LANGLEY — Thanks for re-joining us for our on-going coverage of the B.C. senior boys basketball championships from the Langley Events Centre.
Today, it’s quarterfinal Thursday at all four tiers.
Please continue to come back to us on this posting throughout the day as our team of writers and photographers give you the most complete coverage you will find anywhere.
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Here’s our game-by-game reports:
ALL STORIES BY HOWARD TSUMURA
SEMIAHMOO 86 CENTENNIAL 73
LANGLEY — Speed kills, and when you have the skills to play at tempo the way the No. 7 Semiahmoo Thunderbirds can, then you can begin to rev up your engines for Friday’s Final Four.
That’s what the South Surrey squad is doing after breaking open a tight game to top the No. 2 Centennial Centaurs 86-73 in the quarterfinals of the B.C. senior boys Quad-A basketball championships at the Langley Events Centre.
The Thunderbirds now face the winner of the day’s next game between No. 3 Vancouver College and No. 11 Fleetwood Park.
After three quarters of chess against K.C. Ibekwe and Coquitlam’s Centaurs, the ‘Birds decided it was time to take flight and push the tempo, and with that mindset and perhaps the quickest guard in the province ready and able to follow those marching order, it was off to the races.
Torian Lee, the 5-foot-10 Grade 10 guard, scored 11 of his game-high 32 points over the final 9:59 of the contest, first knocking down a pair of triples, then turning to his blazing dribble, getting down the court before the Centaurs could set up defensively.
“It was everything, that’s our game, that’s how we play,” Lee said after the win when asked how important it was for the Thunderbirds to establish tempo early in the fourth quarter of a game which Centennial had expertly managed to play at it own pace.
“When we move fast, it gets us going, and it give us energy on defence, too,”
Yet kudos are due to Centennial, who got another outstanding performance from the 6-foot-10 Ibekwe.
Despite constant collapsing double- and triple-team defences, Ibekwe managed to score 30 points, go along with 19 rebounds and six blocks.
Yet as the ‘Birds built a 61-54 lead off a Lee three-pointer with 9:45 remaining, the tide of the game seemed to turn.
Semiahmoo came out of a time-out and not only started to do a better job of denying entry to Ibekwe, they were picking off the passes which ignited the transition and ultimately enabled the Thunderbirds to build a lead as large as 15 points down the stretch.
“We knew we were going to have to speed up the pace against Centennial and K.C.,” said ‘Birds head coach Ed Lefurgy, who last led his team to the Final Four back in 2018, the year it lost in the championship final to Burnaby South.
“We struggled early and they did an incredible job of playing at their pace and getting what they needed. So we talked about it for about a minute at the half, what we were thinking of doing.. we drew it up on a scrap piece of paper… these kids are so coachable.”
Often times frustrated by Centennial’s 2-3 zone, and over-matched in the block by the unstoppable ways of Ibekwe, they somehow found a way to extend their season.
And about Lee, himself the son of a point guard?
“I am surprised it’s taken this long for people to realize that he is an incredible player,” said Lefurgy of the son of Brian Lee, who coached St. George’s to the B.C. title back in 2009.
“Athletically, with his change of pace, and in how he’s starting to become a much better distributor, he is incredible and he is one of the toughest kids that I have ever coached. Last game he shot poorly and we thought maybe there was a lid on the rim, but I guess he want and took it off at halftime, and he put a bigger rim on it.”
Sam Snyder with 16 points and Cole Bekkering with 14 also hit double figures in scoring for the Thunderbirds.
Centennial’s Nick Yang had 16 points while teammate Matthew Lee added 11.
Fittingly, in a game he triggered with tempo, Lee nearly dove over the minor officials table to not only save a basketball, but in one motion send it right into the trajectory of teammate Andre Juco who took it in for the uncontested lay-up which wrapped up the scoring.
VANCOUVER COLLEGE 94 FLEETWOOD PARK 79
LANGLEY — The Vancouver College Fighting Irish were a team looking for any kind of a spark Friday night against Surrey’s Fleetwood Park Dragons.
It was right around that time, in the latter stages of the third quarter of their B.C. Quad-A championship quarterfinal, that Irish head coach Mer Marghetti elected to pull the secret weapon out of her team’s figurative back pocket.
Fleetwood Park had built a 57-48 lead with 5:55 remaining in the third quarter and the Irish appeared to be fading fast. That’s when Marghetti changed up her team’s defensive strategy, and boy, did it work.
The Irish proceeded to go on a 25-8 run to end of the third quarter, taking a 73-65 lead and all of the momentum in the fourth quarter of what would be a 94-79 win.
“Our diamond press,” smiled Marghetti. “Our guys were ready to do it. We were all locked in on it. We went with a smaller, fierce line-up and they did an awesome job getting stops and then capitalizing on that.”
The head coach explained that the belief her players had in the zone, despite some growing pains with it, is why is proved to be as game-changing as it was.
“I think you have to be bought into it, and we had games where they weren’t really bought into it, or if they got beat once they were not totally convinced it would work, but over time they have realize that sometimes we are going to get beat but you just have to go with it and not give up,” she said.
The victory moves Vancouver College into Friday’s Final Four against Surrey’s Semiahmoo Thunderbirds as the Irish look for a return to the final for the first time since 2011, and continue the chase for its first title since 1967.
Both teams ran into adversity along the way Thursday, most notably the Dragons’ senior guard Rav Randhawa fouling out of the game down the stretch drive, taking his team-high 21 points to the bench.
