Burnaby South big man Karan Aujla goes to the glass to score two of his 19 first-half points Saturday in a win over host Vancouver College. (Photo by Burnaby South media team of Shamira Alberts and Sarah Lewis property of Rebels Athletics 2022. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Boys Basketball

In front of empty gym, No. 1 Burnaby South gets its toughest test yet, but 16-0 Rebels let guards roam free in 77-64 win over No. 2 Van College Irish!

VANCOUVER — It was likely the quietest top-tiered No. 1 vs No. 2 senior boys basketball game in B.C. high school history.

Yet the No. 1 Burnaby South Rebels’ 77-64 win over the host, No. 2-ranked Vancouver College Fighting Irish on Saturday night, played in front of an empty set of stands at the host site due to health and safety protocols, still spoke volumes about both teams’ will to compete at the highest levels.

The Rebels improved to 16-0 with the win, while the Irish dipped to 11-3.

The underdog Irish opened the fourth quarter with a quick three-pointer to pull within seven points at 58-51, but the Rebels’ guard trio of Jimmy Zaborniak (29 points, eight assists), Jaymarc Bowayan (15 points) and Greg Petalcorin (seven points) consistently got to the rim for lay-ups, pushing the lead out to 15 points on two occasions en route to the 13-point win.

On the day, the trio combined for 51 points, with 21 of those coming in the fourth quarter as the Irish were forced to pay more attention to Rebels’ 6-foot-8 senior big man Karan Aujla, who had scored 19 of his 23 points in the first half. Aujla also grabbed 15 rebounds.

“They really played well,” Burnaby South head coach Mike Bell said of the guard group’s fourth-quarter efforts. “The defence was looking to double Karan, so we talked about those guys stepping up,” he said of a core which also included Andy Chen (three points). “So they hit shots, scored lay-ups, and they were able to cut into open space. We came through at the end of the day.”

At the same time, while the Rebels have run roughshod over the rest of the province, the Irish have been the one team that has shown the promise to potentially turn the tables.

Back on Dec. 4, in the finals of the Heritage Woods Kodiak Classic tourney in Port Moody, the Irish lost 74-55 to the Rebels, that 19-point margin of victory the closest anyone had come to the Rebels. And in both games, Irish star Cole Cruz-Dumont has not played due to injury.

Saturday’s 13-point loss set a new standard, and after his team’s win, Bell offered his kudos to the opposition.

“I thought we gave up a lot of easy buckets compared to the last time,” Bell said. “Today, (Vancouver College) moved around and worked their defence better, so I have to give them some nod on that.”

Most impressive for the Irish was its 6-foot-4 Grade 12 forward Kiyan Izadkah, who scored 11 of his game-high 18 points in the fourth quarter.

Grade 11 point guard Mikyle Malabuyoc scored 15 in the loss while guard Enrique Garcia and forward Isaiah Bias added nine and seven points respectively.

From Burnaby South’s perspective, the return to play following the holiday break has been challenging, especially with limited practice time.

Yet Bell was lifted by his team’s performance and looked at it as a potential bridge to the second half of the season.

“It feels real good because they are a really good group,” Bell said of his players, next in action this Monday at home in a Fraser North league tilt against Cariboo Hill. “They are so good together. They work out and train together, they are good buddies outside the team. “We’ve got a good balance of Grade 11s and 12s. It’s a good thing that we’re working with right now.”

Vancouver College is next in action on Thursday when it faces another provincially-ranked foe in a fellow Vancouver Sea-to-Sky foe: North Vancouver’s Handsworth Royals.

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