We have gone final here on Day 1 of the B.C. senior boys 2022 high school basketball championships.
The Quad-A draw is complete.
All eight game reports are below, but first, here’s Thursday’s Arena Bowl schedule of championship-round games.
TOP HALF DRAW
7 p.m. — No. 1 St. George’s vs. No. 8 Walnut Grove
8:45 p.m. — No. 4 Kelowna vs. No. 5 Burnaby South
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
3:30 p.m. — No. 2 Centennial vs. No. 7 Semiahmoo
5:15 p.m. — No. 3 Vancouver College vs. No. 11 Fleetwood Park
And remember, you home to access everything is VarsityLetters.ca
Here’s this tier’s game reports:
ALL STORIES BY HOWARD TSUMURA
ST. GEORGE’S 75 BURNABY MOUNTAIN 43
LANGLEY — They didn’t need to lean on the extra something-something they keep in the reserve fuel tanks, yet Vancouver’s No. 1-seeded St. George’s Saints opened play Wednesday with the kind of intangible qualities all title contenders must possess.
“One-hundred per cent… resilience,” agreed Saints’ head coach Guy DaSilva after St. George’s shot a blistering 49 per cent from the floor en route to its 73-45 win over the Burnaby Mountain Lions.
With a tough road ahead in a parity-filled draw, that resilience is going to play a huge factor for St. George’s.
This season, they came back from down 14 points down with two minutes to go to defeat No. 2-seeded Centennial and from 13 down with 3:30 left to beat No. 3 seed Vancouver College.
With a clash set Thursday in the quarterfinals against either Walnut Grove or Terry Fox, their defining characteristic could be their greatest ally.
“Our guys think they are in every game,” continued DaSilva. “We have had bad stretches and I don’t think we have played our best basketball.”
On Wednesday, St. George’s was led by the 14 points of Dom Acquino, 13 from Jack Vandenberg and 11 from Will Hyland.
Tony Shon’s nine points, and eight points apiece from Lorenzo Bonamin and Rex Yuen led the Lions, who also got a game-high 11 rebounds from Addison Button.
WALNUT GROVE 74 TERRY FOX 72
LANGLEY — March Madness is a high-pressure time for head coaches, yet Walnut Grove’s Reid Taylor admitted Wednesday after his Gators opened here at the B.C. championships, that there are those occasions in which he can count on about a solid second’s worth of time when the worrying can be put on hold.
“I told my team before the provincials that when there is any ball up in the air, it’s almost as if I am planning what we’re doing on offence because he is always coming up with those 50/50 balls,” Taylor said.
The ‘he’ in question is none other that Gators’ uber-energetic 6-foot-5 centre Dylan Senft, who in Wednesday’s opening round, did his best impersonation of saviour, dominating the glass when his team needed it most en route to a skin-of-your-teeth 74-72 win over Port Coquitlam’s Terry Fox Ravens.
“Dylan has been an absolute beast all season… multiple games over 20-plus rebounds and multiple games over 20-plus points,” continued Taylor, whose team advances to face the No. 1-seeded St. George’s Saints in a quarterfinal game Thursday. “He doesn’t make mistakes on the floor, he is everything a coach could hope for. He plays hard and he listens. Rebounds. Scraps. Defensively, he knows exactly what is going on.”
Senft didn’t put up a 20-20 double-double Wednesday, but his 23 points and 14 rebounds were just enough to hold back a Ravens’ team which took it to the Gators down the stretch drive, rallying from 12 down and leading 71-70 with 59 seconds remaining when 5-foot-5 Grade 10 guard Ethan Chae put himself on lip of the deep paint and hi-arced a shot off the glass for a 71-70 lead.
Senft later hit a pair of free throws and a Daniel Ahn lay-in with 18 seconds remaining proved to be the winning points.
“We just couldn’t keep them off the boards… we lost the game on the defensive glass,” said Fox co-coach Rich Chambers. “But we fought right to the end and represented our school and Terry Fox’s legacy the way we wanted to.”
Chambers said trying to stop Senft was the key to the game.
“But we didn’t do a very good job on him,” the veteran coach said. “He is tough, a really good player and last time we played them, he got 34 on us. We had to front him and we just didn’t front him.”
Fox’s Titus Heron and Chae, both Grade 10 guards, were magnificent down the stretch.
Heron’s game-high 24 points came on the back of his incredibly purposeful dribble-drive game.
Despite his youth, Heron attacked the rim by powering through constant double teams in the paint, signalling his arrival as a player to watch in 2022-23.
