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South Delta back in girls basketball rankings for first time in 16 years

Sun Devils the surprise team at the Howard Tsumura Invitational with a fourth place finish
South Delta MEI 2
South Delta's Rachel Rosser heads to the basket with teammate Kira Denney looking on during last Friday's 51-47 quarter-final win over MEI at the Howard Tsumura Invitational at the Langley Events Centre. The Sun Devils went on to finish fourth at the 18-team event.

The South Delta Sun Devils are back in the B.C. senior girls basketball rankings for the first time in 16 years and they showed why at last week’s prestigious Howard Tsumura Invitational at the Langley Events Centre.

The 10th ranked Sun Devils were the surprise story of the 18-team event that was loaded with ranked teams from all tiers, producing three straight wins to reach the semi-finals before settling for a fourth-place finish.

They are playing at the AAAA’s top tier for the first time in years and captured a tournament in Victoria at Spectrum before making their way to the LEC.

It was back in 2017 when head coach Sharon Butler guided a number of her Grade 12s to a fourth-place finish at the B.C. Invitational Grade 8 Championships in South Surrey. However, this current roster features a range of talent, including international exchange students and a couple of key transfers from nearby schools.

Grade 11 players Amanda Maestro and Silvia Castaneda have been welcome additions from Spain. Maestro had 15 points in a tournament-opening 92-23 drubbing of Burnaby South.

The last time Mackenzie Campbell played high school basketball at the LEC she was a Grade 9 call-up with the Delta Pacers at the 2020 B.C. AAA Championships.

The 6-foot-1 Grade 11 took her athleticism to Tsawwassen where she was a first team all-star at the recent AAAA volleyball provincials in Nanaimo before shifting her focus to the basketball court. She will only get better as the season unfolds, as will Rachel Rosser, another volleyball standout who brings additional size (5-foot-11) to the line-up.

Alexa Kusel was an aged up standout at Southpointe Academy, but has since taken her impressive backcourt game south on 56th Street for her Grade 12 year. She was outstanding in the SunDevils' thrilling 64-62 round of 16 victory over Abbotsford last Wednesday, producing a steal and the game-winning free throws in the dying seconds.

There is plenty of promising youth in the SDSS line-up too, including 5-foot-11 Grade 10 forward Kaija Rutledge who looks right at home playing at the senior level. She had a team-high 16 points in an entertaining 51-47 quarter-final win over MEI. Six-foot Grade 11 Kira Denney brings more size and athleticism to the post and shares minutes in the paint with 6-foot-2 senior Sophie Gower, a standout rower who is headed to Duke University.

After a pair of thrilling wins to reach the final four, the Sun Devils were brought back down to earth in a 95-42 semi-final loss to AAAA No. 1 ranked Terry Fox and an 83-59 setback to AA No. 1 Langley Christian.

Still, there are plenty of positives moving into 2022, including a promising path through February’s South Fraser playoffs to a first provincial tournament berth since 2005.

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