Defence, you may have heard once or twice, wins championships.
For the Sa-Hali Sabres, defence won the opening game at the B.C. AA girls basketball championship on Wednesday.
The Sabres beat the Victoria-St. Michael's Jaguars 49-40 at the TRU Gym. Sa-Hali is scheduled to play the Vancouver-Britannia Bruins today, 3 p.m., at the Tournament Capital Centre.
The Bruins, who lost in the provincial final in 2011, destroyed the Abbotsford Collegiate Panthers 93-26 on Wednesday.
Sa-Hali's offence didn't exactly set the world on fire yesterday, but its defence surely turned some heads. The Sabres were tough inside, and their guards always seemed to get their hands in the way of the Jaguars' outside passing attempts.
"They had a few transition baskets that I wasn't happy with," said Sabres head coach Jody Vosper. "But other than that, we worked really hard.
"We had played this team before and we knew their strengths, so I think we did a nice job shutting them down."
The Sabres' best defender was also their best offensive player on this night.
Shenise Sigsworth, a Grade 11 forward, led the Sabres with 15 points, but her greatest impact was on defence. Sigsworth came up with six big steals, the most important of which came under her own basket with 36.6 seconds remaining.
The Sabres were up 44-40 at the time, and the steal, the resulting foul and a made free-throw spelled the end for the Jaguars.
"Shenise has been a workhorse all season," Vosper said. "Tonight, we asked everyone to play to their potential, and she did that . . . on both ends."
St. Michael's also had a nice defensive game, but couldn't really get anything going at the other end against the stingy Sabres.
Nevertheless, Sa-Hali couldn't shake the Jaguars, as it held an eight-point lead in the first quarter, only to have St. Michael's cut it to one. The Sabres also led by eight in the second, and again the Jaguars fought back, this time tying the game.
Sa-Hali went on a 7-0 run to take a seven-point lead in the third quarter, and actually stretched it to 10 in the fourth.
The Jaguars battled, but ran out of time.
"It was back-and-forth," said Sabres forward Nicole Karstein, who had 12 points and 13 rebounds in the victory. "Every time someone hit a big shot, it felt like a turning point. It got us energized.
"The whole thing was just awesome."
The Jaguars would likely not have stayed so close without the play of Madison Hadfield, who led the team with 13 points, including a three-pointer to cut the deficit to four with 1:20 remaining.
Sa-Hali also got 10 points from Kiana Rainville, but suffered a couple of late injuries. Forward Emily Hilton, who had 14 rebounds, took a shot to the nose, but managed to come back once the bleeding stopped.
Also, point guard Miori Futemma twisted her right ankle in the final four minutes and didn't return.
For Karstein, it was a nice way to cap a great day.
The U of Victoria Vikes announced Wednesday that Karstein has committed for the 2012-13 Canada West season.
Karstein, a 6-foot-0 senior who is called on to play all positions, was drawn to the program because of head coach Rich Chambers, who also is the head coach of the national junior women's team.
"It's really exciting. I really like it there," said Karstein, following Wednesday's victory. "I really like (Chambers) . . . he's really nice and he sold me on the program right away."
But the most pressing issue for Karstein is today's quarterfinal.
The Sabres will have their hands full with the Bruins, who ran roughshod over Abbotsford. The Sabres and Bruins have met twice this season.
"They beat us by 21 both times," Vosper said. "We know they're very good - they're very fast and they shoot very well. We have to take away those two things . . . if we can do that, we'll be there with them."
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