LANGLEY — The toughest overall quadrant across all four tiers of competition at the 2020 B.C. senior boys basketball championships belongs to a quartet of teams who have been provincially ranked or owned honourable mention status for the entire season.
In a nutshell, that’s the best way to describe the No. 4 Vancouver College Fighting Irish vs. Surrey’s No. 13 Fleetwood Park Dragons, and the No. 5 Abbotsford Panthers vs. PoCo’s No. 12 Terry Fox Ravens foursome which makes up one-quarter of the Quad-A draw.
Don’t let the seed numbers fool you here, because although the pairings create some generous gaps, there are enough scores from earlier this season to indicate great Day 1 matchups.
For starters, Terry Fox, which had to win a sudden-elimination game just to claim the third-and-final B.C. berth from the Fraser North zone, played Eastern Valley champion Abbotsford tight in their only meeting, with Panthers winning 80-79 in late January at the Vancouver College Emerald.
Also consider that No. 13 Fleetwood Park, making its first B.C. tourney appearance since winning the B.C. Triple A title back in 2015, lost just 72-70 to visiting Abbotsford early January, and that on Feb. 1, the Panthers travelled to Vancouver College for the occasion of Irish Senior’s Day and lost just 82-80.
Of course leaning on comparison scores is dangerous, yet there is enough to suggest, shy of predicting outcomes, that the three games from this quadrant which will produce a Final Four participant on Friday could be amongst the best games of the first two days.
After his Panthers beat Yale 90-79 in the inaugural East Valley final just over a week ago at the LEC, Abbotsford’s fourth win this season over the arch-rival Lions, head coach Greg DeVries liked the way that his team has been able to make adjustments in their game to counter what familiar opponents throw their way.
“If you noticed the match-up zone Yale was running in the first half, that was new for them against us,” said DeVries. “But our boys take what is coming at them, and they don’t get down when tough patches come. They just battle back constantly.”
Keyan DeVries led the Panthers with 24 points in the win while Karn Brar and Brandt Lenz scored 19 each. Marley Edwards added another 10.
“The ultimate tournament is next week,” said DeVries, the former Nelson-L.V. Rogers, and Alberta Golden Bears star after the Eastern Valley tourney, looking ahead to the B.C.’s. “That is the one we really care about. But today was good because we are learning about playoff basketball.”
Much the same can be said for Terry Fox, who took losses on chin from heavy grad tolls at the start the season but have found their identity, based around Grade 11 guard Cam Slaymaker and his 30 ppg average.
“It has been an up and down season for us,” admits co-coach Brad Petersen. “We have had some great moments where we look like we can compete against the Top 5 teams and then we have had some moments when it looks like we are just average. The defining moment of this season was qualifying for the provincial tournament. There was always a strong belief we could make it, but we needed to remain mentally strong during some of the down stretches.”
Vancouver College, wracked by injury at various stages of its season, come into the tournament having put together its most clutch performances of the campaign at the very end, including a sudden-elimination battle to qualify for the provincial against arch-rival St. George’s.
Senior guard Hunter Cruz-Dumont (24.8 ppg) and Grade 11 forward Jacob Holt (19.4 ppg, 11.6 rpg) will be key, and with VC’s health seemingly restored in time for the Big Dance, Fleetwood Park could well have its hands full.
Yet for head coach Nick Day’s Dragons, still very young at its core, grabbing this spot in the field as a No. 13 seed seems on cue for a group which at times has looked ready to grasp consistency and reach a new level.
Grade 10 guard Rav Randhawa (22 ppg), senior Abishek Kanagasabay (16 ppg) and rapidly-improving Grade 10 forward Gurek Sran have been the leading lights for a team which earlier this season, beat the field’s No. 6-seed Holy Cross Crusaders 75-66.
And all of this has come after the team lost a senior standout in Amrit Bassi to a torn ACL before Christmas.
“This team learned that it had to battle without one of the best two-way players in the province,” said head coach Nick Day of the loss of Bassi. “We did that, and we’ve found our way back to the LEC.”
Abbotsford faces Terry Fox at 11:45 a.m., while Vancouver College faces Fleetwood Park at 1:15 p.m. The two winners meet in the quarterfinals at 3 p.m. Thursday.
An 8:45 p.m. semifinal awaits that winner, ahead of a possible berth in Saturday’s 8:15 p.m. championship final.
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