“I mean, in the second half, it seemed like they were getting to the rim with ease,” said Gators’ coach Taylor. “They are a very strong group of guards. We knew going in that those were the two we had to key in on, but my goodness, the future is bright at Terry Fox. Holy smokes those are good players.”
Chae and Jaxson Rous-Smith scored 10 points apiece in the loss for the Fraser North runner-up Ravens.
Meanwhile, Ahn with 13, Kevin Kao and Trevor Duffin with 11 each, and Callum Neilly with 10 scored in double digits for the East Valley runner-up Gators who have now won 12 of their past 13 games.
KELOWNA 70 ENVER CREEK 59
LANGLEY — One of the most competitive opening days in the recent memory of the top-tiered B.C. boys high school basketball championships?
It’s only three games into 2022’s eight-game card, but the evidence is building that the parity gremlins have made their way in the LEC’s Arena Bowl.
The Kelowna Owls started off as a stone-cold shooting team in the opening quarter, but shot a combined 62 per cent through the second and third quarters to top Surrey’s Enver Creek Cougars in a clash between two teams who spent the vast majority of the regular season ranked in the Top 10.
For Owls’ head coach Harry Parmar, whose team was not tested anywhere near its usual amount of times by Vancouver and Fraser Valley teams due travel difficulties brought on by flooding and the pandemic, Wednesday’s clash with the Cougars carried the potential to swing either way.
Yet the Owls, who trailed Enver Creek by eight after the first quarter, responded to the challenge and built their lead to as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter.
“It’s way different (this season) because they haven’t been put in those spots that they are going to be put in down here, and usually you have done that stuff throughout the year,” said Parmar.
“So you try to get it into your practices as much as you can, and sometimes the (players) don’t understand why you’re doing what you are doing,” the coach added. “But it’s for when you get down here, because when the lights come on, sometimes people need sunglasses, and sometimes that is not a good thing.”
The Owls had the wherewithal to dig themselves out of whatever they got into Wednesday against a talented Enver Creek team.
Oakland Kowai and Maxim Storozhuk each scored 18 points in the win while Cole Koop added 14.
Zayden Azim led the Cougars with 15 points, while Gurshan Sran with 14 and Gurek Sran with 10 points and 11 rebounds rounded out the scorers reaching double figures.
The Owls move into Thursday’s quarterfinals against the Claremont-Burnaby South winner.
BURNABY SOUTH 94 CLAREMONT 62
LANGLEY — Karan Aujla made a simple declaration following his first game in a month with the Burnaby South Rebels.
“I mean, I’m back on my two legs and I am ready to do everything,” the 6-foot-8 senior post explained after scoring 17 points and grabbing six rebounds in the No. 5-seeded Rebels’ 32-point win over the No. 12-seeded Claremont Spartans of Victoria.
“I am feeling perfectly fine now,” said Aujla, who suffered a knee injury back on Feb. 10 against Kelowna, and was forced to watch his team lose a key game to the Centennial Centaurs in the Fraser North championships, a loss which ended its hopes of earning the draw’s No. 1 overall seed on the backs of then-undefeated regular-season record.
“It took four weeks and a lot of physio, but I’m back, but I’ve got to get my game sense back a little bit.”
Did he play 110 per cent full-out on Wednesday?
Well, he never shied away from contact, went into the paint to both score and board (four offensive rebounds), and stood in to register a nice block on Claremont’s dynamic scoring ace Izzy Helman.
Yet just to be smart.. and safe, he opted for a lay-up on a clear path to the hoop which would normally have been a slam-dunk.
“He said he’s fine and ready to go, and actually it might have been a good thing for him because he got to rest for a month and so now he’s fresh and ready to go,” said head coach Mike Bell.
And when they talk about adversity making you stronger, that looks to have happened with the Rebels.
While senior point guard Jimmy Zaborniak has always been considered one of the very elite at his position in the B.C. high school ranks, his play over the course Aujla’s injury carried the team through their lowest ebb, and over that span he pushed his scoring average from 19 to 29 points per game.
On Wednesday, Jimmy Z continued his inspired play with a game-high 31 points.
“He stepped up, and in two big games for us, he had 30-plus points,” said Bell. “He was the leader this team needed. He saw that we were down. He saw that we were missing a key piece and he brought everyone up… he made them better.”
Added Zaborniak: “Obviously no one can really replace Karan. Even if we’re playing at our best, Karan is the best big in B.C. and he does things that no one else can do. He brings things to our team that no one else can.”
Oliver Petrovic added 10 points for the winners, while Helman led the Spartans with 15 points. Also reaching double-figures on offence were Gavin O’Sullivan with 12, Camden Sparkes with 11 and Mikah Smith with 10.
