LANGLEY — Five of the eight quarterfinalists from the recent B.C. boys senior boys AAA championships are back as part of the Pre-Preseason rankings.
All of that adds up to growing rivalries and the continued competitive excellence within the province’s newest tier.
Here’s our early look at the teams to beat. We’ll follow with our boys AAAA rankings on Monday.
1 NORTH DELTA HUSKIES
After back-to-back B.C. Final Fours, at the JV level in 2017 and of course, at the senior AAA level last week, the Huskies are tabbed to win their first provincial senior varsity title since the 1989-90 edition beat the Richmond Colts for the top-tiered title.
This past season’s group got great play from its seniors like Armaan Johal and Brandon Bassi, but now it’s time for its core talent of rising seniors to shine, led by scoring forward Suraj Gahir and point guard Arun Atker.
2 SIR CHARLES TUPPER TIGERS (Vancouver)
If they stay healthy and build chemistry between the front and front and back courts, the sky is the limit for the Tigers, whose current rising seniors lost to Burnaby South in the 2017 B.C. JV final. That group includes returning guards Gaurab Acharya, Seb Lemos and Norben Bulosan, and returning forwards in rising senior Simon Crossfield, rising 11 Matt Dunkerley and rising 10 Luke Tobias.
3 R.A. MCMATH WILDCATS (Richmond)
Jordin Kojima and Bryce Mason were seniors of influence for the ‘Cats this past season.
Now, a new core steps forward led by rising Grade 11s Victor Radocaj (6-foot-9) and Rohan Balaggan, and rising senior Natrone Gonzales.
4 G.W. GRAHAM GRIZZLIES (Chilliwack)
This is a program on the rise under head coach Jake Mouritzen. A Double-A program in 2016-17, it took an 11th hour loss at Fraser Valleys to keep them out of the AAA Big Dance. Now they are back with 11 returnees led by rising senior swingman Geevon Janday. Rising 11s are solid, including point guard Cairo Almarez and 6-foot-6 twins Zachary and Matthias Klim.
5 BYRNE CREEK BULLDOGS (Burnaby)
Their growth curve has been substantial over the past few seasons under head coach Bal Dhillon, and last week it took them right to the B.C. final where they fell to South Kamloops. Five main rotation players leave via graduation but the team still returns rising seniors Bithow Wan, Sufi Ahmed and Titgol Jok.
6 RICK HANSEN HURRICANES (Abbotsford)
The team you never count out.
Without a fulltime starter returning this past season following its ’17 B.C. title, the ‘Canes still danced in March, and as they look forward, Gurlal Mann and Harjas Dhillon are their only main rotation losses. Gautam Dhaliwal, Gurkaran Mangat and Harjot Dhaliwal all started as Grade 11s and move forward into their senior seasons as part of a roster which returns 11 players.
7 VERNON PANTHERS
It’s just a superb crop of 2001- and 2002-born student-athletes at VSS.
Rising seniors Thomas Hyett and 6-foot-9 Ryan Wiebe are top holdovers from last season’s senior team which did not qualify for provincials.
The big boost is right behind them in a Panthers’ JV team which lost to eventual finalist Lord Tweedsmuir in an epic OT quarterfinal battle at the B.C. junior championships. Point guard Zack Smith, shooter extraordinaire Isaiah Ondrik, and frontcourt standouts Liam Reid and Kevin Morgan carry the same kind of JV-to-senior talent that recent groups at North Delta, Charles Tupper and Burnaby South have carried forward to the next level.
8 MARK ISFLED ICE (Courtenay)
The Ice, coached by veteran Tom Elwood, got great experience at this season’s provincials and they will come back strong with one of the tier’s most dynamic players in rising senior guard Thaskani Mtawali, the Vancouver Island MVP who averaged 27 ppg. Rising Grade 10 guard Aidan McDonald started as a ninth grader for the Island champs.
9 PITT MEADOWS MARAUDERS
They made a huge run to fourth place in the provincial tourney, yet big man Gio Manu is off to a football career at UBC, while other top rotation players like Conor Laverty Ross Power and Caleb Kinney also leave via graduation. That leaves 6-foot-7 Colton Leon, one of the tier’s best players, to lead a young team next season. Fellow 6-foot-6 forward Benjamin Pollard also returns.
10 OKANAGAN MISSION HUSKIES (Kelowna)
Three key rising seniors of influence return to give the Huskies one of the Okanagan’s top teams. Guard Marty Kopp, wing Justin Charlton and forwards Phi Michl and Harrison Bartolon are among the leading lights for head coach Rob Charlton.
HONOURABLE MENTION — Magee Lions (Vancouver), A.R. MacNeill Ravens (Richmond), G.P. Vanier Towees (Courtenay), Clayton Heights Night Riders (Surrey), Duchess Park Condors (Prince George)
(Reporting by Howard Tsumura, photos by Howard Tsumura and Wilson Wong, rankings from BCHSBBA)
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