Spectrum's Tyler Felt (left) is guarded by West Van's Harris Cameron during Day 3 Final Four semifinal-round play at the 2024 B.C. senior boys basketball championships March 8, 2024 at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Blair Shier property of Vancouver Sports Pictures 2024. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Boys Basketball

03.08.24 Day 3 reports from the 2024 B.C. senior boys Quad-A Friday Final Four semifinal basketball championships!

Hello B.C. boys high school basketball fans.

Final Four Friday has arrived.

Myself and our Varsity Letters’ team of writers will be bringing you full coverage of all eight semifinals form the 1, 2, 3 and 4A tiers tonight.

Remember that whatever tier you’re reading about here, all you need to do is go there main page at VarsityLetters.ca to find portals to the other three off of our main page.

And please share us over all your social media platforms!

Enjoy the games and keep coming back for updates through the night.


No. 4 TAMANAWIS 80 vs No. 1 OAK BAY 79 (OT)

By Dan Kinvig (Special for Varsity Letters)

LANGLEY — The Tamanawis Wildcats, as a general rule, do not full-court press.

They hadn’t done so all season, according to head coach Mike McKay. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

Well, perhaps desperate isn’t the right word. We’ll call them extraordinary measures. Because the Wildcats were prepared for a situation such as they faced on Friday evening in the provincial 4A semifinals.

In the dying minutes of regulation, the No. 4-seeded squad from Surrey saw its championship dreams fading fast, as the No. 1 Oak Bay Bays had built a 68-58 lead.

The Wildcats, though, went to a press, swinging the tempo of the game in their favour. They ended regulation on a 13-3 run and forced overtime on Michael Adarlwah-Nti’s late steal-and-score, and they finished the job in the extra session, clawing out an 80-79 triumph.

Tamanawis moves on to the 4A final, where they’ll face the Spectrum-West Van winner at 7:45 p.m. Saturday.

“We haven’t pressed at all this year,” McKay confirmed afterward. “But we’ve been practicing it for the past month, because we knew we’d need it at some point. Our guys believed, came back, we got the steals and turnovers we needed to. 

“I’m very proud of our effort – nobody gave up. In the timeouts, everybody’s eyes were up, their heads were up, and it was really fun to see that they came out and executed what they asked us to do.”

Finley Willis of Oak Bay (right) is guarded by Tamanawis’ Sartaj Bhangu during Day 3 Final Four semifinal-round play at the 2024 B.C. senior boys basketball championships March 8, 2024 at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Ryan Molag property of Langley Events Centre 2024. All Rights Reserved)

The first half on Friday was a testament to why the Bays earned the No. 1 seed – they can beat you in a variety of ways.

Early on, the Victoria squad made headway by pounding the ball into the paint behind big men Finley Lillis (6’4”) and Owen Lewis (6’7”). 

Then, as Tammy focused on stopping the bleeding inside, they started bombing away from three-point range. Thomas Beames, Diem Orser and Toren Franklin all connected from downtown in the second quarter, and the Bays took a 45-33 lead into halftime.

Tammy found some traction late in the third, reeling off a 10-0 run capped by a Jordan Hare three-ball to get back to within 56-55. But Oak Bay had a response – back-to-back triples by Orser and Beames boosted the lead back to 62-55, prompting McKay to take a timeout.

Oak Bay’s lead was as many as 10 points late, but the press helped turn the tide, and the Wildcats mounted a furious rally led by senior forward Arjun Hehar, who was able to spin his way into the paint for a couple of crucial buckets.

In the dying seconds, with the Bays’ edge now down to 71-69, Adarlwah-Nti jumped into the passing lane and stole the ball, sprinting the other direction for a game-tying layup with 9.2 seconds left.

Franklin had two attempts for the win at the end of regulation, but both rimmed out to send the game to OT.

The Wildcats had all the momentum in the extra session, building a five-point lead, but the Bays staged a rally of their own to take a 79-78 lead on a Lewis putback with less than a minute left.

Adarlwah-Nti restored the Tammy lead with a gritty left-handed drive, and on the ensuing possession, Lewis drove to the hoop and was met at the summit by Gursewak Mann. There was contact, but the officials ruled it a clean block, to the Bays’ chagrin.

Late in OT, Franklin again had a shot to win it, but his deep three from the left wing drew front rim at the buzzer, sending Tammy into celebration mode.

It’s the Wildcats’ second trip to the 4A final – in 2016, they fell to the Kelowna Owls in the title game.

Tamanawis’ Sartaj Bhangu (right) drives by Thomas Beames of Oak Bay during Day 3 Final Four semifinal-round play at the 2024 B.C. senior boys basketball championships March 8, 2024 at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Blair Shier property of Vancouver Sports Pictures 2024. All Rights Reserved)

Postgame, Hehar reflected on watching Tammy legends like Sukhjot Bains and Miguel Tomley shine at the Langley Events Centre as a youngster, and now having an opportunity of his own to excel on the LEC stage.

“I’ve been watching this tournament at the LEC since elementary school,” he marveled. “It’s always been my dream to make the provincial final, and my dream’s coming true. It’s so surreal.

“We prepared for this our entire life, and we wanted to leave it all out there tonight. That’s all we were focusing on (late in regulation) – literally diving on every loose ball and just fight for everything, the last few moments of our basketball careers.”

Hehar led the Wildcats with 19 points, Sartaj Bhangu scored 18, and Seva Virk (17 points) and Adarlwah-Nti (11) also chipped in offensively.

Beames’s 21 points were a game-high for the Bays, and he was joined in double figures by Lillis (14), Orser (13), Lewis (12) and Franklin (11).

