LANGLEY — Just checking in with you all today with the latest update from the ‘Just how good is B.C. boys high school basketball compared to our neighbours from the south in Washington’ department.
Reporting straight from the scene this weekend at the Langley Events Centre, your trusty agent can inform you with confidence: Our best has a shooting chance against their best.
In fact, that’s pretty much what went down Friday night at the LEC when Torian Lee, the ridiculously-talented 5-foot-10 Grade 11 point guard with B.C.’s Quad-A No. 1-ranked Semiahmoo Thunderbirds unfurled a potential game-tying three-pointer in the dying seconds which fell just shy in an entertaining 80-77 loss to the Eastside Catholic Crusaders of Sammamish, a Seattle-area Metro League team currently ranked No. 6 in an overall poll of the state’s best high school teams.
“I thought I was going to hit it when I put it up. Man, I don’t know…it didn’t go in,” the disappointed but unflappable Lee later explained.
Chimed Lee’s fellow Grade 11 running mate Cole Bekkering, a 6-foot-5 forward who uses his rare blend of power and touch to incredible effect: “It hurts because we know we can win (against top U.S. schools). But the end goal is always provincial finals.”
Scheduled to cap an evening in which the Tsumura Basketball Invitational had marched out game after game of the province’s best Quad- and Triple-A teams in the usual inter-provincial format, the standalone Semiahmoo-Eastside Catholic clash was the perfect end to as perfect a day of hoops as you might imagine possible.
As your author provided the play-by-play call, and Steveston London Secondary boys head coach Mike Stoneburgh the expert game analysis on the pay-per-view stream, our phones lit up with texts from viewers in seemingly every corner of the B.C. hoops world.
When I posed the on-air question: “Had a B.C. team every beaten a Top 10 team from Washington state?” We soon had the answer from legendary Richmond Colts, St. George’s and Vancouver College head coach Bill Disbrow.
“Richmond High beat No. 1 Garfield in the final our of (Colt Review) tournament. It was the (1998) team. Pasha (Bains), Gil (Cheung), Atnas (Maeko).”
As a point of comparison, or… as close as we can get in terms of degrees of separation: The night previous, current Washington No. 1 Garfield, complete with star 6-foot-7 wing Jaylin Stewart (UConn), the player many think is the state’s No. 1-ranked player, beat Eastside Catholic 63-55 in a game that was a one-point contest with three minutes to go.
The Crusaders then made their way to Langley the next day, and while a little fuzzy on the B.C. boys high school rulebook, were nonetheless ready, boasting another of the top recruits on the West Coast in Jacob Cofie, a 6-foot-10 Grade 11 forward/guard/post who is seemingly being offered by a new high-major Div. 1 each day.
This game, as per the last-second game-tying three-point attempt by Lee, was as absolute a saw-off as you’re apt to find.
Semiahmoo, just before the half, established its biggest lead of the game at 12 points (45-33).
Yet even after the Crusaders simplified their approach with a physical, in-the-paint based attack to Cofie and fellow 6-foot-10 forward Yabi Aklog (just a Grade 9) to not only regain command, but wrest the lead away from the ‘Birds, Semiahmoo still had the guile, guts and gravitas to swing back with their own brand of poise under pressure.
The simplest of numbers don’t lie.
Eastside Catholic’s Cofie had 26 to lead all scorers. Aklog, making just the second varsity start of his career, finished with 15. Nate Krohn, the ‘heartbeat-of-the-team’ guard had 10.
Semiahmoo got 19 from Bekkering and 18 from Lee.
But what was perhaps the most incredible part of the night from a hometown perspective?
EVERYONE that Semiahmoo head coach Les Brown put on the floor performed at or above their current ceiling.
Jodhan Waraich, a 6-foot Grade 11 guard whom you might not yet think of as a ‘Mr. Clutch-type’, scored six of his 11 points in the final four minutes of what had become a tooth-and-nail battle.
When 6-foot-7 post Marcus Flores (six points) ran into foul trouble in the first half, 6-foot-5 forward Jack Clayton came in and promptly showed the shooting touch and range of what this game lovingly refers to as a ‘mad bomber’.
That kid is smooth.
Andre Juco (six points). Check.
Maddox Budiman (eight points). Check.
Yet deep within our Canadian souls, whether we can admit it or not, there is a comfort that comes from outside validation.
There is a surge of pride that comes from the tip of the hat from our big brothers in the land of 24/7 hoops madness, bracketology and a level of national high school reporting that this writer embraced when first exposed to it in the mid-1980s through the likes of the USA Super 25 poll.
So, who better to ask than Eastside Catholic head coach Brent Merritt, a man who clearly sees outside the confines of the U.S. model and appreciated every nuance of the team which almost sent his Crusaders back to Sammamish with a loss.
I think his voluminous quotes, the kind I label as ‘pure gold’, will be the best way to wind this Sunday Read down.
I also think his responses will carry big impact.
So here we go:
Q: Coach, your thoughts on what you saw today from Semiahmoo?
A: I love them. I love 14 (Cole Bekkering). I love No. 1 (Torian Lee) ‘cause as I told our guys, we haven’t had a guy that we haven’t been able to stay in front of. We pressure 94 feet. That’s what we do. We pressured Garfield pretty well last night. They don’t have a natural-type point guard so we were really successful with that.
On this team, we’ve got four point guards. That’s a lot. We also have a fifth that could be here, but we’ve got four, so the other is on junior varsity. I have never had four point guards on varsity. And all of them said to me that he (Lee) was too fast. So we got to back up (didn’t press) and that’s the first time we’ve ever done that. So he (Lee) gets major props… and he shoots it. He’s strong. He makes it pretty difficult. So I am like ‘OK give him space’. But they are like ‘…but coach, then he shoots it.’
Q: And Cole Bekkering, the big kid, No. 14?
A: And the big kid? I didn’t know he could shoot it, ‘cause just like 33 (Jack Clayton), 14 shoots it. But if you look at his body you say ‘Hell no, he can’t shoot it. He’s too big. He’s too muscular’. But…he shoots it. I think he needs to work on his left-hand going left because if he goes both ways… he’s right-hand dominant… but if he goes right-left? Lord Jesus … whatch’a do about him?
He looks like a defensive end. I don’t know why he doesn’t play football. That is an an NFL body.
We had a player — Jalen Tohelamoa — he plays for Ohio State now (sophomore defensive end), and he was a point-centre for us. (Bekkering’s) body-type reminds me of him. But JT is an all-Big 10 player, so that kid needs to play football. He’s going to the NFL if he plays football because he moves so fast. I love him. He is going to be amazing.
That’s this perfect place for us to close.
If you knew in your heart of hearts that Torian Lee and Cole Bekkering were special players, well, you were right.
They’d be stars on any high school team on this continent.
And there’s a number of others in our very own B.C. high school community who are capable of the same.
More proof came Friday.
I’m still letting it all sink in, and I’m doing it with a smile.
Hope you are, too.
Writing this stuff is the fun part.
If you’re reading this story or viewing these photos on any website other than one belonging to a university athletic department, it has been taken without appropriate permission. In these challenging times, true journalism will survive only through your dedicated support and loyalty. VarsityLetters.ca and all of its exclusive content has been created to serve B.C.’s high school and university sports community with hard work, integrity and respect. Feel free to drop us a line any time at email@example.com.