On his way to tourney MVP honours, Dover Bay's Frank Linder takes aim against the MEI Eagles in Saturday's B.C. Triple-A championship final March 9, 2024 at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Blair Shier property of Vancouver Sports Pictures 2024. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Boys Basketball

Boys 3-A championship: No words could be more true than ‘It’s not a race, it’s a marathon’ for Dover Bay! Dolphins’ coach Seaman, MVP Linder put trust in grand plan in B.C. title-game win over MEI Eagles!

LANGLEY — Explore the deep and voluminous lore of B.C. senior boys basketball history, and a common thread of its early days often times centres around the good, old-fashioned discipline of running.

As I grew into the high school school reporter’s beat at The Province newspaper in the early 1990s, I heard the tales of teams like the 1964 B.C. champion Prince Rupert Rainmakers strengthening their resolve as a basketball team with a physical conditioning program under head coach Norm Vickery which tested their wills to the brink of collapse, yet ultimately united them with the strength to endure as their opposition would fade deep into games.

“If you crossed a Tasmanian Devil with a Marine camp drill sergeant, you might get something close to Norm Vickery,” my former colleague at The Province, the late, great columnist Jim Taylor wrote, as he waxed rhapsodically back in 1994 on the then-30th anniversary of the Rainmakers’ historic 43-41 B.C. championship win over Abbotsford.

It’s funny how time flies, but at the same time manages to remain perched right there on your left shoulder, just waiting to be summoned as instantly as it was for me on Saturday night with nothing more than a quick, figurative glance to my past.

On Saturday evening at the Langley Events Centre, just as the ceremonial cutting of the nets had been completed, I pulled Darren Seaman aside and asked the head coach about just how his Dover Bay Dolphins had beaten the MEI Eagles 75-61 to capture the B.C. senior boys Triple-A basketball championship title, when just two seasons ago, they weren’t even a rumour on the provincial title-contending scene.

In the real-time life of a developing basketball program, one led this season by a core of largely Grade 11 players, its ascent came at hyper speed.

Dover Bay head coach Darren Seaman has completed a lot of marathons, but none more satisfying than the one which came Saturday night at LEC as he hoists the sheared winning nylon twines, symbolic of his Dolphins’ B.C. title win over MEI in the 2024 B.C. senior boys Triple-A title game at the LEC. (Photo by Garrett James property of Langley Events Centre 2024. All Rights Reserved)

Yet the reality for Seaman, who grew up playing Single-A hoops on the north part of Vancouver Island for the Port Hardy Secondary School Whalers, is that these past few seasons have been a journey of total immersion for both he and his players.

“It seems quick,” he admitted, his voice breaking with emotion against the din of an LEC Arena Bowl sold-out to its maximum capacity, “but for me there’s been hours and hours and hours spent trying to figure this game out,” he explained.

“Every time I look, I realize how much more there is to learn, so I just keep digging and digging and digging. It just seems quick. For me it’s been every day. And all night.”

Yet it was only until you asked him to explain precisely what it was that allowed his team to gain the separation it needed to build and maintain its 10-to-14 point second-half advantage over MEI, that you finally discover that one unique strand of basketball DNA… the one which explains how these Dolphins seemed to just get stronger the longer Saturday’s title clash went.

“It’s the fitness. Fitness. We put fitness at the top,” began Seaman. “We play fast in practice. We run. We do all kinds of stuff to keep our guys fit. And I am a fitness guy… from ultramarathons.”

Indeed these are gentler times, and Seaman seems to show no outward signs of either Tasmanian Devil or drill sergeant, as Taylor teased 30 years ago.

Yet he will not deny how his coaching fundamentals have been shaped by the importance he places on the tenacity of his players in which go beyond bravura and into a mind space repped on a pure-guts belief that basketball is as much or more a test of will than skill.

With MEI’s Spencer Tatlock getting big in the paint, Frank Linder of Dover Bay tries to square up for an off-balance fade in Saturday’s B.C. Triple-A championship final March 9, 2024 at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Blair Shier property of Vancouver Sports Pictures 2024. All Rights Reserved)


As I scan my notebook of scratchings from Saturday’s game, I see highlighted and then circled, a key hoop with 2:03 remaining in the third quarter, one in which Dover Bay senior Oyama Crouch begins a quarter-court set with a lob into the team’s Grade 11 superstar Frank Linder some 15 feet from the basket.

The 6-foot-7 Linder fakes to his left, then spins right, gliding around his defender, all the while loading up his massive and graceful stride, one which splits a fast-closing double-team under the rim for a lay-in and 50-36 lead with 12:03 of game clock remaining.