“I thought Mike (McKay) did a very good job of getting downhill and changing tempo,” Oak Bay bench boss Chris Franklin analyzed afterward. “We played a bit off the back foot (late in regulation). We were a layup away from winning at any point in those last two minutes. But credit to Tammy – they battled back. They really put pressure on us at the rim, they scrambled and got into some pass lanes. Credit to Tammy for being well-organized, and Mike for being so aggressive.

“It’s tough for the kids. It’s a great game to be part of – it would be nicer to be on the other side of it. But you get a few of these on the plus side of the ledger and a few on the negative side. As a longtime coach, it was a good game. I’m very proud. The two teams played hard. There’s no negative, outside of the scoreboard. I thought both teams gave everything they could.”

No. 2 SPECTRUM 59 vs No. 3 WEST VAN 52 

By Dan Kinvig (Special for Varsity Letters)

LANGLEY — From off the radar, to the B.C. final.

What an amazing story the Spectrum Thunder have been writing this this season, and the final chapter figures to be a page-turner.

The latest leg in the Saanich program’s incredible journey – Friday’s provincial 4A semifinal vs. a scrappy West Vancouver Highlanders squad – was bumpy to say the least. The Thunder struggled mightily to get shots to fall for much of the night.

But when push came to shove – and there was a lot of both in a relentlessly physical clash –Spectrum was able to lean on its old standbys, rebounding and team defence. And ultimately, they coaxed just enough shots through the rim to eke out a 59-52 victory to punch their ticket to Championship Saturday.

The Thunder will meet Surrey’s Tamanawis Wildcats for all the marbles (7:45 p.m., LEC Arena Bowl).

Zeyad Ahmed (right) of West Vancouver tries to block the shot of Spectrum’s J Elijah Helman during Day 3 Final Four semifinal-round play at the 2024 B.C. senior boys basketball championships March 8, 2024 at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Blair Shier property of Vancouver Sports Pictures 2024. All Rights Reserved)

Afterward, Spectrum head coach Tyler Verde reflected on a season which has seen the school return to senior boys provincials for the first time since 1999.

“No one expects anything of us – they’ve never even heard of our school, most people,” Verde said with a chuckle. “We’d never been to the semifinals (before this year), now we’re in the finals. 

“I started coaching at Spectrum in 2018. We were a 4A school that played in the Tier 2 league in Victoria… there was nothing really there. I’ve had a lot of support from a lot of great coaches who have really helped me grow. 

“And our kids just love basketball. We don’t ask them to, but they’re in the gym every day at 7 a.m., and that’s what coaches dream of. This group, from Grade 9 and now they’re all pretty much Grade 11, they’re worked so hard.”

Hard work was not in short supply on Friday – Spectrum and West Van are both blue-collar squads, and hard-nosed defence was the order of the day. 

The Thunder, boasting a significant size advantage with 6’8” centre Tyler Felt and 6’4” do-it-all forward Justin Hinrichson, nevertheless struggled to finish in the paint in the first half against West Van’s tough man-to-man scheme, and at halftime, the Highlanders led 25-21.

West Van head coach Paul Eberhardt, upon hearing the buzzer sound and looking at the scoreboard and seeing both teams in the 20’s, initially assumed it was the end of the first quarter and wondered why his team was headed to the locker room. 

“I was going to the bench to sit on my chair and talk to the guys – I thought it was quarter time,” he said with a chuckle. “I was like, ‘That’s halftime?’”

The offences were only marginally more efficient in the second half, but the Thunder flipped the script with an 11-0 run bridging the third and fourth quarters, turning a 42-35 deficit into a 46-42 lead. Notably, after a controversial unsportsmanlike foul call against the Highlanders late in the third quarter led to a pair of Spectrum free throws, Felt made it a five-point trip with a buzzer-beating three-pointer.

The Thunder maintained that slender edge throughout the fourth quarter, and with his team clinging to a 50-47 lead with a minute and a half left, CJ Zuno stepped up and swished a clutch triple to make it a two-possession game.

West Van’s Finn Chapman responded with a pair of free throws, but a Hinrichson jumper restored the Thunder’s six-point edge. 

The Highlanders’ Calvin Kuzyk halved the deficit with a trey with 18.9 seconds remaining, but West Van had to foul from there, and Spectrum saw the game out at the free throw line.

It’s time to celebrate the school’s first-ever berth in the B.C. final. Spectrum beat West Vancouver during Day 3 Final Four semifinal-round play at the 2024 B.C. senior boys basketball championships March 8, 2024 at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Blair Shier property of Vancouver Sports Pictures 2024. All Rights Reserved)

“If you told me before the game that we would have held them to 59 points, I would have said we were going to win easily,” Eberhardt mused. “We just ran out of gas offensively. We were dead – we didn’t have our legs. They played great defence, too. 

“I feel so bad for the kids, of course, but they battled so hard. We held them to 59, and I can’t believe that wasn’t enough for us to get the win.”

Hinrichsen and Felt racked up 18 points apiece for the Thunder, and J Elijah Helman added 16 points. Verde also lauded the play of senior guard Gio De Gracia, who finished with just two points but made a major impact defensively.

“He doesn’t get any love, but I think he’s the best defender in the province,” Verde said. “I just have to shout out Gio. He is the rock of our team.”

Max Ndolvu-Fraser paced the Highlanders with 18 points, and Chapman scored 15.

Looking ahead to the match-up with Tamanawis on Saturday, Verde noted that his squad won the lone match-up between the two, on the Island in December. 

“We kind of gave it to them in our city, and I know they’re going to come ready tomorrow for revenge, big-time,” he said. “They’re a really talented squad, really skilled offensively. 

“When they played us earlier, they were in man (defence), but they played a 2-3 zone the whole way against Oak Bay (in Friday’s early semifinal). We’re going to have to work on some of our zone stuff tomorrow at shootaround, for sure.”

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