Mark Isfeld’s junior girls basketball team (comprised of all Grade 9s and a Grade 8) did the remarkable on the weekend by qualifying for the Vancouver Island Junior Girls (Grade 10 age) basketball championships.
“This accomplishment may be unparalled in North Island girls’ basketball as no oldtime basketball folks could recall an all Grade 9 team advancing to the Grade 10 Island championships,” a team spokesperson said.
The Isfeld girls did it the hard way, winning three of four games at the Vanier gym this past weekend in dramatic fashion. On Thursday the Ice met Nanaimo District Secondary, whose players were all Grade 10 aged students.
The game was tied 9-9 after one quarter and Isfeld led 18-16 at the half with evenly distributed scoring. The Ice started the third quarter on fire with baskets by Michaela Ashlee, Danielle Vanbergen and Avery Snider, building a 41-32 lead. An inspired NDSS team put on the pressure, sending the game to overtime with a 12-3 run.
Discouraged but determined, the young Ice girls shut down the bigger NDSS players and nifty baskets by Vanbergen pulled out and exciting 51-49 win. Strong forward contributions from Leah Cicon, Kayla, Yasmine, Jessica and Camille were huge factors.
“Coach Grant Ashlee had to be resuscitated after the game,” the spokesperson said.
In the semifinal against favoured Dover Bay, the Ice surprised the older Nanaimo team by keeping the game close in the first quarter. A strong second and third quarter led Dover Bay to victory but Isfeld battled to the end of a 57-37 final. Nice baskets by Hana Kirk and the flattest trey in history by Jessica inspired the Ice. Injuries to Robin and sickness to Yasmine hurt the Ice.
The elimination game Saturday had Ballenas from Parksville taking on Isfeld. An 11-4 first quarter got the Ice off to a dandy start, highlighting the strength of guards Michaela, Malia, Danielle, Avery, Hana and MacKenzie. After leading 18-12 at the half in a tight defensive struggle, the lids of the rim came off and both teams scored at will in the second half. Trailing 30-19 after three quarters, Ballenas went on a 12-0 run to pull within two points late in the game. A timely basket by Cicon and a clever drive to draw a foul by Vanbergen led to an exciting 36-33 win.
Three Island berths were allocated to the North Island, hence the last game of the tournament determined who would advance as the North Island No. 3 seed. A hungry NDSS team, who upset Alberni earlier in the day, were looking for revenge against Isfeld after their opening day overtime defeat.
Playing a zone defence, Isfeld held Nanaimo to eight points in the first quarter with tough defence by Camille, Cicon and others but scored only six points. The second quarter featured more tight defence with NDSS up 15-14 at the half. Nanaimo must have used a goalie for the third quarter as the Ice managed only two points (two key foul shots by Avery Snider at the end of the quarter) while NDSS scored nine points to go up 22-16.
Then magic happened. The Ice went on an 18-2 run with baskets by Malia Irvine, Danielle, Michaela and Leah and strong defensive play from Camille Bourget, Jessica Drummond, MacKenzie and Hana Kirk.
The Ice roared back to win 33-26 and move on to the Islands at Shawnigan Lake. “Coach Ashlee and assistant coach/waterboy Hugh MacKinnon could not be prouder of the girls,” the team spokesperson said.
Besides taking home third place the Ice won the Best Team Spirit award and recognition was given to Danielle Vanbergen for outstanding play. Spirited team members include: Malia Irvine, Chelsea Nuez, Hana and MacKenzie Kirk, Kayla Gargus, Avery Snider, Danielle Poirier, Danielle Vanbergen, Michaela Ashlee, Jessica Drummond, Leah Cicon, Yasmine Bollard, Robin Janke and Camille Bourget.
“Special thanks to Vanier for their great job hosting the North Islands,” the spokesperson said.