The spring and the flow in Linder’s footwork at that stage of the game, coupled with the new hindsight into Seaman’s coaching philosophy is now so much clearer, and it’s why the entire team has had so much energy on its entire four-day run through the tournament field.

“He is a stud,” MEI head coach Mike Lee later said of wingspan-ladenLinder, soon to be named the tournament MVP after his 22 point, 15 rebound, five assist, four block, three steal performance which featured just one turnover over 37:52 of playing time. “The frame on him? And what is he? Six-seven? He’s so strong. And he doesn’t get tired. He just goes and goes and goes.”

It’s always easiest to see a team’s greatest strength through the player whom the most action will pivot through over the course of a game and at either end of the court.

And the same traits could be seen everywhere else on Saturday as well.

Crouch, with his blend of length, grit and feather-soft shooting three-point touch, finished with 13 points.

Senior guard Tarman Sandhu matched Linder with 22 points and four steals, and matched Crouch with three triples.

The 6-foot-6 post Hudson Trood matched opposition muscle inside and took away space whenever asked, grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds, including a game-high seven off the offensive glass, to go along with eight points.

And the team’s star of tomorrow, its Grade 9 point guard Joe Linder, played more minutes than his older brother, never leaving the floor once with six points, six boards and five assists. Sandhu also played all 40 minutes on Saturday.

And so for all intents and purposes, the team won with a seven-man rotation… not an easy task against an MEI team which was peaking to play its best basketball in March, its 10-man rotation led by its trio of on-court generals in Spencer Tatlock (16 points, four blocks), Ben Brandsma (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Isaiah Lee (15 points, six rebounds, six assists).

Felling the physicality of the MEI Eagles is Dover Bay guard Oyama Crouch in Saturday’s B.C. Triple-A championship final March 9, 2024 at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Blair Shier property of Vancouver Sports Pictures 2024. All Rights Reserved)

And so as we zoom in and then back out, examining the blueprint from which the foundation of this Dover Bay success story has been poured, you can’t help but come back but come to the realization that the head coach is also its master carpenter.

Yet how does Seaman explain the ways in which his background as an ultramarathoner has actually helped shaped his principles as a high school basketball coach?

“I am retired from that now, but I did race for my country and so I learned how to peak… the peaks and valleys, and to taper, and to get the guys here at the peak of their performance,” begins Seaman, 49, who as recently as eight years ago raced for Canada at the 2016 World Trail Championships, that year in Portugal, where he was among a pack of the planet’s best over an 86-kilometre course, a distance just over two complete marathons in length.

“There’s the mental part of it, too,” he continued of a facet which he gives his players all the credit for, stressing that their all-important buy-in was pivotal in being able to play at their very best for the full 40 minutes, one which came amidst the added external forces of pressure and anxiety brought on by the altitude of Saturday’s season-ending game.

“You have to be able to suffer to do those races and I am just getting these guys into their psyche, and I get them to go past places that they never thought they could. As you can see.. they do that every day.”

In the grand literary tradition, it has been written that getting to such places is like visiting the deep pain cave.

MEI Eagles’ head coach Mike Lee led his team to an Eastern Valley title and a berth in Saturday’s B.C. Triple-A final. (Photo by Garrett James property of Langley Events Centre 2024. All Rights Reserved)


The Dover Bay Dolphins could not have gotten a sterner test than the one they got from the MEI Eagles, who themselves were trying to snap a string dating back more than a half-century.

The Eagles last B.C. title had come in the very first year of senior boys multi-tiered play in this province: 1970.

That year, with the introduction of a Single-A tier, MEI won the very first top-tiered (back then Double-A) title, and ever since have been denied the pleasure during a streak which has included two previous losses in the top-tiered final to a pair of teams who have gone on to earn historic cache as the victors.

There were the 1987 Richmond Colts, who beat the Eagles and its tourney MVP big man Paul Chaffee 75-70 in the final, taking the initial step towards solidifying their stature as perhaps the greatest team of all time with the first of dominant back-to-back seasons as B.C. champs.

And there were also the 1995 Ladysmith 49ers who beat the Eagles 74-70 behind the dynamic guard Tony McCrory who that season averaged 38.5 points-per-game at the tournament. Coincidentally, the head coach of that Ladysmith team, Randy Steel, was actually on-hand Saturday night to receive the prestigious Rich Goulet Coaching Award for Lifetime Achievement.

And to top it all off, a legendary member of MEI’s last title team 54 years ago, the former Walnut Grove championship coach George Bergen, was in the building Saturday night, no doubt keeping his alma mater close in his heart while working as a part of the B.C. tournament committee.

