The Merritt Secondary School Grade 8 boys and girls basketball teams travelled to Princeton on December 18 for the Princeton Rebels’ annual Santa Slam tournament.

The MSS girls team, coached by former Panther stars Nicole Mackay-Smith and Christina Pehr, went undefeated at the one-day tournament, downing the host Rebels 52-42 in their opening game, then edging the Kettle Valley Middle School Express from Penticton 39-38 in a thrilling afternoon showdown of undefeated teams.

Top scorer for the Lady Panthers was outstanding guard Mesha Naiker, who drained 34 points over the course of the two games. Other notable point getter were Logan Moorhead (19), Trinity Shackelly (11), Brooke Sproson (6) along with Makyla Cooke and Haley Zabek (5 each).

Moorhead and Harvir Natt received Player of the Game honours for their outstanding work on defence against the other team’s top players. Moorhead also tallied the game-winning basket against the

Express with just 20 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

“Both players showed good hustle, and left it all out on the court,” Mackay-Smith said.

“It has been an exciting start to our season,” the coach added, “winning our first league game and then coming out on top in the Santa Slam. We are really looking forward to the New Year.”

The MSS Grade 8 boys also performed well in Princeton despite losses to the Rebels and the Express by scores of 45-35 and 36-20 respectively. The 15-member team is coached by Grade 12 students Stefan Chiu, Levi Loewen and Jaycee Chenier.

The leading scorer for the Panther boys was Max Stead with 12 points, followed by Brody Pattison and Nicholas Anscomb with 10 and seven points respectively.

“The team did very well,” Chiu said. “They all worked really hard and never quit.”

Both Merritt Secondary Grade 8 teams return to court action on January 5th when they travel to Brock Middle School in Kamloops.