Riley Santa Juana of the St. Patrick's Celtics is watched closely by Terrace's Caledonia Kermodes during Day 1 Sweet 16 play at the 2024 B.C. senior boys basketball championships March 6, 2024 at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Wilson Wong property of Langley Events Centre 2024. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Boys Basketball

3-A Boys: St. Pat’s open three-peat journey in style! Says coach Santos: “…All we can do is focus on what we do best”


By AARON MARTIN (Special for Varsity Letters)

The St. Pat’s Celtics come into the the B.C. Triple A High School Championships with a shot something rarely accomplished – at any level, any sport.

A three-peat.

One of the most storied programs in the provincial tournament history, the current iteration of the top-ranked Celtics got their quest for immortality off to a phenomenal start on Wednesday evening, toppling the No. 16-ranked Caledonia Kermodes of Terrace.

However, the story of the night wasn’t the dominant, albeit expected, outcome. It was the seemingly endless energy with which St. Pat’s attacked the game. The Celtics were everywhere on both ends of the court – too big, too fast, too relentless.

By the end of the first quarter, the Celtics were up 21-6. In a game where the tournament favourites could have easily come out flat, St. Pat’s came out like they had something to prove.

For Nap Santos, the man behind the Celtics’ near-dynastic run, one in which excellence has become the expectation, the key is the ability to stay in the moment.

“It’s not about what’s ahead of us, it’s what’s in front of us in any given moment,” said the St. Pat’s head coach. “I’m try not to let them focus on the opponent as much as I want them to focus on what we do best as a team. If we do what we need to, like play defense, that’s going to be enough. Our energy starts on defense – that’s how we stay engaged on any play.”

Both the defense, and the offense, were clicking on all cylinders – it was 47-11 at half time, including a 25-0 run through the second quarter. By the end of three quarters, it was 81-27.

And even well into their bench rotation, the Celtics’ energy never dipped. Part of that 25-0 run encapsulated Santos’ entire ethos. After Ethan Santa Juana knocked down a triple, he proceded to knock the ball out of bounds as Caledonia came up the floor in transition. The Celtics then forced a turnover on the inbounds, and then raced upcourt to knock down another basket – the entire sequence took about 10 seconds off the game clock.

The St. Pats’ relentlessness may be their foundation, but their ability to stay calm in the face of mounting pressure, the increased expectations as the two-time champions, is equally as important to their chase of a dynasty.

“Really, it’s nothing we haven’t seen,” said Santos of the outside noise. “We had the expectations coming in last year, we were the target that people wanted to come after. All we can do is focus on what we do best, and the ability we know we have. If we can rely on what we’ve trained for I know good things will happen.”

He went on to elaborate that this year’s group, most of whom were on at least one of their previous championship rosters, have an implicit understanding of their expectations going in.

“They know,” laughed Santos. “They’re teenagers, so sometimes they might forget every once in while, but for the most part, our coaches are good about making sure all of them – whether they were on the team last year or not – get what we’re trying to do. We’ve succeeded with it the last few years, and we want to keep that going.”

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