A basketball journey nine years in the making culminated last weekend in GW Graham’s first ever Fraser Valley banner for the senior girls’ squad.
The Grizzlies bombed Langley Christian 71-40 in the championship match at Langley Christian, finally crashing through a wall that seemed unbreakable.
GWG lost the last two Fraser Valley title games, the prize always hanging just beyond their reach.
But after throttling the Rick Hansen Hurricanes and Pitt Meadows Marauders to make a third straight championship game, this group wasn’t to be denied.
Senior Sydney Fraess was still on the court for the last minute versus Langley Christian and remembers it vividly.
“I looked up and saw about 50 seconds left on the clock and suddenly felt a bit emotional, but also overcome with happiness,” she recalled. “We were up about 35 (points) and I couldn’t believe that we finally did it.
“We actually won the banner.”
When the final whistle blew, the Grizzlies rushed onto the court to mob each other in a giant huddle. Then, one by one, they took a turn helping to cut down the net — a tradition when basketball titles are won.
“I felt so proud of every single one of my teammates,” Fraess said. “Each person played a big role in getting us to this spot.
“The next morning I woke up and it still felt a little bit unreal. This has been our goal for three years, and finally in my senior year we got it.
“Everything that we worked for finally paid off.”
Sarah Mouritzen took over as coach of the senior girls nine years ago, inheriting a team that went 1-11 the year prior. The team’s first ever Fraser Valley playoff appearance was a 60 point loss to Mission.
But Mouritzen believes that all the lumps they took helped build a team that was resilient, focused and ready for this moment.
“The program and the girls needed to learn what it meant to practice and work like a championship basketball team,” she said. “It took time.”
Now the team is on to the next task because their season is not yet finished. GWG enters provincials with an even bigger prize in sight, the right to call themselves B.C.’s best.
“We haven’t been to provincials before with this team, but we expect some intense competition,” said Sydney Owens, a Grade 10 player who is experiencing all of this for the first time. “We will be playing with the best in B.C. and we expect it to be a great experience.”
Megan Owens, also in Grade 10 and Sydney’s twin sister, believes her team is good enough to stand toe-to-toe with anyone, and the lessons they’ve learned over the past days, months and years will serve them well in the pressure cooker that is provincials.
“We faced a lot of pressure (at Fraser Valleys), coming from both the fans and the opposing team, and we had to work through this and remain calm to execute plays,” she said. “Our team has learned to come together at difficult times, be positive on and off the court and be confident when we play.
“Our team expects to have a fun and exciting week, but also see fierce competition.”
Provincials are Feb. 28 to Mar. 3 at the Langley Events Centre.