Local players returning for Wild Battle
Mckenzie Lightburn and Katie Nutini return to their home gym to start their season, taking part in the Wild Battle at the Border College Basketball Tournament.
Cranbrook hosts this event again to bring together teams from the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) that would not compete against each other in the regular season.
This year’s Wild Battle at the Border tournament will again be hosted in the ‘Den’ at Mount Baker Secondary School.
“We are excited to add two more teams to the draw this year” says tournament organizer Al Nutini. The event will include three games a day starting on Sept. 23 and ending on Sept. 25. “We expect some high level competition at the event. Currently St. Mary’s Lightning are ranked in the top 10 of the CCAA and they are expected to rise as the season progresses.”
The PACWEST Conference of the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) is made up of teams from British Columbia. This year’s representatives come all the way from North Vancouver and Victoria.
The Capilano Blues return this year after having a successful tournament last year where they were 3-0. Head coach Ramin Sadaghiani returns this year with high expectations for his team. “We had a lot of fun last year and we are excited to return this year. It looks like there are some good teams coming this year so we are looking forward to some great games.”
Carmelle M’Bikata returns for her fourth year. M’Bikata consistently led her team in rebounds during the 2015-16 campaign and is expected to pick up where she left off last season. M’Bikata also contributes by regularly scoring in the double digits. Also returning this year is 2nd year guard Reiko Ohama who played her high school basketball at Norkam High in Kamloops.
Ohama is looking to pick up as the deep threat for the Blues with the departure of All-Star Michelle Errico.
“Capilano has an excellent tradition in basketball and Ramin is a great communicator and coach” says tournament organizer Al Nutini. “I expect them to be a solid team that will challenge to keep their perfect record at our tournament.”
The returning players for the Blues are excited to connect again with the Wild Mascot who they definitely formed a bond with last year.
Joining the tournament for the first time this season are the Camosun Chargers. The Chargers women’s basketball squad made several outstanding achievements in 2014-15 despite their sixth place finish in league play.
Team co-captain Kathryn Candell hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer against Columbia Bible College on February 20 to put the game into overtime and secure the program’s 12th berth to the playoffs. Candell also became the first Chargers women’s basketball player to finish the season leading the conference in points per game.
The reloaded Chargers led by returning PacWest leading scorer Candell has a supporting cast including returning all-rookie Tessa Lannon-Paakspuu, Isla Swanwick and Jade Heavener as returning vets coupled with a strong group of new recruits. Karli Hopp, Jasmine Montgomery Reid, Mia Roberts and Ali Wergeland will all add strength at both ends of the court.
Coach MacDonald is excited to bring his team to the tournament for the competition and the team building preseason experience.
South ACAC (Alberta Collegiate Athletic Conference) of the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) is made up of teams from Southern Alberta. This year’s representatives are Ambrose University and St Mary’s University.
Ambrose University returns for the second year to the Wild Battle at the Border. Coached by Garth Mortis the Lions boast two local players at different ends of their playing career. Mckenzie Lightburn and Katie Nutini return to their home gym to start their season.
Lightburn led the Mt Baker Wild to one of their best seasons (2015-16) in the last several years. She played more than 30 minutes per game and finished most games with a double/double points and rebounds. Throughout the season she had four games where she had triple/triple games adding steals in the mix.
“Kenz was a work horse for our team” said her coach and tournament organizer Al Nutini. “I knew this was the kinda player any College would be excited to have, she works hard, always listens and holds herself accountable to always give her best. I absolutely loved coaching this player and was glad to see her move on to Ambrose and coach Mortis.”
Katie Nutini heads into year four that will see her complete her Bachelor Degree in Biology. Nutini led her team in three point shooting percentage (37.2%) for the season and was named Most Valuable Player for the second year in a row. The captain of her Ambrose team, she is hoping this year to continue contributing both on and off the floor.
“I love the game of basketball so much,” says Nutini. “I am so excited for this year; we have some great first year players coming in this season and we have two players joining us from Phoenix who have played in the Junior College program there. It’s going to be a fun year and a fun tournament”
Look for the Lions to battle hard on the weekend and shock a few teams.
St. Mary’s University
Joining the tournament for the first time this season are the St. Mary’s Lightning. The Lightning women’s basketball program made their first appearance at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association National Championships for the 2015-16 season. They are hoping to get there again this season with the return of ACAC All Star Montana Romerill.
Romerilll led the Lightning and the ACAC in points per game during the 2015-16 season. Tournament organizer Al Nutini says: “Montana is a very fun player to watch. Offensively she beats you in transition but even if you can slow her down she can hit the deep three on you. She goes to the basket hard; she has incredible confidence.”
Also returning for the Lightnig is MJ Ritchie who had dominant performances throughout 2015-16 and is hoping to continue for the 2016-17 season. The expectations for the Lightning are high this season and they hope to start the preseason with some great games and a terrific experience here in the Kootenays.
The North ACAC (Alberta Collegiate Athletic Conference) of the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) is made up of teams from Northern Alberta. This year’s representatives come from the City of Champions in Edmonton, Alberta.
Joining the tournament for the first time this season are the Concordia Thunder. Head coach Robbie Valpreda is excited to start their season at the Wild Battle at the Border. Valpreda says “we are returning 8 players from last season team. We have three high school transfers into the program as well as one transfer from Oregon, USA.”
Valpreda hopes to perform well and challenge to go 3-0 for the tournament. The Thunder will face both PACWEST teams Capilano and Camosun as well as Ambrose University out of Calgary.
The Thunder have ACAC conference all-star Nakita Newman returning for her fifth year and are expecting great leadership on and off the court for Newman.
Also returning is ACAC Rookie of the Year/North Sofia Lucadello who looks to have another strong season for the Thunder. Valpreda says “I expect all players will play a bigger role in a successful season that will look to bring the Thunder to their first playoff experience in March.”
The Thunder look to have some fun in the Kootenay’s both on and off the court. The team hopes they can “Thunder Up” in the Kootenays.
University of Augustana
Joining the tournament for the first time this season are the Augustana Vikings. The Vikings women’s basketball squad is led by head coach Kelly Lyons who is excited to debut her 2016-17 Vikings here in the Kootenays at the Wild Battle at the Border.
Lyons graduated with a Masters in Physical Education and Sports Psychology from the University of Alberta where she was Captain of the Women’s Basketball Team for two of her three years as a U of A Panda. Lyons started every game in her final season, helping her lead her team to a Canada West Bronze and overall sixth at CIS Nationals. Lyons also Captained the Carleton Ravens during her undergraduate degree after playing NCAA Division I at Oakland University
The Vikings have two players returning for their fifth year with the team. Sydney Purdy and Sarah Warwick will begin their final season here in the Kootenay’s. Purdy says about her fifth year “I never thought that the day would come, my fifth and final year at Augustana but here it is. I am looking forward to one more kick at the can this season and can’t wait to see what it has in store.” Purdy will graduate this year with her degree in Physical Education.
The event is put on to fundraise both for the Mount Baker Senior Girls Basketball Program as well as the East Kootenay PARTY Program. Tickets are $10 per day or a weekend pass for $20. Children under six are admitted for free.