Stea paces Gators to upset win

Walnut Grove Gators
Walnut Grove Gators' Cassie Stea drives against Brookswood's Michelle Mehner during the Langley junior girls district championship game on Feb. 14 at the Langley Events Centre. Stea scored 26 points to lead her team to 54-32.
— image credit: Gary Ahuja/Langley Times

A 13-0 run to start the game and then an 8-0 run at the beginning of the second half proved to be the difference for the Walnut Grove Gators as they pulled off the upset, knocking off the top-seed Brookswood Bobcats 54-32.

The teams were playing in the Langley district junior girls championship game on Thursday at the Langley Events Centre.

Brookswood was gunning for its 14th straight district championship at the junior girls level.

But the Gators used a tenacious defence which kept the high-powered Bobcats offence scoreless for five minutes in the first quarter and then six in the third period, to seize control and never let up.

Brookswood averaged 53 points per game during the regular season when they went 7-0, which included a 45-41 win over the Gators back in December, the first day of league play.

Walnut Grove was up 20-7 after the first quarter and 34-20 at the half. They extended the lead to 20 points after three quarters and won by 18.

"We got up big and were able to maintain," said Walnut Grove coach Mark Hodgson.

"Brookswood is a very good shooting team, a very well-coached team.

"They were never able to get into their rhythm."

"And from the defence came the offence," he added. "It was a big team effort."

The Gators were led by Cassie Stea's 26 points while Emma Smithson chipped in 10 points.

Brookswood was led by Julia McFarland's nine points.

In addition to winning the past 13 junior girls district championships, Brookswood had won the past 14 Grade 8 titles as well. So the Walnut Grove players have been motivated all season for a shot at the Bobcats.

Hodgson, a parent who is coaching at the high school level for the first time, said the players had this game circled on their calendar all season.

"They waited all year for this game, the district championships," he said.

"That has been our focus right from the start."

Overall, it has been a strong season for the Gators, with three tournament titles and just three defeats along the way: the league game to Brookswood, in the semifinals of one tournament and the finals of another.

Winning districts should also improve Walnut Grove's seeding for the upcoming Fraser Valley championships.

The 32-team tournament begins Feb. 1) with the schools looking for a spot in the final eight championship round, which runs Feb. 21 to 23 at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary.

The Gators are seeded third and will play No. 30 Guildford Park at WGSS.

No. 9 Brookswood faces No. 24 MEI at Heritage Woods while Langley Christian (No. 23) and R.E. Mountain (No. 26) face No. 10 Yale and No. 7 Earl Marriott. Both games are at Earl Marriott Secondary.

Langley Christian defeated Mountain 32-30 in the third-place game at districts.

The Walnut Grove Gators were crowned district champs with a 54-32 win over the Brookswood Bobcats.

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