Junior and Grade 9 girls take home provincial titles, both enjoyed strong seasons
By Josh Tng
Photo caption: The St. Thomas Aquinas Grade 9 girls basketball team hold up a banner after their victory at the provincial basketball championships.
The girls’ basketball teams at St. Thomas Aquinas high school claimed two provincial championships in March.
The North Vancouver school won its first gold at the junior (Grade 10) provincial championships in Langley March 4. The Fighting Saints claimed their victory after downing the Kelowna Owls 49-27.
“I’m incredibly proud of all our kids,” said head coach John Prescott. “These championships are really a tribute to what most of these girls have been doing since Grade 5. They’re very committed to playing the game, and very committed to one another.”
That victory came a week after STA’s juvenile team (Grade 9) won their provincial title by downing Kelowna’s KLO Middle School in the final.
“The Grade 9 team went in undefeated as the number one seed,” Prescott said. “That can make players nervous and add pressure, but it didn’t show with how they played. They went in very composed and handled the pressure well.”
The Grade 9s finished their perfect season a stunning 31-0.
“Jessica Clarke dominated all year,” said juvenile coach Brett Lee. “Gemma Cutler had a great tournament as well.” Clarke and Cutler played on both the juvenile and junior teams.
“All year we battled with injuries,” Lee said. “It was a total team effort to go 31-0” in the season.
Six-foot-two Jessica was also named MVP both tournaments, scoring a team-high 15 points in one junior-tournament game. Jessica is one of the youngest member of both teams. Despite her tall height, “she is still very much everyone’s little sister,” Prescott said.
Rebecca Clarke, Jessica’s sister, plays on the junior team and was selected as a first team all-star. Together, the two siblings proved integral to the team’s victory. “They just had a high-low combination that people couldn’t stop,” said Prescott. “Rebecca would get it in the high post and then she’d look for her little sister – well, younger sister – in the low post, and teams just couldn’t figure out a way to stop that.”
“The Saints’ defense was outstanding the entire (junior) tournament and was led by the tireless efforts of Kristinn Black and Stefanie Bordingnon,” he added. “Our principal, John Campbell, and the administration have provided support very much aligned with the girls’ success. The team parents’ support is second to none as well.”
The strength shown by STA’s Grade 9 and junior teams will prove important in the future, Prescott acknowledged. This season, the school did not field a senior girls basketball team due to a lack of players.
“Although we will be a young team, we will be competitive,” he said. “We will surprise people with the girls’ determination and hard-work ethic.
Photo caption: The Junior Girls provincial all-stars Olivia Thorpe (left) and Rebecca Clarke show their first team medals.
Photo caption: Coach John Prescott stands between the 'twin towers', Rebecca and Jessica Clarke.
Photo caption: Jessica Clarke, Gemma Cutler, and Caelan Prescott stand behind the Junior team's trophies. All three girls played on both the Grade 9 and Junior Girls teams.