The traditions live on.
Coach Maria Waring and nine Salmon Arm Secondary Senior Jewels left for Langley yesterday in readiness for their first game, tonight at 7 p.m., in the BC High School Provincial Championships.
Waring is excited, as are the Jewels: Trice Tuati, Zahyna Lewis, Haylie Gibb, Lisa Petterson, Carly McDonald, Alyson Bannister, Maia McLellan, Josephine Tuati and Brooke Miller.
For the Jewels, winning is a tradition, with the Salmon Arm team well-known for its successes over the decades and the achievements of individual players.
For Maria Waring and her family, coaching basketball is also a tradition.
At the provincials, Maria will see her younger sister Michele, who’s coaching a team from Trail that has also earned a berth among B.C.’s best.
Maria follows in her mom’s footsteps, Barb, who coached the junior Jewels for 16 years. Barb’s last year, 2008, the team won the juniors. Maria’s dad Brian also coached, schooling the Grade 9 boys.
Going to provincials is nothing new for the family.
As a Jewel, Maria went to provincials in 2002 under coach Brian Gibbons where the team placed second.
Michele, too, was a Jewel, heading to provincials in 2005.
Maria’s brother Steven played high school basketball and then went on to play university ball at Thompson River University.
“There were years when my parents were both coaching and the three of us were in provincials,” Maria recalls.
Maria, too, played basketball at TRU, enjoying a great three years on the team.
This is her third year coaching after assisting her mom for about two years.
Going to provincials with this team is particularly sweet.
“It’s special for me because the group of girls in Grade 12, I’ve coached since Grade 8, I’ve followed them from Shuswap (Middle School) on. They’re an amazing group of girls; it’s really special to take this group. They deserve it,” she says, noting that her starting lineup hasn’t changed much since Grade 9.
The players are equally thrilled.
“They are extremely excited and the school has been very supportive, everyone has been very congratulatory of us all.”
The last time the Jewels earned at berth at BCs was in 2010 under coach Terry Michel when they placed fifth.
This year the Jewels’ first game is versus Riverside from Port Coquitlam, ranked sixth. The Jewels go in ranked 11th. They’ve faced Riverside twice before, Maria says, their best showing a 13-point loss.
The tournament is set up so each team plays a game a day for the four days of the competition.
The Jewels’ goal is to finish in the top 10.
Contemplating what it means to be a Salmon Arm Jewel has been a big part of the team’s preparation.
“I’ve spent five years talking to them about the tradition of the Jewels, how it’s a special thing,” says Maria. “When you’re from Salmon Arm a lot of people ask, ‘oh, did you play for the Jewels?’ It means something in the province of basketball; when we show up, people go, ‘oh, there’s Salmon Arm.’
“You walk into our gym and the whole back wall is covered with girls’ basketball. We’ve talked about it through the years, the tradition. It’s about giving your heart, I think, and everything you have to the game. Every game, you try your hardest.”
She speaks highly of “the amazing line of female basketball players” who have come out of Salmon Arm, including Bev Smith, Allison McNeill and Joanne Sargent.
Asked what it means to be a Jewel, Sargent, a 1976 Olympian with Canada’s national basketball squad, told the Observer:
“As young women in Salmon Arm, we all represented our school in other sports, but making the basketball team meant you had reached the pinnacle, that you had become part of a winning tradition in our town. It was what we all strived for. And it was after graduation, when I went to UBC and got to know other basketball players from all around the province, I became aware that the Jewels were held in such high regard throughout the province.
“We were almost spoken of with reverence – for the winning program, the legacy, the individual players who went on to play in colleges, universities and some to represent our country. So it wasn’t just what it meant for us, but the respect the words, ‘she’s a Jewel’ brought.”
Allison McNeill, former coach of Canada’s National Women’s Basketball Team, expresses a similar sentiment.
“Being a Jewel means you are part of a legacy of incredible women and of basketball excellence. It means you are forever connected to the Jewels that came before you, the Jewels you played with and the Jewels that came after you. Once a Jewel, always a Jewel!
“We also felt great pride in representing Salmon Arm Secondary School and the City of Salmon Arm.”
As she headed off to Langley, Maria said making it to the provincials “puts a little shine back on the Jewels.”