LANGLEY — Since moving to its new home at the Langley Events Centre in time for March Madness 2014, the B.C. senior boys AA championships have been won just once by a public school.
That was back in that first year when Victoria’s Lambrick Park Lions took the title.
Lambrick, along with pre-season favourite Seycove of North Vancouver, Charles Hays of Prince Rupert, and Westsyde of Kamloops are among the predicted contenders in 2018-19, along with traditional private school toughies like Shawnigan Lake, St. Patrick’s, Collingwood and Southridge.
Here’s our look at the Pre-preseason Top 10 along with honourable mentions for the B.C senior varsity AA tier:
1 SEYCOVE SEYHAWKS (North Vancouver)
They won’t sneak up on anyone this season. The Seyhawks, making just their second B.C. tourney appearance in 34 years earlier this month, came up against juggernaut Brentwood College in the Final Four, but rebounded nicely against No. 2 overall seed Westsyde to finish third. Christopher Ross leaves via graduation but rising seniors Dylon Matthews and Douglas Musselman lead a talented group in 2018-19.
2 SHAWNIGAN LAKE STAGS
Head coach Vito Pasquale’s crew gave eventual repeat champ Brentwood College their biggest push of the week, and the two players that helped the Stags’ cause most in that game — 6-foot-11 rising senior post Sergio Pereira and 6-foot-2 rising Grade 11 guard DruLeo Leusogi-Ape — return. Pereira’s length makes him one of the province’s true game changers in 2018-19.
3 WESTSYDE WHUNDAS (Kamloops)
The Okanagan champs were B.C.’s only undefeated team at any tier heading into provincials, so losing its final two games at the LEC was not the ending the Whundas had in mind. Three of its starters, including star 6-foot-6 forward Spencer Ledoux will graduate, yet rising senior guards Carsen Day and Tanner Koroluk return to help fortify another run.
4 ST. PATRICK’S CELTICS (Vancouver)
A solid and deep core of returnees has head coach Nap Santos’ team on the rise as one of the Lowe Mainland’s top squads. Rising seniors Dencel Mondragon and Leiron Dionco, and rising Grade 11 Payja Santos are among the core group which will be bolstered by Jakob Gies and Jenmark Ramos from the JV team which qualified for the B.C. junior championships under coach John Boateng.
5 CHARLES HAYS RAINMAKERS (Prince Rupert)
Malcolm Brown and Christian Clifton depart via graduation but the Rainmakers bring back rising senior Liam McChesney and Grade 11 guard Kai Leighton to a deep group of returnees, as well as a junior varsity team which, unfortunately, was unable to compete at the B.C. JV provincials after the bad weather, which blanketed the province the day before the tourney began, prevented them from taking part.
6 D.P. TODD TROJANS (Prince George)
This past season’s North Central champs lose guard Raymon Dhillon from their starting group, but a large and balanced class of underclassmen return. Three of those are rising Grade 11s — Saagar Shergil, Cameron Sale, Holden Black — suggesting the Trojans are in the midst of a strong run among the tier’s provincial elite.
7 LAMBRICK PARK LIONS (Victoria)
Victoria’s Lions, under the leadership of veteran coach Ed Somers, have key players returning across the age spectrum. Rising senior Luke de Greef, a 6-foot-4 forward, is looking forward to a full healthy season after tearing his ACL two games into this past season. He will be joined by rising Grade 11 guard Coban Scott, and rising Grade 10 guard Cormick Brown, the latter a fulltime senior varsity starter this season with the Lions as a Grade 9.
8 COLLINGWOOD CAVALIERS (West Vancouver)
The West Vancouverites, a 2016 B.C. AA title winner, will feel the loss of both Denis Tuck and Brodie Jacobs to graduation. Rising Grade 11 point guard Lochlan Collins, however, returns for head coach Andy Wong, and is set to lead in his third season at the senior varsity level. Eight other rising seniors will return from a team that split six games this past season with arch-rival Seycove, including an 88-80 OT loss in the Howe Sound finals.
9 SOUTHRIDGE STORM (Surrey)
Aidan Alderson, Dharam Buttar and Frank Wang depart from a senior class that made the FV Final Four and qualified for provincials for head coach Steve Anderson. Yet a deep roster has plenty of seasoned help returning, led by smooth-shooting wing and rising senior Armaan Abraham and rising Grade 11 guard Harrison Hughes, the younger brother of former B.C. AA MVP Hunter Hughes.
10 ST. MICHAELS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL BLUE JAGS (Victoria)
The Blue Jags, a 2A B.C. tourney fixture, were absent this season after falling in a wild-card challenge game to Kamloops’ Sa-Hali Sabres. The lessons learned in defeat will carry SMUS into the season on Vancouver Island where they will battle with the likes of Shawnigan Lake and local rivals Lambrick Park. Rising senior guard and team scoring leader Ty Olynyk returns, while help from the JV ranks comes in the form of guard Will Kinahan and forward Noah Helman.
HONOURABLE MENTION — (in alphabetical order) Brentwood College (Mill Bay), Britannia Bruins (Vancouver), George Elliot Coyotes (Lake Country), King George Dragons (Vancouver), Langley Christian Lightning
(Reporting by Howard Tsumura, photography by Howard Tsumura, Wilson Wong, Dan Kinvig, rankings by Lyle Dhur, sportvictoria.com)
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