For just the fourth time in the last 49 years, the North Peace Secondary School Ooks Girls basketball team will represent the region at AAA provincials next week.
NPSS girls booked their ticket at the zone qualifiers last weekend in Williams Lake, winning three games including two against the host Lake City Secondary and beating out the seven-time defending zone champion Prince George Secondary School in the process.
“I was confident,” coach Lori Coulter said about her team’s chances to win zones. “We had played very well and done very well at lots of our tournaments, however we haven’t played these teams. So it was one of those things where you don’t know what your competition is going to look like until you get there.”
The biggest competition came to open the tournament on Friday morning Feb. 21, when NPSS played PGSS and managed to pull out a 67-55 win.
“At the start of the game we played really well,” said Grade 12 starter Allyson Knight. “And then in the second half Prince George started to come back and our fouls started to get us there so we had to really pick it up in order to win that game, it was a really crucial game for us and I’m really proud of the way we played.”
In the next two games, both against LCS, the Ooks dominated winning both games by more than 40 points.
That included an 84-38 final win and Coulter said she wasn’t expecting to win in the fashion they did.
“I was actually super surprised we were able to dominate as much as we did,” she said.
Knight added: “We were all pretty pumped, we didn’t sleep much on the bus back. Me and a couple of the other seniors were really excited because that was our goal from last year, we really wanted to take the team to provincials.”
One of those other seniors was 17-year-old Tori Coulter, who noted with only four grade 12’s, one Grade 11 and six Grade 10’s on the team, the expectations were unclear.
“I knew that this season we had a young team, only four seniors this year so I knew it was going to be different but I didn’t expect it to be this good,” she said.
So good that the girls got the trip to provincials they had been hoping for and along with that Knight was named Most Valuable Player of the zone tournament.
“We’re the first North Peace team since 2007 to get that trophy,” she said. “The last two people that won I actually know them. It was really cool to get that same trophy. They both used to coach me so that was really cool.”
Coulter said it was Knight’s consistency that locked in the MVP.
“Allyson’s performance was good,” Coulter said. “She was consistent— helped bring the ball up all the time. We were fortunate that we had those shots from the outside to change the momentum in the games and put the nail in the coffin.”
The next task for the Ooks started the moment they returned to the Energetic City, a fundraising campaign needed to raise more than $10,000 for the trip to Langley from March 4 to 7.
As of Tuesday after the players went door-to-door dropping off donation letters and parents had also given letters to several businesses, the team had already raised $8,000.
“We’ve had quite a few parents take letters to different businesses that they know and we’ve had an overwhelming response from our community,” Coulter said. “Which isn’t unusual for Fort St. John but in such a short time it’s pretty amazing that we’ve had that much support already.”