The Sa-Hali Sabres finally dug themselves a hole from which they couldn't escape.
The Sabres were beaten 57-37 by the Nanaimo-Wellington Wildcats in a provincial AA girls basketball quarterfinal at the Tournament Capital Centre on Thursday. Sa-Hali, which will finish between fifth and eighth, is scheduled to play a consolation game against the Prince George-Duchess Park Condors today, 10:45 a.m., at the TCC.
In most of its games against tough opponents this season, Sa-Hali has found a way to put itself behind early. Even in Wednesday's tournament-opening 48-43 victory over the North Vancouver-Windsor Dukes, the Sabres trailed by 11 points after a quarter.
The difference Thursday was that for most of three quarters, the Sabres couldn't do anything offensively. Trying to erase a 21-point halftime deficit without an offence is like trying to climb Mount Everest without oxygen, gloves or a pickaxe.
"(Wednesday), we dug ourselves a hole, and today we did the same thing," said Sabres head coach Jody Vosper. "The reality is, when you play good teams - and Wellington's very good - if you dig a hole, it's just a matter of time before you're out of it."
Much of the Sabres' offensive trouble came courtesy of the Wildcats, who pressed early and smothered Sa-Hali in the offensive end. Whatever offensive game plan the Sabres had seemingly went out the window as they managed only four points in the first quarter and eight in the second.
"Right off the bat, they were pressing us and we weren't executing," Vosper said. "We couldn't score. In this tournament, if you can't get 50 points, it's going to be tough to win."
Wellington opened with a 68-58 victory over the Abbotsford Christian Huskies on Wednesday, and hoped to improve on the defensive end Thursday. The Wildcats certainly did, with Sa-Hali scoring 14 of its points in the fourth quarter, by which time the game had been decided.
"Yesterday our defence was nowhere near as tight as today," said Wildcats head coach Nicole McRae. "This is our normal game . . . today we wanted to come out and show everyone the team we normally are."
Victoria Brown had 18 points for the Wildcats, and Sara Simovic scored 12. Haley Cochran had seven points to lead the Sabres, and Karson Hawgood and Karlee Poeschek each scored six.
Things got so bad for the Sabres that they subbed in Kiana Rainville, who is coming off knee surgery. Rainville, one of their sharpshooters, played only on offence for the game's final five minutes - she wasn't able to run, so couldn't cross her own side of half.
That left only four Sabres to defend. Sadly, it was the most success the Sabres had, and Rainville scored five points.
"We tried everything we had for offence, and nothing seemed to click," Vosper said. "We bobbled the ball a lot, threw up shots."
The Wildcats' reward for winning is a semifinal date with the tournament favourite Surrey-Holy Cross Crusaders. Holy Cross, which defeated the Condors 72-37 yesterday, will take on Wellington today, 7:30 p.m., at the TCC.
The teams have played once this season - Holy Cross won, but Wellington kept things close in the first half.
"They're a great team - they work hard, they practise hard and they've got a lot of talent," McRae said. "We'll have a good game with them - they're strong, but if we play like we did (Thursday), we'll close the gap, hopefully."
For the Sabres, it's another season that falls just short of the provincial semifinals.
Sa-Hali has made seven appearances at the the past eight AA tournaments, never finishing worse than 10th. In six of those seasons, the Sabres have made the quarterfinals, but have never advanced to the semifinals.
Sa-Hali was a program-best fifth three times - in 2009, 2010 and 2011 - and thought it had a chance to improve on that.
"We really though that this year we had a shot at the Final Four," Vosper said. "We've been fifth three times and (the Final Four) is something we really hunger for.
"Losing this game really stinks because that's what we wanted to do."
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