Soaring to the rim with his head coach Mike Lee and Dover Bay’s Joe Linder looking on is MEI Eagles’ guard Ben Brandsma in Saturday’s B.C. Triple-A championship final March 9, 2024 at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Blair Shier property of Vancouver Sports Pictures 2024. All Rights Reserved)

Yet just as Eagles’ head coach Mike Lee had gotten his team to peak on a perfect cycle of their own heading into provincials, MEI had the unfortunate luck of not being able to keep its star player, 6-foot-9 Grade 11 forward Spencer Tatlock, healthy enough for him to enjoy anything that resembled a momentum-building stretch of extended games.

All of that said, it was hard to find a better player over these past few weeks as MEI’s snake-bitten big man, who in the space between his return from three down weeks in concussion recovery to suffering a badly-sprained ankle on the first day of the provincial tournament, was shaping into a kind revelatory force as a physical go-to man on offence and a blue-chip rim protector and rebounder on the defensive end.

Tatlock’s touches were effectively limited by Dover Bay on Saturday and for good reason. He was only allowed to take 10 shots, of which he connected at an  80 per cent (8-for-10) rate, scoring 16 points over a team-high over 32 minutes.

“He had a concussion… he was out for three weeks. He came back. Only three games back, then he has one of the most gross and ugly ankle sprains I’ve seen in my basketball career,” Lee explained. “He’s a warrior. That is all I can say. For all these grade 12’s, I am sad for them. But we’re loaded for next year and a bunch of guys have already said ‘Same time, same place next year, let’s go.’”

It’s the very same rallying cry that Dover Bay’s core of returnees made last season after the Dolphins lost to the St. Patrick’s Celtics 91-80 in the 2023 B.C. final.

And Tatlock was not wasting time feeling sorry for himself as the post-game awards ceremony began.

Like the true leader he will be as a senior next season, he kept everything as real as it needed to be.

“Rebounding, I think,” he said when asked what helped the Dolphins gain their second-half separation. “I picked up three (fouls) way too early (3:32 left third-quarter) and it just came down to who wanted it more, and they wanted the rebounds more than us.”

And about an ankle injury which was clearly keeping him from playing with the full abandon that defines his game?

“I gave my all and my best with what I had,” he said. “You know, we all tried our hardest and at the end of the day it all came down to who wanted it more and (Dover Bay) were just more hungry after their loss last year. We got the hunger coming back and hopefully, you’re going to see us back here next year.”

Darren Seaman (left, blue kicks) paces the sidelines as his Dover Bay Dolphins faced the MEI Eagles in Saturday’s B.C. Triple-A championship final March 9, 2024 at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Blair Shier property of Vancouver Sports Pictures 2024. All Rights Reserved)


Nowhere has there seemed to be, down through ages, more of a brotherly connection as it pertains to the roster of B.C. championship senior boys basketball teams than in Nanaimo.

You can start with the Kazanowski brothers who starred for the Nanaimo Islanders in the late 1970s.

And of course as we close our story on the incredible journey of the 2024 Dover Bay Dolphins, we would be remiss not to mention the 2007 Dolphins, who in a three-tiered province back 17 years ago, won the school’s first senior boys title behind the excellent play of brothers Greg and Torrey Gillies, as well as MVP big man Pat McCarthy.

Refined to its essence, who are these ’24 Dolphins?

They are a team whose image is best exemplified by its star and its B.C. MVP Frank Linder and the buy-in both he and the rest achieved with a former Single-A hooper who grew up in the tiny northern Vancouver Island communities of Port Alice and Port Hardy, and who returned to the game after becoming one of the world’s top endurance athletes “because my kids fell in love with it.”

“This is the best team we could have ever asked for,” Linder says.

When asked “Why?” he replied with a rapid-fire staccato: “It’s a team. It’s an actual team. That’s why we won. We’re an actual team.”

After losing in the 2023 B.C. final, a year’s work towards meeting the ultimate goal elicits a joyous reaction from Nanaimo’s Dover Bay Dolphins following its 75-61 win over MEI in Saturday’s B.C. Triple-A championship final March 9, 2024 at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Blair Shier property of Vancouver Sports Pictures 2024. All Rights Reserved)

Next season seemed a long ways away on Saturday night.

Yet with all of the connections to the past, present and the future which were taking place on the floor of the Langley Events Centre amidst the surreal feeling every B.C. title team encounters in the moments after victory, the family of B.C. high school basketball seemed as connected as it’s ever been.

How amazing that that our hugely talented group of coaches can bring such diverse and varied backgrounds to this great game, and through their skill, their imagination and their passion, find away to transfer their best experiences into human connection with their student-athletes.

“He just bought in to every thing I said, and everything I put in front of him, he was willing to do,” Darren Seaman said of Frank Linder. “He believed in me and I believed in him and that is the very special part. These guys believed in me.”

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