As well, Vancouver College leader Cole Cruz-Dumont was helped off the floor with an ankle injury with about six minutes left in the game.
Marghetti said she was hopeful he could play against Semiahmoo.
The loss may have taken Fleetwood Park out of the championship running, yet the progress both its junior and senior varsity teams have made this season has the program at perhaps its deepest ever.
“They can score, those boys can score and they are shifty when they do it,” said Marghetti of Fleetwood Park. “They definitely kept us on our toes and made us think twice about what we were doing for a while. Huge kudos to them.”
Mikyle Malabuyoc had 31 points to lead the winners, Cruz-Dumont had 27 and Enrique Garcia another 10.
Inder Deol had 17 for the Dragons and Allan Landasan another 10.
WALNUT GROVE 94 ST. GEORGE’S 92 (OT)
LANGLEY — After a cancelled season, could B.C. senior boys high school basketball come back with any more excitement?
Callum Neilly hit three of four three-point buckets over the final nine minutes of play, forward Dylan Senft continued to play with an unstoppable motor, and the No. 8 seed, hometown Walnut Grove Gators crashed the Final Four dance in stupendous fashion here at the Langley Events Centre, rallying from 21 points down in the third quarter to stun the No. 1-seeded St. George’s Saints of Vancouver 94-92 in overtime in the third of four quarterfinals contested Thursday at the B.C. boys Quad-A basketball championships.
Neilly’s ice-veined triple with 2.6 seconds remaining forced overtime.
“Our team just doesn’t give up,” said Gators’ senior guard Kevin Kao, whose return to the team from a torn meniscus in January helped transform Walnut Grove from a sub-.500 team to a B.C. hopeful as winter began to inch towards March Madness.
“When we’re down 20, we just keep on fighting.. we don’t lose confidence, we keep shooting the ball. Our coach has put a lot of confidence in us, so when we’re open, we just let it fly.”
Lesser teams would have surely wilted against a Saints team which, all season, epitomized its team toughness, and the fact that it always played bigger than its size as its kept its foes out of the lane.
On Thursday, the Gators broke through the veneer of the deserving Sea-to-Sky champs with their own version of team toughness.
Senft, playing like an MVP candidate for the Gators, simply never let the hopelessness of a 73-54 third-quarter deficit to the No. 1 seeded team in the B.C. Elite 8 get in his way of helping lead his team to a comeback win.
Instead, he helped key a 13-0 run to start the third quarter, one whose momentum built off a key schematic change suggested by assistant coach Aly Nuruddin.
Senft was 13-of-16 from the field for a game-high 31 points to go along with 12 rebounds.
Guard Daniel Ahn added 20 points for the winners.
One day after escaping with a two-point win over Terry Fox in the opening round, the Gators will face the winner of Thursday’s final quarterfinal between No. 4 Kelowna and No. 5 Burnaby South on Friday with a berth in the final on the line.
St. George’s was led by the 26 points of guard Jack Vandenberg who fouled out of the proceedings with 3:24 remaining in regulation and his team locked in an 86-86 tie.
Robert Orr added 20 points and Will Hyland 19 in the loss.
For Kao, the victory re-affirmed just how much momentum his team has picked up as it won for the 13th time in its last 14 games.
“I feel like we pride ourselves in our conditioning and I like to think that is a big reason why we can win this whole thing,” he said. “That is what I felt ever since the start of the season.”
BURNABY SOUTH 76 KELOWNA 67
LANGLEY — The first three seeds to qualify for Friday’s Final Four from the B.C. senior boys Quad-A basketball quarterfinals on Thursday?
How about Nos. 3 (Vancouver College), 7 (Semiahmoo) and 8 (Walnut Grove)?
“That tells you that it’s anybody’s season and this is what is has been about all year,” said Burnaby South Rebels’ head coach Mike Bell, whose No. 5-seeded team wrapped up the evening by joining the quartet with a 76-67 win over No. 4 Kelowna , capping a day drenched in a level of parity that makes everything from this point forward an absolute guessing game.
“But at the end of the day, the seeds don’t matter,” said Bell, who was able to play starting post Karan Aujla for the second straight day after he had been lost for a month with a knee injury.
“What matters is who shows up at the end of the day and plays their best.”
Bell wasn’t happy with his team’s play, and he tipped his hat to the schemes of opposing head coach Harry Parmar of the Owls, who kept it close all game long, and had pulled to within 64-61 with 4:48 remaining on a triple by Oaklan Kowal.
Perhaps that lit a fire in the Rebels, because they preceded to go on an 11-1 run which ultimately won them the game.
“Let’s be honest, we didn’t play our best,” said Bell. “I thought Harry did a great job with his strategy. They took away Karan and they sagged in the paint. But then we were able to flick a switch.
“I am hoping that we clue in that this is a bigger deal, that it’s time to take the game serious,” added Bell, whose charges get set to face the late-surging but locked-in Walnut Grove Gators, the No. 8 seeds out of Langley.
Burnaby South, as Bell points out, is an energy team, “and everyone had to play, and when they come in they have to have the right energy.”
On Thursday, Aujla wasn’t allowed to get into his rhythm in the paint by KSS, and finished with 13 points. From the Rebels; perspective, however, he looked nimble and agile, and ready to throw his hat into the ring against the Gators’ Dylan Senft.
Three others, however, added 11 apiece in guard Jimmy Zaborniak and Brady Lau, and forward Andy Chen.
The Owls got 17 from Kowal, 12 from Nash Semeniuk, 11 from Cole Koop, and 10 apiece from Maxim Storozhuk and Micah Borne.
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