Friday July 11, 2014

Familiar Titans a much different squad

Murray Mitchell

Taylor Ewings (8) of the Sa-Hali Sabres puts pressure on Amanda Daly (12) of the Valleyview Vikings in Thursday night Fulton Cup action at the TRU Gym.

Looks can be deceiving, especially when it comes to the South Kamloops Titans senior girls basketball team.

Yes, the Titans have a lot of familiar faces on their roster. In reality, this is a much different team than the one that won its second straight provincial AAA championship nine months ago.

The Titans are into the senior girls final at the Fulton Cup preseason city championship after winning their first two games. South Kam knocked off the Westsyde Whundas 66-36 on Wednesday and the St. Ann's Crusaders 92-16 at the Tournament Capital Centre on Thursday.

The Titans, who won the tournament in 2012, will face the Sa-Hali Sabres in the final today, 5:45 p.m., at the TCC.

That South Kam's girls are having success is nothing new - in the past three seasons, the Titans have won two provincial gold medals (2012 and 2013) following a bronze medal in 2011. But this squad is without the two stars who led them the past three seasons - Emma Wolfram, now with the NCAA's Gonzaga Bulldogs, and Maya Olynyk, now with Canada West's U of Saskatchewan Huskies.

Seven of the girls on this year's Titans' squad were on the team that won provincial gold last year, so the team has experience. It also has high expectations.

"Oh, we have the same expectations as last year," said Corey Yamaoka, who coaches the Titans alongside Ken Olynyk, Kelley O'Grady and Scott Reeves. "We want to do well. We're trying some new things, because personnel dictates that. We'll be sticking with some of the tried and true things that won us those provincial championships."

The coaching staff is an impressive one, regardless of the level of play. Olynyk is a former university coach and now the athletic director at TRU, O'Grady is a former star for the WolfPack women's basketball team, while Reeves is the WolfPack women's head coach.

They are helping the five Grade 11 players adjust to life in the senior division, while also helping the other seven get used to life after Wolfram and Maya Olynyk.

"We have some new players . . . but we've all played together in the past, in junior and in Grade 8," said Titans guard Emma Piggin, who had 26 points in Thursday's victory. "We're just bringing back the old memories and trying to click again. We're aiming high."

Piggin is one of three players to have signed with the WolfPack women's basketball team - Kanesha Reeves and Emily Vilac are the others. Titans' guard Anna Frenkel is said to be headed to the U of Victoria Vikes, while Mieke DuMont is off to the Dalhousie Tigers to play volleyball.

"I think there's a target on some of our backs," Piggin said. "Other players want to beat the people who have those opportunities and see where they stack up."

The Titans have rolled through their first two games at the Fulton Cup, although they are playing smaller schools than the AAA competition they normally face. They are looking at a big tournament in Abbotsford in early January, before the annual B.C. Top Ten Shootout in Coquitlam from Jan. 17-19.

"The Top Ten tournament, we're going to see provincials (calibre) teams there in January," Yamaoka said. "All of January, we're going to be playing a lot of top-10 teams."

The Titans are ranked No. 7 so far, after playing at a tournament in Abbotsford earlier this month and winning a league game over the Salmon Arm Jewels last week. The Kelowna Owls are the Titans' main competition in the Okanagan, ranked No. 9.

"We're in good shape," Yamaoka said. "With what we've got returning and the juniors coming up, we're in a good shape. It's a big learning curve, but the teams at the Coast, what they see from us at the beginning of the year is going to be a lot different than what they see at the end."

Kanesha Reeves added 15 points for the Titans, with Vilac and DuMont each scoring 11. Riley Oien also scored 10 points in the victory.

Sasha Sirianni led St. Ann's with six points.

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