Tim Hortons North Okanagan Athletic Awards committee member Dan Currie (second from left) presents the 2020-21 Team of the Year honour to the Vernon Panthers senior girls basketball team, for qualifying for the provincial championship tournament 16 consecutive years. Accepting the award are (from left): Malcolm Reid (former coach), Kelsey Watts (former player), Lonny Mazurak (former coach) and current co-coaches Chad Butler and Dave Tetrault. (Pete McIntyre photo)

Tim Hortons North Okanagan Athletic Awards committee member Dan Currie (second from left) presents the 2020-21 Team of the Year honour to the Vernon Panthers senior girls basketball team, for qualifying for the provincial championship tournament 16 consecutive years. Accepting the award are (from left): Malcolm Reid (former coach), Kelsey Watts (former player), Lonny Mazurak (former coach) and current co-coaches Chad Butler and Dave Tetrault. (Pete McIntyre photo)

Vernon basketball squad chosen as Team of the Year

VSS Panthers have qualified for 16 straight provincial high school championship events, collect Tim Hortons North Okanagan honour

Earning a spot in a provincial championship tournament is a goal for every team regardless of the sport.

Imagine doing it consecutively for more than a decade.

The Vernon Panthers senior girls basketball team has qualified for the high school provincial tournament 16 straight years, including in 202o before COVID-19 shut down school, team and individual sports.

The Panthers were recognized for their incredible feat at Vernon City Hall Wednesday, June 23, as they were named the Tim Hortons North Okanagan Team of the Year for 2020-21.

“We have a tradition of excellence and we hope to continue that in the future,” said head coach Dave Tetrault who collected the trophy, along with a host of past winning coaches and player Kelsey Watts who also attended the event.

The Tim Hortons North Okanagan Athlete of the Year is football standout Ben Hladik, chosen in the third round by his home province B.C. Lions in the 2021 CFL draft.

The 6-foot-4, 240-pound linebacker was defensive captain for the UBC Thunderbirds and named a Canada West All-Star in 2018 and 2019.

Although university sports were cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic, Hladik still impressed the scouts. He was drafted 22nd overall.

A standout during his years with the Vernon Secondary School (VSS) Panthers, Hladik led the team to the school’s first-ever BCAA Subway Bowl and was the first Vernon Provincial AA MVP in 2016.

Ben’s dad, Scott, collected the trophy at the awards ceremony as Ben was attending an out-of-town event with the Lions.

This year’s winner of the Tim Hortons North Okanagan Leadership in Sports award goes to Don Friesen, a dynamo who raised money and then the roof on the newly-covered, 12-court pickleball facility at Marshall Fields.

Friesen and a team of volunteers raised approximately $2.4-million to build the facility which will serve players of all levels in the Greater Vernon area for years to come.

He is considered the driving force behind the Vernon Pickleball Association’s tremendous effort although Friesen praised the many volunteers who raised funds and rolled up their sleeves to build the courts.

The 28th annual awards were handed out to the winners by Tim Hortons’ sponsor Dan Currie and a committee of media and community sports reps, including chair Jack Gilroy.

READ MORE: North Okanagan sporting excellence honoured

READ MORE: Mr. and Mrs. Volleyball honoured at Tim Hortons North Okanagan athletic awards



roger@vernonmorningstar.com

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Tim Hortons North Okanagan Athletic Awards committee member Dan Currie (left) and chairperson Jack Gilroy (right) present the 2020-21 Athlete of the Year award to former Vernon Panthers football standout Ben Hladik, chosen in the third round, 22nd overall, of the 2021 CFL draft by the B.C. Lions. Hladik’s father, Scott, accepted the award on his son’s behalf. (Pete McIntyre photo)

Tim Hortons North Okanagan Athletic Awards committee member Dan Currie (left) and chairperson Jack Gilroy (right) present the 2020-21 Athlete of the Year award to former Vernon Panthers football standout Ben Hladik, chosen in the third round, 22nd overall, of the 2021 CFL draft by the B.C. Lions. Hladik’s father, Scott, accepted the award on his son’s behalf. (Pete McIntyre photo)

Tim Hortons North Okanagan Athletic Awards committee members Dan Currie (left) and Ann Holmes (right) present the 2020-21 Leadership in Sports award to Don Friesen of the Vernon Pickleball Association, a driving force behind fundraising for a fully enclosed year-round pickleball facility built at Marshall Fields. (Pete McIntyre photo)

Tim Hortons North Okanagan Athletic Awards committee members Dan Currie (left) and Ann Holmes (right) present the 2020-21 Leadership in Sports award to Don Friesen of the Vernon Pickleball Association, a driving force behind fundraising for a fully enclosed year-round pickleball facility built at Marshall Fields. (Pete McIntyre photo)