The senior Mustang girls now know what they’ll be up against next basketball season, after getting bumped out of the Fraser Valley single-A championships Feb. 23.
“The last time Hope Secondary was in the Fraser Valleys was 2015, which was one-and-out,” said head coach Jeff Kuhn. "None of these girls were on that team. They're are all Grade 10s and 11s and everyone we’ve got this year is coming back — plus some (current) Grade 9s.”
Hope had posted three wins and eight losses in their regular season, which gave them a chance to earn the bottom berth to the eight-team championships, if they could beat Abbotsford’s Khalsa school in a tiebreaker.
“We played on neutral ground at Agassiz on Valentine’s Day,” said Kuhn. “Khalsa was ahead for most of the game, then in the last few minutes, we pulled ahead and won.
“This year, we’ve learned to work hard, right to the end,” added the coach. “It worked out in the Khalsa game.”
The girls had shown the same drive against Unity Christian, in two league games this year… quite an accomplishment, since Unity went on to win the Fraser Valleys and is now seeded second in the province among small schools.
“We almost beat them twice,” said Kuhn. “We lost by two at home and by four at Unity.”
Going into the Fraser Valley, Kuhn knew there was no easy path.
“In the most-recent rankings of single-A schools, four Fraser Valley schools had the second, third, fourth and fifth positions in the province.
“We played Credo Christian in our first game, on Wednesday. They finished first in the east and they thumped us pretty good. They just run the ball. They’re tough.”
That Thursday evening at Abbotsford Christian, there were perhaps 20 Hope students and parents in the stands, to cheer on the Mustangs in their do-or-die match against Surrey Christian.
Surrey got off to a 19-8 start in the first quarter, then the game calmed to down to a nine-point second quarter, with Hope getting doubled.
“I wasn’t pleased with our offence,” said coach Kuhn, “though we played better at the end. They had a tall girl, who I think got 16 points — and lots of rebounds.”
Hope’s Rachel Utz went six for 10 at the foul line in the second half, helping her to lead her team in scoring, with a total of 15. Hope scored 20 points in the second half but Surrey scored 30, to seal the 57-31 win.
Even in their loss, there was at least one girl with a happy grin. When Atamjit Gill sank a late basket, she smiled with her whole body. That’s the spirit of sports.
Kuhn plans to up the accuracy of all the senior boys and girls by scheduling off-season sessions with the school’s Shootaway shooter-tutor device.
“I’m working on having some time for our seniors through the spring, summer and fall,” said Kuhn. “In 15 minutes, you can get up to 300 shots, then you get a print-out on how you did.”
The Mustang girls may be retaining all of their players but they’ll need to get the shooting accuracy up, to climb in the standings.
“Agassiz is losing two or three of its best to graduation,” said Kuhn, with a grin that could be sensed through the phone line. “Unity’s not losing anybody, though. Their two best shooters are in grades 9 and 10.”
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Future Mustangs pay attention: the Steve Nash basketball program is coming back this spring for boys and girls in grades 4 to 7.
“We’ll be starting up right after spring break,” said Kuhn, who is in charge of the program.
“We’ll have practices on Wednesdays and games on Thursdays, all at Hope Secondary, except the last night, which will be at Coquihalla. The price is still the same, $60.00. That gives you seven practices and six games, a jersey and a basketball.
“Last year, we had about 45 kids,” said Kuhn. “I’m hoping we can bump that up this year, especially with the girls.”
Registration can be done at local schools, from March 1-17. On Facebook, look for HopeSNYB.