It has been a long title drought for the Abbotsford Panthers senior girls basketball program.
A championship banner for the team hasn’t been hung since 1984, but that all changed after a remarkable run ended with a 85-77 win over the Okanagan Mission Huskies in the 3A provincial final in Langley on Saturday.
The fourth quarter proved to be the difference, as the Panthers outscored the Huskies 20-15 to earn the win.
Marin Lenz, who lives in Greendale, was named the tournament’s most valuable player. She put the team on her back in the first half and collected 44 points, eight rebounds and four assists in the championship game.
Lenz was also named the B.C. girls basketball player of the year last week at the annual senior girls banquet.
Her younger sister Malia Lenz contributed with 11 points, 11 rebounds and four steals.
Other top Panthers performers were Lindsey Roufosse (10 points and 12 rebounds) and Lakresha Edwards (10 points and three assists).
It helps ease the disappointment the program felt in 2017, when they lost to Lord Tweedsmuir in the provincial final. Marin was on the team and in Grade 9 at the time. Her father Prentice Lenz, who has coached the team for years, said it feels incredible to be on the winning side.
“You know what it feels like on the other end,” he recalled. “Even though you had a phenomenal year, there’s still only one team that ends up not losing. And it’s a pretty special feeling when you’re that team.”
Prentice said the second half saw the entire team step up to secure the victory.
“Our supporting pieces really stepped up for us,” he said, praising the rebounding and defence of Roufosse, Chelsey Dulku and Riya Sahota.
“It was a really great job by a number of different people in that fourth quarter that really made the difference.”
He said those players helped clear up space for Marin, and his daughter managed to continue to make big shot after big shot.
Marin, who played on that second-place team with her sister Sienna Lenz, said the big win takes away some of that disappointment, but the winning the title was a team effort.
“Remembering that moment and how it felt and then putting in the work the next couple of years and then showing up here and trying to get it done,” she said. “It’s super exciting to see all the hard work we’ve put in all season long pay off in the end. We had Lindsey and Chelsey down low getting rebounds and had Malia running the wings; it was good.”
The Panthers, who entered the tournament ranked first in the 3A, opened with a 98-33 over Magee on Wednesday. They followed up with a 76-49 win over Duchess Park in the quarter-final on Thursday and then took down Argyle 65-58 in Friday’s semifinal.
Edwards and Malia were also named tournament first-team all-stars.