Howard TsumuraSpecial to the Langley Advance
Victoria’s Oak Bay Breakers defeated the No. 2-ranked, three-time defending provincial champion Brookswood Bobcats 67-45 in the championship final of the Centennial Top 10 Shoot-Out in Coquitlam on Saturday.
“We just go back to the Island, hide out and just keep working and working to get better. And when we get to a tournament, it’s all about our effort and our intensity level,” said Breakers senior guard/forward Sophie de Goede.
The Breakers are the only Vancouver Island team residing in the triple-A tier’s 15 combined top-10 and honourable-mention slots and that means, for the most part, when they want the best competition, they pack their bags, jump a ferry and embrace their underdog persona.
Yet whether you buy what de Goede’s selling or not, you had to believe that their four-quarter effort Saturday was that of an underdog.
It’s one thing to be talented. It’s something entirely different to couple it with a work ethic that outstrips those natural gifts.
And that’s why it’s not entirely wrong to label this team, coached by former Victoria Vikes men’s player Rob Kinnear, as both the team to beat and a team of overachievers.
“It definitely gets harder each time we play Brookswood, but we kept it pretty simple today,” Kinnear said of the team Oak Bay has played and beaten in all three of its invitational tournament championship wins this season.
“We try to be big and athletic and hard working. That is what I consider to be our greatest strength.”
After falling behind 8-0 in the early going to Brookswood and its hot-shooting Grade 10 guard Jenna Dick, who scored a game-high 23 points, the Breakers made an about-face by leading with their defensive intensity.
Over eight minutes spanning the first and second quarters, Oak Bay allowed Brookswood just a pair of field goals as part of a 20-5 run that had them up 20-13. Brookswood would never be as close the rest of the way.
And afterward, the Breakers admitted there was no assignment bigger than finding a way to slow the Bobcats’ deluxe senior scoring machine in Louise Forsyth.
Somehow, with Grade 11 forward Natalie Froese – digging in her defensive heels to become a modern-day version of Cleveland’s Gerald Wilkins, the so-called early 1990s Michael Jordan stopper – Oak Bay was able to hold Forsyth to just seven points.
And if you think that’s easy, consider that the Gonzaga-bound Forsyth, in her team’s loss to Abbotsford in the championship final of the Tsumura Basketball Invitational in mid-December, scored 36 of her 41 points in a span of three quarters.
“I thought Nat was player of the game,” said de Goede, “because I think trying to slow down Louise is the hardest job in the province. Today, she did it better than anyone I have seen in my three years (of senior varsity) basketball.”
And in the end, as the Breakers prepared to board a ferry and go back to their so-called hideout in the provincial capital, they left the rest of the province with plenty of questions to ask themselves.
Are we ready to defend?
Are we ready to sacrifice for our team?
And are we ready to play as hard as we can over the full 94 feet of the court for the full 40 minutes?
If anyone other team can answer yes to all three of those questions, then the winner of the B.C. title this March is still in doubt.– Howard Tsumura writes for The Province