FLEETWOOD PARK 76 ABBOTSFORD 71
LANGLEY — Those who have not followed the B.C. seniors boys Quad-A basketball season might be inclined to think that Surrey’s No. 11 Fleetwood Park Dragons upset the No. 6 Abbotsford Panthers in Wednesday’s opening round.
No, definitely not the case.
What is beyond question?
In a season filled with top-tiered top-end parity, two of the hungriest, gutsiest and evenly-matched teams in the draw squared off, and in a game that went down to the final 16 seconds, the Dragons knocked off the Panthers 76-71.
The clash between the South Fraser runner-up Dragons and East Valley champ Panthers opened with Fleetwood Park opening up a 14-point lead just past the midway mark of the second quarter.
Abbotsford came all the way back and even led 70-69 on a Lockhart MacGregor lay-in with 57 seconds left.
“It was huge back-and-forth, it was all about defence,” said Dragons head coach Jordan Taylor. “We preached it the whole game and we had to take away open looks from their shooters because they can get so hot.”
Eventually they did, but Abby head coach Brent Ciochetti admitted afterwards that the energy expended in the comeback took its toll.
“It takes a lot out of you and we just kept draining energy,” said Ciochetti. “But we brought it back to even and had a lead in the fourth. But we missed some crucial foul shots down the stretch.”
Panthers’ rookie standout Dilveer Randhawa had cut the lead to 72-71 when he hit one of two free throws with 24.7 seconds left, however Inder Deol’s fast-break lay-in with 16 seconds remaining, followed by a pair of Eesher Sarai free throws iced the game for Fleetwood Park.
After the game, both head coaches went out of their way to describe the parity they are seeing in the Quad-A draw, which in many years featured more blowouts than competitive games on opening day.
Said Abby’s Ciochetti: “I think right from 11 up to No. 1, other than maybe Burnaby South being a step ahead, it’s anybody’s game that night. It just depends on if your ball is falling.”
Added Fleetwood Park’s Taylor: “This is one of the most wide-open B.C.’s we have ever had, and all of these teams can play. We knew Abbotsford had a chance to come back, and when they did, it was just a dog fight the rest of the way.”
Deol led the Dragons with 20 points, Sarai added 17 with 16 rebounds, Randhawa 11 and Allen Landasan 10.
MacGregor led the Panthers with 20 points and 12 rebounds, Ciochetti added 17 and Randhawa 11 points and 11 rebounds.
The Dragons will play the Vancouver College-Holy Cross winner in a 5:15 p.m. semifinal on Thursday.
VANCOUVER COLLEGE 96 HOLY CROSS 57
LANGLEY — Wednesday may have marked the first game of the 2022 B.C. senior boys Quad-A basketball championships for the Vancouver College Fighting Irish.
Yet you could say that the No. 3-seeded team which opened with a 96-57 win over Surrey’s No. 14 Holy Cross Crusaders in the round of Sweet 16 at the Langley Events Centre is about as battle-tested as they come.
The Irish, despite playing one of the toughest schedules in the province and sitting within the top three of the B.C. Top 10 rankings all season, wouldn’t have even made the draw had they not come through with a last-second 78-76 victory over a similarly-credentialed Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs team on Feb. 28 in a Vancouver Sea-to-Sky sudden-elimination B.C. tournament qualifier.
As a B.C. draw filled with blue-chip parity takes things up another notch Thursday with the quarterfinal round, Irish first-year senior varsity head coach Mer Marghetti, when asked, felt hr team’s tough road to the provincials could serve as a steadying reminder for her players of where their focus needs to be.
“I am proud of our boys for showing up and playing our systems and playing in our way, that’s a great way to start the tournament,” she said after the Irish shot a sizzling 57 per cent from the field overall in the victory.
“But we’ve definitely had some moments where we didn’t adapt and it hurt us,” she continued, referencing moments over the regular season and zone playoffs, “and I think that hunger to not have it happen again has allowed them to be focussed… to be locked into making sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Irish starting guald Mikyle Malabuyoc shot 11-of-15 from the floor en route to Player of the Game honours, finishing with a game-high 24 points,
Cole Cruz-Dumont scored 21 points and forward Mikey Jospeh 15, as eight VC players scored six or more points.
Jeremiah Francis, Simba Bowora and IIlijah Roque led the Crusaders with 15, 12 and 11 points respectively.
The Irish will face a team they have not played in 2021-22 in their next clash, tipping off against Surrey’s Fleetwood Dragons Thursday at 5:15 p.m.
Through Wednesday’s first six games, those teams advancing make the quarterfinals look as pick ‘em as we can remember in some time.
