Handsworth, Argyle march into March Madness
When given the full-court press about his team’s scoring, Handsworth coach Scott Palmer admits the Royals rely heavily on the dynamic duo of forward Elisa Homer and guard Abigail Dixon.
“They’ve played together since [they] were in Grade 6 or 7. They are dynamic. They work off each other well — they have different styles.”
And both rack up the points.
Homer averaged nearly 32 points per game; Dixon chipped in around 24.
“They’re hard to stop.”
But as his No. 3-ranked team prepares to hit the hardwood for the BC AAA High School Girls’ Basketball Championship in Langley, he stresses it’s not just about two players.
“It’s been a great team,” he says. “Everyone’s contributed — all 11 [players].”
And they bring a depth of experience to the championship tourney.
For four of his players, this will actually be their third trip to the big dance.
“It really helps having that senior experience of three seasons,” says Palmer, who coaches the team with Thomas Staron.
Palmer is also looking for a big performance from Grade 11 Lianna Rushworth, a five-eleven forward.
“She’s a warrior in the paint,” he says.
For Palmer, spending early March at the provincials is becoming tradition. This will be the ninth year in a row the Royals have qualified. In 2009 and 2010 they won it all.
At this year’s B.C. tourney, there’s a chance the Royals could again face cross-town rival Argyle, who are ranked fifth.
This season the teams have tangled five times in tournament and regular season play, with the Royals winning three. If they are to face each other in the provincials it will be in the Final 4, with a berth in the championship on the line.
“They are a top-five team in the province, they are very good,” says Palmer.
All season long, the Pipers have proven they can win playing any style of game, barn-burners or defensive duals.
“We are a defensive team but we have good fire power,” explains Pipers coach Anthony Fortunaso.
The Pipers are led by five-seven guard Claire Elliot.
“For my money we have one of the best point guards in the province in Claire Elliot,” says Fortunaso.
“She sets the tone for us defensively,” he adds, noting she always draws the toughest defensive match-ups.
She also runs the offence and scores timely baskets.
Another Piper to watch, especially down low, is Robin Aulin-Haynes. “She really cleans up the glass for us,” Fortunaso says about his six-one forward. “Inside she’s hard to handle. [It’s] tough for teams to guard her.”
Chelsea Dekleer, a guard-forward, is the Pipers’ best pure scorer.
Last year, in his first year as coach, Fortunaso guided the Lady Pipers to a berth in the finals and top-eight finish. This year he’d like to advance further into the brackets. “[We have] one more tourney to prove how good we are.”
“Everybody wants to win the big game and get that big blue banner,” he says.
For tournament scores, updates and more visit langleyeventscentre.com/aaagirls