LANGLEY — They call it their Redemption Season.
Ever since a Grade 8 campaign back in 2018-19 fell well short of their expectations, the Class of 2024 boys basketball team from Burnaby South Secondary has been out to prove a point to both themselves and the rest of the province.
And on Saturday, on a perilous opening day at the B.C. junior boys championships in which all of its survivors had to win back-to-back sudden elimination games in order to remain in title contention, it wasn’t hard to see where these JV Rebels were getting their motivation.
After a 61-33 morning win over Langley’s R.E. Mountain Eagles, Burnaby South’s nightcap was a bit of tougher challenge in the form of Surrey’s Tamanawis Wildcats.
“They came out and were slapping us a little early, but my guys … we have been through this all year long, just trying to grind it out,” Rebels’ head coach Rupi Dahia said after his team rallied from as many as 14 points down, topping the Wildcats 56-44 with an awe-inspiring 26-5 game-closing run.
“It’s been our redemption season, that’s what we call it,” continued Dahia, whose team faces the West Vancouver Highlanders in a 3:30 p.m. quarterfinal clash Sunday on Day 2 of the four-day tournament being staged at the Langley Events Centre.
“In Grade 8, we didn’t have that success we wanted and expected of these guys, and they have been working for last two years to get their respect back. They’re trying to prove that a bunch of small guys can actually compete with the taller teams.”
The Rebels were led by 18 points of Lordrikk Gutierrez, who at 5-foot-9 appears, according to virtually every metric, to be an undersized power forward, yet he plays with a stature that goes beyond the tape measure.
“He is .. I call him the fusion of Charles Barkley and LeBron James,” chuckles Dahia of two distinguished NBAers past and present who each brought nimble athleticism with power and a low centre of gravity, and flourished because of it.
“His footwork is probably the best I have seen for his age group. It’s unreal and that is what gets him all this success. He’s really smart when he’s in there.”
And his spin move is so effective it has transcended the ranks of gimmickry to stand as a part of his bread-and-butter cache.
Also on Saturday, teammates Mahtab Rasode and Roan Mendoza added 13 and 11 points respectively.
Gursewak Mann scored 11 points and Sartaj Bhangu 10 in a losing cause for the Wildcats.
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