Photo by Chung Chow
Just call them the road warriors.
Without a home court since late last year, when fire broke out in the school gym, the McMath Wildcats have been forced to play all their remaining games this season elsewhere. Yet they haven't missed a step.
The senior high school girls’ basketball team won its seventh consecutive game Jan. 19 at Steveston-London defeating the host Sharks 92-69 in the final of the annual Bob Carkner Memorial Basketball Classic. The dominant victory was one of its most complete of the season, said coach Chris Kennedy. Building a 15-point second quarter lead, the Wildcats never let the Sharks back in it. This followed earlier wins over Clayton Heights and John Oliver.
For Kennedy himself, the tournament brought back fond memories of being enrolled in Carkner’s mini basketball program in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He said it was “wonderful” to see so many familiar faces at the final, including founding McMath principal Alex Campbell and current principal Jane McFadyen, as well as many former players and parents. He was also pleased to see many of the young Grade 6 and 7 girls from the Richmond Youth Basketball League programs in attendance.
“All our players commented how great it was to play in front of a loud, supportive crowd,” Kennedy said.
With two weeks of regular-season play to go, the Wildcats are again poised to top the Richmond league standings. But in the immediate, the team is focused on its own invitational this week. The tournament sets up a potential final-game meeting with Nanaimo at 3:45 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 26) at McRoberts Secondary.
“We played well leading into the Christmas break against some top teams, but gave up some fourth quarter leads,” Kennedy said. “ It was great to put together some more complete games this past week. Winning on the weekend definitely gives us confidence as we prepare for the rest of the year and into playoffs. We want to do well this week, but our real goal is the city championship and qualifying for provincials.”
Youth has served the Wildcats well, as a lot of the team’s youngest players have played what Kennedy calls “serious minutes” in important games despite this only being their first year of senior basketball. Recently, Caitlin Kippan (Grade 8), Kate Carkner (Grade 10) and Caitlin Bradley-Tse (Grade 11) have all really stepped up their play.
“We know teams will come out with their best against us. We are one of the teams to beat right now in Richmond and the Lower Mainland, so getting some quality competitive games should have us ready,” Kennedy said. “If we stay healthy and continue to improve we are in for a good month ahead. We need to have balanced scoring, so if one player has a poor shooting games others will pick it up,.”
A notable game on the upcoming schedule is set for Friday, Feb. 1 at 7:30 p.m. at the Richmond Olympic Oval. That night, the Wildcats will host Tier 1 team North Surrey from the Fraser Valley. It’s also “Seniors Night” which the team is dedicating to its five graduating players.
• This week’s Wildcat Invitational Tournament will be held Friday and Saturday (Jan. 25 and 26) at McRoberts. Play begins at 3 p.m. with McRoberts facing Kitsilano and Nanaimo versus Palmer, followed by Oak Bay and Burnsview at 4:45 p.m. With a team dropping out, McMath will play back-to-back on Saturday morning starting at 9 a.m.