‘Exceptional’ Mer Marghetti makes mark as Vancouver College basketball bench boss

Fighting Irish coach could be the first female head coach to lead a team to the Quad A boys high school Final Four, as there’s no record of such a thing in a tournament whose history dates back to 1946

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Vancouver College Fighting Irish bench boss Mer Marghetti could well be the first female coach to have guided a team to the Final Four at the Quad A boys basketball provincial championships.

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There’s no previous recorded history of such a thing at the top-tier tournament, which dates back to 1946. Veteran onlookers at the scorer’s table at the Langley Events Center also couldn’t come up with another female head coach who had accomplished such a thing on Thursday after No. 3 seed Vancouver College beat the No. 11 Fleetwood Park Dragons of Surrey 94-79 to advance to Friday’s semifinal round.

There have been female coaches in the event in the past. Theresa Campbell, who led the Vancouver’s Templeton Titans to a 71-59 upset of the Port Coquitlam’s Terry Fox Ravens in the opening round of 2003 tournament at the PNE Agrodome before falling 61-57 to the Ballenas Whalers of Parksville in the quarter-finals, eat to mind

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Marghetti guiding Vancouver College up against the No. 7 Semiahmoo Thunderbirds of Surrey on Friday appears to be brand new territory. The other semifinal Friday featured the No. 5 Burnaby South Rebels facing the No. 8 Walnut Grove Gators of Langley.

Saturday’s championship game is set for 8:15 pm at the LEC. It will be preceded by the Triple A (6 pm); Double A (3:45 p.m.); and Single A (1:30 p.m.) finals.

“I’m proud of myself for stepping in and coaching at a varsity level where they aren’t any other or many other females around,” Marghetti said.

She’s also doing it at one of the most well known all-boys schools in this province. Vancouver College was established in 1922.

Marghetti, who played her high school basketball at Vancouver’s Lord Byng and then went on to play at both Langara College and the University of Saskatchewan, has been coaching at Vancouver College for 15 seasons.

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She had been an assistant to Lloyd Scrubb for two years with the varsity side prior to Scrubb retiring at the end of the 2019-20 season.

Marghetti took over the helm last year, but the basketball season — like all other high school sports — was limited to practices due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Prior to working alongside Scrubb, Marghetti coached the Vancouver College Grade 8 team for five seasons and the junior team for six.

“To be completely honest, gender never entered the discussion, nor should it,” said Vancouver College athletic director Scott Vass. “An exceptional coach is an exceptional coach.

“While I did hear the occasional whisper or odd comment during the hiring process, the only time that gender was brought up openly was when a representative of our basketball alumni approached me offering their full support in the hiring of a female coach for the role. ”

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Marghetti added: “It’s an all-boys school, but there’s never been any gender bias toward who’s going to be the next coach at whatever level. They’ve always embraced me as another skilled coach.”

During her time with Scrubb, Marghetti was known for talking one-on-one with players when they came out of the game and getting them reset to go back into the action. Those kind of connections are crucial, she said.

“Making those relationships with kids is important for getting them to buy in to what we want,” she said. “You keep that conversation going constantly, whether it’s in the hallway or messaging, when they’re feeling down and need a little encouragement. That relational piece is huge for me.”

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Vass added: “As an assistant to Coach Scrubb and her experience at the school, she offered not only continuity in our program philosophy but also in school culture and tradition. Her method of coaching de ella embodies many of the qualities of an exceptional coach — in-depth knowledge of the game, excellent planning and preparation, clear communication to players and staff, exceptional positivity and enthusiasm, and a demonstration of care and empathy for her players.”

Trixie Cruz is one of Marghetti’s lead assistants. She played high school at Richmond and then went on to the University of BC she She has guided the Fighting Irish junior team as well.

Vancouver College is one of the most storied programs at the tournament. Its five championships are tied for tops all-time, along with Richmond and Oak Bay. Vancouver College hasn’t won it all, though, since 1967.

The school’s Grade 8, Grade 9 and junior teams were all provincial champions this season.

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