball they will contribute greatly on both ends of the floor. Nicole Campbell is another Grade 10 player. The lone lefty on the team, she is long and smooth and is able to grab rebounds, run the floor in transition and hit the three.

Grade 9 player Kennedy Hall is a strong body with a ton of potential, able to battle hard against bigger and older foes and hold her own. Her offensive awareness lets her find open teammates anywhere on the floor.

Only in Grade 8, Julia Tuchscherer already stands six-foot-one. The younger sister of Deanna played for B.C. United and several club teams last summer. A gentle giant with soft quick hands, Julia has the ability to be a strong presence in the paint and provide the occasional outside shot.

“It’s early and expectations are high,” said coach Sarah Mouritzen. “But if our veterans can lead and our rookies can find their stride, it should be a great season.”

SENIOR BOYS

The 2017-18 GW Graham senior boys’ basketball squad moves up to AAA this season, and for the first time they won’t have a Mannes (Lucas or Gabe) leading the way, but head coach Jake Mouritzen believes his roster is good enough to challenge for a provincial title.

GWG will be led by three seniors.

Grayson Weston may be one the top three point gunners in the province, and he’s worked hard on getting to the hoop and playing above the hoop at both ends of the floor.

With teammates slashing to the basket and kicking it out to the sharp-eyed shooter, Weston could have a huge season dropping bombs from deep three-point range.

Guard Dale Caramanzana brings experience from last year’s playoff run and has invested countless hours improving his game. Ethan Bartha can slash into the paint and distribute the ball to open shooters, and he brings elite-level defence.

The Grizzlies refer to Grade 11 big man Geevon Janday as ‘Mr. Everything.’

Standing six-foot-five he can battle anyone in the paint. He can kill opponents with a lethal 12 foot jumper and delights in knocking down the occasional three pointer. Oh yes, he’s also averaging 15.5 rebounds per game in early season play.

Ty Hall is one half of the Grizzly back-court (along with Caramanzana). A true leader, he settles his teammates in big moments and is a solid shooter and passer.

The Shoker brothers, Anmol and Armaan, bring unmatched work ethic, opening the GWG gymnasium at 5:30 a.m. every morning.

Anmol is an elite defender, matched up against an opponent’s top scorer every night. Armaan is developing an inside post game and working on his defence to guard some of the league’s best big men.

Max Bergin is a physical player who picks up the rebounding slack when Janday is out of the game. His focus is on securing boards at both ends of the floor and getting the ball to an open man.

Cole Wicker’s offseason commitment is showing up in early-season play. With improved foot speed, strength and outside shooting, he helps keep the offence humming when the starters are getting a rest.

Jake Lawson worked hard over the summer to add muscle and provides quality minutes off the bench. Liam Dueck is another player who has fully bought into the Grizzly program, and makes a difference with an excellent pull-up jumper.

We said earlier there was no Mannes leading the way, but there is a Mannes. Bedza provides quality minutes as a defender and can be counted on for at least two steals per game.

Never shy about mixing in a younger player, Mouritzen has Jude Hall and Cairo Almarez in reserve. They form the starting back-court for the junior team and by season’s end could be key contributors to a Grizzly title run.

“The Grizzlies look to build off their early success (9-1) and work each day to become one per cent better throughout the season,” Mouritzen said. “They have their sights set on a third straight Fraser Valley championship and the schools seventh provincial appearance in the last nine seasons.

“They know if they can get to the Langley Events Centre for provincials in March, anything is possible.”

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