The depth of the Royal Bay Ravens continues to show in junior girls basketball play this season.
The Colwood squad, which was slated to play league games at Claremont on Monday and Thursday at Stelly’s, remained undefeated in 2017 against Vancouver Island teams after winning the Island Challenge tournament last weekend.
The Ravens went a perfect 4-0, wrapping up the title Saturday at Stelly’s with a 42-24 win over Nanaimo District.
After building a slim 17-15 lead by halftime, Royal Bay tightened up their game, focused on defence and made the most of forced turnovers to turn the tide of the game in the second half.
“We had a fairly slow start to our game, which is not normal for us,” said Ravens coach Dave Awalt, whose team turned the ball over themselves more than usual in the first half.
A key turning point came in the third quarter, when three straight steals were converted into Royal Bay layups. The baskets proved to light a fire under the Ravens and they never relinquished momentum after that.
Emily Daitl led the winners’ attack with 13 points, although most of the full complement of 12 players made it onto the scoresheet.
It was the first time this season that Royal Bay had all of its players healthy for a tournament.
Based on results, Nanaimo has proven to be the top team on the north Island, Awalt said.
“We’ve played pretty much all the top teams from the Island and have won all (those) games,” he said. “We’re looking forward to getting through the rest of the season and working toward playoffs.”
They’ll compete in a new provincial qualifier tournament Jan. 27 and 28 at Cowichan secondary in Duncan – the winner gains automatic entry into the B.C.s in Langley. And if they don’t happen to win there, the city and Island championships follow in early February.
Coming off a win at the Christmas Invitational in Comox to head into the holiday break – the final was a 44-29 victory over Vanier from Courtenay – the Ravens kept up the pace at the Island Challenge, their first tournament of 2017.
They opened with a 93-14 win over Parksville’s Ballenas, a team that later played Island No. 2-ranked Oak Bay to a much closer score. Royal Bay followed up with a 63-27 victory over Holy Cross from Surrey, then similarly overpowered Stelly’s 66-27 in the semifinals.
Nanaimo reached the final with a 38-31 win over the defending B.C. champion Argyle Pipers from North Vancouver.
Awalt said the experience level of not only his starters, but his reserves is making a “huge” difference in their results this season.
“There’s just not much dropoff when we put in our bench players,” he said, noting that virtually all 12 of his players have competed at a B.C. championship or the B.C. Games in the past couple of seasons.
The Ravens travel to the Comox Valley for the 12-team Mark Isfeld Ice tournament this Friday and Saturday.