Wildcats net fifth straight city hoops crown

By Don Fennell

Published 2:03 PST, Wed February 14, 2018

The season is far from over as far as the McMath Wildcats are concerned.

But their final home game, the last ever for five Grade 12s, will be a special chapter in the story they’re writing.

On the eve of the Lower Mainland basketball championships, which they hope will lead to a berth in the provincial senior girls’ AAA high school tournament next month in Langley, the Wildcats can’t help but feel a little sentimental.

For the graduating players, the last five years have been a wondrous journey. The opportunity to play the lead role last Wednesday, in the Wildcats’ 82-37 victory over the Hugh Boyd Trojans in the Richmond league final, reflected part of the mission accomplished.

“I am so proud of how the girls have come together all season, how everyone plays with passion in representing McMath,” said Dakota Chan.

One of the five Grade 12s, Chan is described by McMath co-coach Anne Gillrie-Carre as perhaps the Wildcats’ ultimate unsung player.

A tenacious defender, she has worked tirelessly to also improve her contributions offensively.

Chan, like her teammates, feels a need to help carry forward a well-established legacy of success at McMath. The Wildcats have now won five straight city titles and eight of the last 10.

“It’s awesome to keep the tradition going. Now we’ve got to do it at the Lower Mainlands,” added Chan, one of three seniors who started their day signing letters of intent to join various college programs. Chan is accepting a soccer scholarship to the

University of Nebraska, Jalen Donaldson is heading to Northwestern State University in Louisiana (also on a soccer scholarship), and Abby Zawada will be joining her older sister Jessica with the University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team.

Winning her second league MVP title, Zawada has averaged 21 points for the Wildcats—an honourable mention in the provincial AAA rankings—this season. She is looking forward to reuniting with her sister.

“I’ve missed her a lot the last two years,” Abby said of Jessica. “She’s my best friend. I think there are a lot of opportunities for me with this team, and that I can contribute.”

Said UFV coach Al Tuchscherer: “Abby can really shoot the ball.

That’s the first thing that kind of stands out about her game. And over the last couple of summers she’s added a few things. She can put the ball on the floor and attack, and she’s become a better ball-handler. She’s really turned herself into a multi-dimensional scorer.”

McMath co-coach Chris Kennedy said it was nice how last week’s game played out, especially for the Grade 12s.

“We did everything well and it was a great way for finish up the Richmonds,” he said. “I still think the Richmonds are a big deal. We take a lot of pride in winning the city. You never know what’s going to happen.”

For Abby Zawada, it was even more noteworthy. McMath’s victory over Hugh Boyd allowed her to play all five of her high school seasons without losing a single game in Richmond.

“That’s a pretty cool way to go out,” said Kennedy.

The Lower Mainland championships, in which the participating teams will play for the Crehan Cup, winds up with the championship final at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17 at Carson Graham Secondary School.

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