The Tumbler Ridge Kodiaks senior girls basketball team lived up to their fifth-place seeding at the senior girls “A” zones tournament held in Valemount late in February.
The result was the best finish for Tumbler Ridge at the zones in “many, many years,” said assistant coach Birgit Sharman. Despite a couple of losses that kept the team from a chance to play for a berth at provincial championships, the group produced some motivated efforts to go 3 – 3 overall in the tournament to round out their season.
Nine Tumbler Ridge Secondary School (TRSS) girls, coach Steve Sperger, assistant coach and teacher sponsor Birgit Sharman, and parent cheerleaders Donna Legault and Joanne Kirby were on the trip. The nine-team tournament also included Burns Lake, Bella Coola, Fraser Lake, Fort St. James, Prince George, Dawson Creek, Valemount and Tumbler Ridge.
After a long bus ride to Valemount on Wednesday (February 23), the team played at 7:15 p.m. that night to a victory over Bella Coola's Sir Alexander Mackenzie Secondary School, who were seeded sixth going into the tournament. TRSS was well ahead at the half, and won by 6 points with a score of 44 – 38.
The next day, the team faced Prince George's Cedars Christian School, the top-ranked team in the zone and fourth in the province. The team was ready to play their best game of the year, and came away with a respectable 53 – 28 loss. That evening included a banquet to honour the players that were finishing their high school basketball career, including four girls from TRSS.
The Kodiaks won both their Friday games, beating Fraser Lake 40-23 and later beating third-ranked Burns Lake
in a back-and-forth game that ended 43 – 38. Much was on the line for Saturday morning's game against Bella Coola; a win could have allowed TRSS to play for a berth at provincials against a team from the northwest zone.
“Saturday's games were very emotional, and Steve did an amazing job coaching the girls,” said Sharman. The Bella Coola game was close, but the team ultimately lost, 61 – 50. Their next game against Burns Lake was to determine the fourth versus fifth finishers, and Tumbler Ridge lost 42 – 31.
Over the six games, Crystal Fry and Natalie Sharman each received two "hustler" awards, while Kelsey Legault and Jessica Cameron each received one. Natalie Sharman was named to the tournament's second all-star team, and was selected as “Most Inspirational Player” after persevering through a knee injury and surgeries this season with strong play. Crystal Fry and Alaina McNeil were given honourable mentions, while Jessica Cameron won the sixth player award, as the coach's choice for best player outside the five starters.
After a weather-related stopover in Prince George, the team returned to Tumbler Ridge last Sunday afternoon, with a solid 10 – 9 record to show for their efforts this season. It's a significant result considering the small size of TRSS and the fact they played with a shorter bench than most other teams they faced this year.