What the Victoria-Lambrick Park Pride lacks in depth, it makes up for in terrific athletes.
The Pride rode its starting five to the provincial AA girls basketball final with a 76-72 semifinal victory over the Surrey-Holy Cross Crusaders at the Tournament Capital Centre on Friday. The Pride will take on the Vancouver-Britannia Bruins today, 7:30 p.m., at the TCC.
The Pride has a good thing in its starting five, and head coach Rocky Vitale understands this. That would be the reason that Vitale only made one sub the entire game - he replaced forward Tyger Holt with Emma Van Kooten for 23 seconds at the end of the first quarter.
When the second quarter started, Holt was back on the floor, and she didn't leave it. Nor did Chelsea Strandlund, Emma Entzminger, Sarah Lefebvre or Mckenzie Smith.
"I play five; I'm not deep and I've been lucky to have some pretty gifted athletes," Vitale said. "(Today will be) our fourth game, but adrenaline goes a long way with these kind of athletes."
The coach would know - after all, he has won six of these tournaments, including five straight from 1998-92, and at TRU Gym in 2007.
And Vitale also knows his team, and what a fine group of athletes his starters are.
Strandlund and Holt both were members of the Pride volleyball squad that finished second at provincials two years in a row - including at the TCC in 2010 - and the rest are multi-sport stars, too.
"Chelsea is probably the best softball player in the country, probably the best volleyball player in the country for her age, and basketball is a hobby sport for her," said Vitale, who also coaches baseball and softball.
"Mckenzie's signed with Stanford for softball, Tyger's signed with Texas A&M for volleyball, and (Lefebvre) is one of the top soccer players (committed to) UVic."
The Crusaders gave the Pride everything they had, despite falling behind by nine points in the first quarter and 11 in the second. Holy Cross actually didn't lead until late in the fourth quarter, when it took a 67-66 lead with 3:20 remaining.
Strandlund calmly popped a three-pointer a minute later, but the Crusaders tied it at 69 with 1:06 on the clock.
Again, Strandlund put her side ahead with a lay-up, but Holy Cross's Amy Sprangers made a long three-pointer for a 72-71 lead with 28 seconds left.
Ho hum, Strandlund canned another three with 11.8 seconds remaining, and Entzminger put it away when she stole the Crusaders' in-bound pass and scored four seconds later.
"Score," said Strandlund, when asked what was going through her mind during the final few possessions. "There was a lot of pressure, but we pulled through."
Strandlund ended with 30 points and seven assists, and Smith had 21 points and 11 rebounds. Holt also had 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Rachel Beauchamp had 20 points and 16 rebounds for the Crusaders, and Michelle Zacharuk and Michelle Bos each scored 12 points. Sprangers also had 11 points, and Bos grabbed 11 rebounds.
The Bruins defeated the Vernon Panthers 77-45 on Friday. Jilliane Vina had 18 points to lead the Bruins, while Mary Rice had 14.
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The Burnaby-St. Thomas More Knights will play the Mission Roadrunners in today's boys final, which is scheduled for 5:45 p.m., at the TCC.
The Knights dropped the Chilliwack-G.W. Graham Grizzlies 72-55 in a Friday semifinal, with Mikey Carney scoring 22 points. Lucas Mannes had 22 points for the Grizzlies.
The Roadrunners defeated Mills Bay-Brentwood College 53-43 in the other semifinal. Luke Morris had 21 points for Mission, while Jordan Charles scored 17 for Brentwood.
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