Talk about a turnaround.
In 2015, British Columbia's under-15 girls basketball team was unable to secure a single win at the national championships. In 2016 in Regina, they came close to winning it all.
The squad, which included Whistler's Pietra Kamstra, went undefeated in pool play, knocking off Prince Edward Island 75-23, Alberta 53-41 and New Brunswick 68-37. In the semifinals, B.C. edged perennial favourite Ontario 54-51, but had little left in the tank for Quebec in a 61-48 loss in the gold-medal game on July 30.
"That was really special," said Kamstra. "We lost in the final game, but in the semifinal, we beat out Ontario, who usually wins nationals.
"It was a really good experience to move up in the standings and I think it surprised a lot of people."
Against Ontario, Team B.C. implemented a focused game plan and managed to execute it well against a powerhouse opponent.
"They really try to (force teams to) turn over the ball a lot. They like to get lots of steals, so we really worked on that, beating their press, and that's what really helped us win the game," explained Kamstra. "They're a really good team, so it was close the entire game and we ended up winning by three."
Kamstra, who chipped in seven points over the course of the tournament, said after a tough and emotional game in the semis, it was tough to regain those heights again against Quebec, which had an easier semifinal against Manitoba.
"Against Quebec, we were up in the beginning but they ended up coming back. I think we were all really tired from the Ontario game the day before and we just lost a bit of our momentum," she said.
As part of the U15 program, Team B.C. prepared for the tournament by attending tournaments across the region, challenging teams from across the Pacific Northwest. Fellow Whistlerite Jenna Tobias was part of the process, making it to the final 18-player team, but was not named to the final 12-player roster.
"It was a great experience. I learned a lot and it was incredible to make the team and play with the best players in the province," Kamstra said. "We bonded really well as a team. We all got to know each other well and they're all great players. We learned a lot from each other."
Under head coach Rich Chambers and assistant Al Tuchscherer, Kamstra said she refined elements of her game and will be well prepared to make another jump forward in her game.
"They pushed us all to get better and to compete," she said. "(They advised me on) specifics like shooting, breaking pressure and stuff like that."
Kamstra describes herself first as a strong defensive player as well as a strong shooter. While she enjoys watching the professionals do their thing, she doesn't model her game after any one of them.
"There's a lot of great players in the NBA and WNBA that I look up to, but not one in particular," she said.
Kamstra, who also credited local coach Alan Kristmanson, will continue her progression on the court this fall with the Whistler Secondary School Storm.