There are a lot of reasons why, and part of it, Marghetti feels, is the depth of adversity presented to all teams this season, often times extending outside of the game of basketball.
“There is definitely a lot of parity going on here,” she said. “I think the whole year has been a hot mess with all the rescheduling, all the unknowns, the fear of losing a season, and constantly wondering ‘What if?’” she began.
“So now, we’re at a point that the ones who are the most hungry are going to perform.”
SEMIAHMOO 83 OAK BAY 65
LANGLEY — The Semiahmoo Thunderbirds, amongst a crowded field of title hopefuls, came out in the second half on Wednesday and gave their strongest hint yet that they are ready to be counted as contenders.
Surrey’s No. 7-seeded Thunderbirds, 2018 finalists, came out of the halftime locker room and put 30 points on the scoreboard on 70 per cent shooting from the floor (14-of-20), rallying from a 33-30 halftime deficit to beat Victoria’s No. 10 Oak Bay Bays 83-65.
The victory propels Semiahmoo into a 3:30 p.m. quarterfinal Thursday against the winner of the evening’s last game between the Centennial Centaurs and the North Peace Grizzlies.
The victory continued to keep the Thunderbirds undefeated in 2022, and coming off a narrow win over zone rivals Fleetwood Park last week in the South Fraser championships, Wednesday’s win keeps head coach Ed Lefurgy’s team pointed in the right direction.
“It’s a testament to our players… they are coachable and hard working and the one thing we talk about is that they are not just getting older, they are getting better.”
And while the number of games played was down for the Thunderbirds, like it was for teams around the rest of the province, Lefurgy mentioned that his team has had close to 90 practices.
Maybe all of that led to the ‘Birds enviable balance on Wednesday with five players reaching double-figures on offence, led by the 20 points of 6-foot-7 forward Marcus Floares and the 19 of 6-foot-5 Cole Bekkering.
Point guard Torian Lee added 15 points for the winners, while Sam Snyder added 12 and Andre Juco 10.
Oak Bay was led by the 24 points of Griffin Arnatt and 11 apiece from Matthew Magman and Kiran Chadwick-Rupp.
While head coaches theorized why the competitive balance has been so much improved at these championships, Lefurgy felt a large reason could have been the fact that the LEC’s expansive courts are a new experience for so many of the players.
“First off, just generally, there is a lot of parity in the province, but as well, kids are just not used to this environment,” Lefurgy said, referencing the fact that with the 2021 tournament cancelled.
“When you think about it, all the Grade 12s, they are used to playing in empty gyms and clubs. This is a tough environment and we tried to prep for it all week.”
CENTENNIAL 95 NORTH PEACE 54
LANGLEY — When the Centennial Centaurs and the Semiahmoo Thunderbirds tipped off to open the 2021-22 B.C. boys high school basketball season back on Dec. 2, little did either team know it was a prelude to a March meeting which would have much greater ramifications.
No. 2-seeded Centennial’s 95-54 win over the No. 17 North Peace Grizzlies Wednesday night has created a 3:30 p.m. quarterfinal Thursday whose winner will advance to Friday’s round of Final Four.
Go back to that earlier meeting, a game won 70-69 by Semiahmoo in the opening round of the Heritage Woods’ Kodiak Classic in Port Moody, and the first signs emerged that these are indeed two evenly-matched teams.
From Centennial’s perspective, senior guard Nick Yang knows what is going to be most important come Friday.
“We’ve got to get back on defence because they are a team that likes to run. It will important for us to stay composed,” he said of the Thunderbirds.
On Wednesday, the No. 2-seeded Centaurs toppled the Grizzlies behind a game-high 27-point performance from Yang which included 11-of-17 shooting, and a 4-for-8 effort from distance.
Post K.C. Ibekwe scored 25 points and 30 rebounds for the winners while forward Trey McLenan and guard Matthew Lee added 14 and 12 points respectively.
Grizzlies’ Cy Bellamy put on a shooting display, going 5-of-7 from distance for a team high 23 points. He also grabbed a team-high nine rebounds. Teammate Cole Harder added 12 points in the loss.
In the time between the Centaurs win over local rival Terry Fox in the Fraser North finals and the start of the provincials, Yang stresses that nothing has changed about the Coquitlam-based team’s daily routine.
“We just got right back to work,” he explained. “We just work hard. Our practices were just like every other practice. It’s been a tough year for every team. Everyone has been working hard, but we just had to make sure that we stayed on top of ours.”
Fittingly, for two teams who opened the season against each other, Thursday’s quarterfinal clash will tell who has improved the most over the past three months.
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