Basketball bragging rights for the senior girls and senior boys goes to South Delta Secondary in 2024.
On Monday night, the Sun Devils swept the Stebbings/Murray Cup games with the senior girls beating Delta Secondary 93-19 and the senior boys beating the Pacers 81-69.
Both games were played at SDSS in front of a loud and boisterous gym of students and parent spectators.
The annual exhibition games are played to honour former long-time coaches and Delta Sports Hall of Fame members Bob Stebbings and Neil Murray who gave so much to the sport at both schools.
In the girls’ game, SDSS was led by Kaija Rutledge with 30 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. Marin Marano had 12 points and five steals while Hayden McConnell had 11 points.
It has been an up-and-down season so far for the Sun Devils.
They started strong winning the Cascade Classic Tournament in Victoria and fared well at the 2023 Tsumura Basketball Invitational, but recent injuries have proven to be challenging for the team as they close out league play and fight for a berth at next month’s provincials in Langley.
SDSS has two league games this week that are important for playoff seeding – playing Fleetwood and Seaquam and an exhibition game against Burnaby Central, ranked number six in AAAA.
Last week, SDSS was ranked number eight in AAAA, but this week, they fell out of the top 10.
“We feel we have a roster that can compete with anyone and have a top five ranking, but the injuries have decimated us,” said head coach Sharon Butler, who coaches alongside Roger Millette. “Right now, we are reeling a bit because of the injuries.”
Despite that, Butler is still confident they can secure a berth into the provincials.
Millette said players have had to step up and learn how to do things because they are playing out of position, so that will “only help us in the long run. We just have to get healthy.”
“It’s a great group of girls and they believe in each other,” added Butler. “It’s a young squad, so mostly all Grade 11s, but again, they are fighting for each other.”
Over at DSS, coaches Abbey Wigglesworth, Nava Hothi, Marlene Charles, and Grace Skovgard are in a charge a very young group this season.
“It’s more about teaching. We are teaching the fundamentals because a lot of girls in Ladner don’t get their hands on the ball – for the first time in fact – this season for some on our team,” said Skovgard. “SDSS is quad A and we are AAA, so it can be intimidating at times, but I’m proud of the girls. They played hard tonight and can hold their heads high that they fought until the end.”
On the boys’ side, SDSS was led by Finley McConnell with 25 points while Kade Clayton had 23 points. Dawson Sjoberg anchored the defence and was strong on the boards.
The Sun Devils also had a strong showing at the 2023 Tsumura Basketball Invitational in the fall going 2-2, had a trip to Hawaii over Christmas where they played several top teams and are off to a good start in league play.
Coaches Carol Lingham and Bryan Lopez have a core group of seniors anchoring this year’s squad.
“A lot of our starters had a lot of experience from last year, so the expectation is that we continue to perform and do well and execute,” he said. “It comes down to are you focused – focused in practice and focused in league games.”
There are three berths out of the South Fraser zone for provincials with a lot of strong teams.
“It’s not going to be easy,” said Lopez. “Hopefully teams stay healthy and whoever performs will get one of those berths.”
DSS was led by another monster effort from Lucas Kosa who had 41 points. He had a 75-point game two weeks ago. It was one of the highest scoring games in provincial history.
Head coach Will Khuu and assistant coach Jassi Sandhu said they are pleased with the Pacers’ start to league play.
“Lots of ups and downs. With the volleyball season, it was hard to get everyone out in December and the league schedule has been packed in January, so keeping guys physically and mentally in check has been a challenge,” said Khuu. “We have three returning seniors, so it’s a young team. We are 2-1 in league play and have lots to go before South Fraser’s.
“We want to play in March and that’s been the goal since the start of the season, so we have to be ready to play every night. The league is wide open, and no one is unbeatable. If we play our best basketball, we can hang with anyone.”