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Hope Mustangs work hard during weekend tournament

“Our team has so much spunk and heart,” said Mustang girl’s coach Jeff Kuhn
Hope Mustang, Keanan Littlechild soars toward 2 of his 13 points in the first quarter against Princeton, last Friday. Barry Stewart/Hope Standard

Hope Secondary’s athletics director Jeremy Smith had to tap into more of the flexibility he’s becoming known for, rejigging schedules when two teams backed out of last weekend’s basketball tournament. It was already planned as concurrent mini-tournaments for four girls’ and four boys’ teams but the downsizing meant it could be all be played on Friday.

“With Xit’Olacw (Mount Currie) dropping out, this led to (all but one ref) pulling out, as they didn’t want to make the drive to Hope for a few games,” said Smith. “Josh Ogren and I stepped in to help out — and I was glad when it was all over.”

Ogren had been sidelined for weeks with a self-inflicted culinary cut to his thumb and this was his first day back in action.

Doing double-duty as a ref for the girls’ game against Princeton meant he might have to call some fouls on his twin sister, Camryn — and oh… the look she gave him when he called her for her fourth foul of the game, shortly before the end of the convincing win for the Mustangs.

READ MORE: Hope athletes test their mettle at provincial tournaments

“Josh did a great job,” said girls’ coach, Jeff Kuhn, who needed to give Camryn some bench time to keep her from fouling out.

Princeton had been a good warm-up for the Mustangs, leading into the match against perennial rivals, Agassiz.

When Agassiz arrived without their leading scorer, Katrina Lawley, there was some hope for an easier game. Lawley was writing an exam and had to get to Hope when she could.

“The first time we played them, they beat us by 30 points,” recalled Kuhn. “I think Katrina scored 40.”

Bad luck for Hope: Lawley finished her exam early and was on the court before Friday’s game started. She scored in the first minute; her towering height and long reach allowing her to roll the ball off her fingertips and into the basket.

This continued, largely unimpeded until Kuhn called a time out, to settle his team and come up with a plan to put the brakes on Lawley.

“They had pulled ahead, 23-8,” said Kuhn. “After switching our defense, we outscored them 30-24 and Katrina only scored 4 points in the second half, after scoring 16 in the first.

“You have to double team her,” he said. “There’s no getting around it.

“I’m so proud of the way the girls worked. They had never tried that defence before and they did so well,” said the coach. “We only lost by 9 — but I think we can beat them.

“Our team has so much spunk and heart,” he added. “We’ve pushed them hard on their speed and fitness and it shows.”

The 2-and-4 team’s next game is January 8, on the road against Maple Ridge Christian.

“They beat us here by one point in our first game,” said Kuhn. “But we had first-game jitters. We should be able to beat them.”

READ MORE: Girls finish eighth in the Fraser Valley, but they’ll be back

The Mustang boys had an outstanding match against Princeton, leading all the way. Keanan Littlechild led the charge with 13 points for Hope in the first quarter — though Princeton’s point guard, #10, kept the visitors in the game with his skilled dribbling, passing, shooting and defensive work.

Josh Ogren made some solid contributions in the paint in the final minutes, padding the Mustangs’ lead to 16 points. Agassiz edged out the boys in their other game.

Boys’ coach, Jake Giles is vacationing with his family in North Carolina but spoke via e-mail.

“We have a few new guys this year, which certainly helps,” said Giles. “Having a larger team is nice because it creates a better culture of accountability. Players have to show up and work, or they know that someone else will get their minutes.

“We have a hungrier team than we’ve had in a while,” he added. “It’s taken some time, but players are learning what kind of effort I expect from them in practice and on the court, in order for them to get playing time. I’m proud of the way we’re playing right now and if we can keep it up, I think we’ll have made some huge strides this season.

“I firmly believe that we can beat Agassiz if we play to our potential. We get one more shot against them in February, so we’ll see,” said Giles.

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Hope Mustang, Keanan Littlechild soars toward 2 of his 13 points in the first quarter against Princeton, last Friday. Barry Stewart/Hope Standard
Camryn Ogren leans around Agassiz’ Katrina Lawley in Friday’s home tournament match, which the visitors won by 9 points. Barry Stewart/Hope Standard