Statement game for Dragons

Holy Cross Crusader Alli Buck (left) and Shanna Shilpa of the Fleetwood Park Dragons battle for the ball in the championship game of the Surrey Fire Fighters’ Goodwill Classic at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary School on Saturday. The Dragons won 70-66.   - BOAZ JOSEPH / THE LEADER
Holy Cross Crusader Alli Buck (left) and Shanna Shilpa of the Fleetwood Park Dragons battle for the ball in the championship game of the Surrey Fire Fighters’ Goodwill Classic at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary School on Saturday. The Dragons won 70-66.
— image credit: BOAZ JOSEPH / THE LEADER

Although winning twice by an average of 30 points earlier in the tournament, the Fleetwood Park Dragons felt they weren’t getting the respect they deserved at the Surrey Fire Fighter’s Goodwill Classic senior girls high school basketball tournament.

Until Saturday afternoon at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary.

In a rematch of last year’s final, the Dragons won their first Fire Fighter’s championship in eight years, upending a strong Holy Cross team 70-65 before roughly 200 spectators.

“We knew we going to beat them,” said Dragons coach Sharon Staples. “We were pissed off everyone was talking about them. Don’t get me wrong, they’re a good team, an extraordinary team. They are big, athletic, aggressive, smart and well-coached.

“But we were hungry, the kids were ready for it.”

The Holy Cross Crusaders were the team many considered the favourite at the all-Surrey competition, brushing aside two opponents by scores of 91-16  (Panorama Ridge Thunder) and 97-21 (North Surrey Spartans) on their way to a fourth consecutive trip to the championship game.

Fleetwood Park also had an easy route to the Axe Division final, winning twice by a 135-75 aggregate. Their margin of victory over the Elgin Park Orcas (68-36) and Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers (67-39) was less than half that of Holy Cross.

But in the final, it didn’t matter.

The Dragons traded punches for 40 minutes with Holy Cross, and even when down by six points in the second half, kept coming back and took a three-point lead with just over a minute to play.

The Crusaders pulled even with 64 a seconds to go when Nicole Vander Helm drained a three-point shot to tie the game 65-65. But a half-minute later, Khanna Shilpa of Fleetwood Park hit a trey for the winning bucket, and the Dragons defense did the rest.

Simran Bir paced Fleetwood Park with 31 points, with Shilpa netting 25. Bothy were outstanding from three-point territory, with Bir hitting five treys and Shilpa knocking down seven.

“I thought Fleetwood shot the ball extremely well from the three-point line,” said Crusaders coach Steve Beauchamp. “We thought they were hot (in the first half), but the percentages would eventually catch up to them and they would miss a few.

“And they did early in the second half, then they got hot again. Credit to them, they kept going to what was working for them.”

Holy Cross got 20 points from Vanderhelm and 16 from Rachel Beauchamp.

The Dragons, without coaches Emily Wright and Dan Nayebzadah – they also coach the Kwantlen Eagles university team – for Saturday night’s game, had three players recognized with tournament awards.

Khanna was named the Most Valuable Player, while Cyrelle Butac was the Tessa Beauchamp Most inspirational Player award. Bir was one of 15 players on the Dream Team all-star squad.

Other all-stars were Rosanna Castro (North Surrey), Chantal Colby (Earl Marriott Mariners, Megan Leite (Surrey Christian Academy Falcons), Aliya Sanghera (Panorama Ridge), Navi Gosal (Queen Elizabeth Royals), Jennifer Russel (Enver Creek), Keerti Jhutti (Tamanawis Wildcats), Maggie Castillo (Princess Margaret Lions), Sarah Buckingham (Lord Tweedsmuir), Kylie Parkinson (Pacific Academy Breakers), Emma Fletcher (Semiahmoo) and Michelle Bos and  Rachelle Beauchamp (Holy Cross).

Colby was also judged the Best Defensive Player.

Princess Margaret defeated Enver Creek 44-35 to win the Ladder Division final. Harjot Ladher scored 17 points to pace the Lions, and also was the division’s Most Valuable Player.

The Guildford Park Sabres won the Al Haynes Most Sportsmanlike Team award.

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