Starters for the Maple Ridge Ramblers senior girls: (from left) Jane Grisley

Starters for the Maple Ridge Ramblers senior girls: (from left) Jane Grisley

Ramblers tip off provincial championship tournament today

The Maple Ridge Ramblers are playing their best basketball of the season as they start the B.C. Tournament at the Langley Events Centre.

The Maple Ridge Ramblers are playing their best basketball of the season as they start the B.C. Tournament today at the Langley Events Centre.

The girls have high expectations, and for good reason – they enter the tournament as the Fraser Valley champions and the second seed. If they’re not playing for a medal on Saturday night, it will have been disappointing, they say.

“If we play like we’ve been playing, we will have a good shot,” said senior guard Kirby Marchand.

“We’ve gotten a lot better over the past few weeks,” added her twin sister Shara.

Any conversation about the strength of this team starts with Kolbie Orum. She is a six-foot-two Canadian Under-18 Team player who is coming off two of the most impressive games of her career. In the Fraser Valley championship she put the Ramblers on her back and carried them to a 73-67 upset win over the Brookswood Bobcats. She did everything: 40 points, 15 rebounds, five steals and five blocked shots.

The tournament MVP’s stat line in the final was rivaled only by her performance in the semi-finals against the Riverside Rapids, where she had 46 points and 24 rebounds.

Coach Don Herman said she is the is most athletic player he has ever coached, and she is the third straight post player that the Ramblers have sent on to the NCAA first division, following in the footsteps of Mae Woods, who went to Houston, and Felicia Wijenberg, who is in San Diego.

Orum will play for Oregon State next year.

“And Jane’s got a chance, too,” said Herman. “She’s really keen, interested in the game, and wants to be a good player.”

Jane Grisley is a six-foot-three forward who is just in Grade 10, and played on the provincial under-15 team. She was an all-star in the Fraser Valley tournament.

With Grisley and Orum’s height and athleticism on the paint, opposing coach have matchup nightmares when they face the Ramblers.

Herman said Grisley’s post game is strong – good shooting from 15-feet and in, with strong rebounding.

“She’s fiesty, and she’ll get stronger.”

Essential to success is strong perimeter play, and that is left in the hands of the Marchand twins, who are identical.

“I can’t tell them apart unless they’re wearing their uniforms,” confessed Herman.

Or if they’re shooting – Shara is a lefty and Kirby shoots right.

With injuries to other guards the twins’ role on the team became huge. Most games they never leave the floor. They have gained confidence, and have the kind of chemistry observers might expect.

“We’ve got the twin thing going on,” Kirby says.

Herman said their strength is one-on-one defensive play, and whoever of the two is hot will be the shooter.

“They’ve really done a good job of upping their game, and playing hard,” said Herman.

Devan Cousins plays in the third forward position and is another who crashes the boards, allowing the Ramblers to dominate at rebounding.

“She really goes and gets the ball,” said Herman.

He has established his bonafides as a coach who can take a team the distance. He has been the senior girls coach at Ridge since 1995, and assistant coach Sacha Page has been with him almost from the beginning. It has been only the odd year they haven’t made the B.C. tournament, many times they have been in the final four, and they won a provincial championship in 2007. Last year they entered the tournament seeded 13th, and they finished fifth.

He’s got the girls believing.

“If we work hard, we can win it all,” said Grisley.

Cousins points out that Brookswood crushed the Ramblers by 40 earlier in the season, but lost in the Fraser Valley tournameent.

“We’ve really worked hard, and we’ve grown quite a bit,” said Cousins.

“We’re more prepared, and our defence has been really, really good,” added Grisley.

Orum said everyone has slid into their roles this year, and there is a good feeling around the squad.

“We’re playing a lot better as a team. We’re into it on the bench, and we’re more of a family,” she said.

They open the tournament tonight, at 8:45 p.m. at the Langley Events Centre, and will be favoured against Prince George.