The Williams Lake Thunder senior girls basketball team stormed to a 62-49 final win over the Caledonia Kermode Bears at the Columneetza Invitational Saturday evening.
The tournament, which featured eight teams, saw the Thunder go undefeated in three games. Williams Lake secondary opened its tournament with a 42-39 edging of the Correlieu Clan and downed the host Columneetza Cougars, 67-35, prior to the final.
Raj Lalli, who co-coaches the Thunder along with Tara Burtenshaw, said the Thunder could possibly be the strongest girls’ basketball team the lakecity has seen in quite some time.
“I think we met our expectations we had for ourselves this past weekend,” Lalli said. “At most tournaments with this group we’ve always gotten really good feedback from other coaches and parents that we’re a very, very hardworking team. We never give up, and physically we’re pretty aggressive and we’re definitely one of the hardest working teams out there.”
Lalli pointed to players such as centre Ana Lomavatu, point guard Latasha Diaz, forwards Montana Reid and Sydney Redpath, and Anne Butters, Dakota Bailey, Natasha Yaworski, Morgan Gary and Lexi Peterson for their outstanding play.
Lomavatu, currently playing in her Grade 12 season, was dominant throughout the tournament.
“She’s been our MVP this season,” Lalli said. “It’s not often Williams Lake teams get a lot of skilled height, and she’s progressed so much over the last three, four years. She’s really focused on her fitness level over the last year or two, and there’s been tremendous improvement there as a post player. She’s one of our better ball handlers, too.”
Lalli added Diaz has the sole responsibility as the team’s point guard, while Reid, Redpath, Butters, Bailey, Yaworski, Gary and Peterson combined for a stymie defence.
“Many teams struggle, sometimes offensively against us,” Lalli said. “Even if we can’t get anything going offensively our defence is what we build the foundation of our team on.”
The Cougars also had a successful weekend, placing fourth.
Jennifer Anderson, coach of the Cougars senior girls, said the team finished fourth, beating Valemount and losing once to the Thunder and once to Correlieu in the bronze-medal game.
Anderson said the team’s roster of Erica Webber, Shaelyn Wintjes, Annie Blois, Kaylee Dueck, Nisha Khan, Simran Boyal and Becky Caeppel are a dedicated, intense batch of players with strong rebounding skills and teamwork.
Webber led the Cougars in scoring throughout the weekend while Dueck dropped 16 against Valemont to lead all scorers.
Anderson added the Cougars plan to attend upcoming tournaments in Quesnel, Prince George and Valemount and hope to continue to keep improving.
Meanwhile the Thunder are currently preparing to host the North Central Zone Championships from Feb. 21-23 at Williams Lake Secondary School. Only one team from the zone will move on to the BC High School Basketball Provincial Championships.
“We placed second last year at zones,” Lalli said. “This year our goals are very high.
“Our expectations are set pretty high, and I think it would be a disappointment to us if we didn’t win, or come in at the top two.”