ALL STORIES BY HOWARD TSUMURA
LANGLEY — Welcome to the opening day of play here at the 2020 B.C. senior boys basketball championships.
Please continue to check back on this posting throughout the day for updates as we wind our way through the eight-game sudden elimination Sweet 16 bracket.
No. 1 BURNABY SOUTH 95 No. 16 MT. BAKER 41
LANGLEY — It’s been a journey filled with ups and downs for Burnaby South senior 6-foot-10 post Sasha Vujisic.
After helping the Rebels win a B.C. title in 2018, an ankle injury knocked him out of last season’s semifinals, and then over this past off-season, a fractured leg kept him out of the line-up until January.
On Wednesday, however, as the 2020 tourney opened, the battle-scarred Vujisic was the hoop warrior ready for redemption.
“I’m a little sick right now, but other than that, I feel great,” Vujisic said after a tidy 10-of-15 shooting performance netted the big man 24 points to go along with eight rebounds. “This time I will pull through.”
Not that wide-eyed 10th grader anymore, Vujisic looks back to Burnaby South’s championship season and knows he is now amongst the senior leadership group which must make sure the No. 1 seeds keep their focus for three more games.
On Wednesday, Vujisic teammed well with the 6-foot-7 Grade 10 Karan Aujla, who went 8-for-10 from the floor, with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
“We can find each other pretty well,” Vujisic said. “This year it’s kind of been like me and (2018 MVP and senior forward) Jusef (Sehic), but I am more like Jusef and he’s me, I guess.”
South’s guard group also chipped in, with Justin Sunga’s 11 points and Anthony Palomino’s 10 leading the way.
Mt. Baker, which stood tall early and had some nice response to the Rebels in the first quarter, got 10 points and seven rebounds from Jeff Lalach.
No. 8 OAK BAY 81 No. 9 TAMANAWIS 71
LANGLEY — Oak Bay Bays head coach Chris Franklin said it best: “Fortunately, we had the ball at the end.”
Jaime Molins went into a power dribble 65 feet down the court and scored on a driving lay-in with 0.3 seconds remaining to rally Victoria’s No. 8 seeded Oak Bay Bays to an 81-79 win over Surrey’s No. 9 Tamanawis Wildcats.
“I got it at the three-point line, I saw the clock… six seconds left and I started running all the way,” said Molins, the 6-foot-1 senior guard, who joined the team last season from Spain. “It’s awesome.”
In what was truly a game of two distinct chapters, Oak Bay rolled out to a 45-25 lead at the half, built their advantage to as many as 24 points (56-32) in the third quarter and then hunkered down as the Wildcats mounted a ferocious rally, led by the three-point shooting of Saim Bhutta.
The third trey of Bhutta’s spurt pulled Tammy on top 75-74 with 2:03 remaining, and a hook with 1:12 remaining by Ekman Sohal restored the lead at 76-75.
The Wildcats last lead came with 34 seconds left on a Varris Janda runner for a 79-78 lead.
Oak Bay, however, tied it on a Molins free throw, then won it on his driving layin.
Lucas Maffia led Oak Bay with 35 points, while Chris Horwood had 15 and Molins 14.
While Maffia is the heartbeat of the team, Molins has been huge since coming back from a broken leg suffered on the soccer pitch back in October which cost him three months on the shelf.
“Very happy for him because he is a tough kid that loves basketball and had most of his senior season stolen by the injury playing soccer,” said Franklin. “But that’s life. We want our kids playing multiple sports and sometimes it happens.”
Oak Bay was 8-12 heading into its city playoffs, with just one league win to its credit.
Yet Molins building chemistry along with star Maffia helped turn the tide and Oak Bay went on to upset Claremont in the Vancouver Island final en route to earning a B.C. berth few thought they had in them.
“We always had an eye on (Molins) coming back,” said Franklin, whose younger players got plenty of reps in the meantime. “When Jaime came back they were ready to be productive players… it took a few losses but it was well worth it.”
Janda scored 29 points in the loss while Bhutta scored 27.
Oak Bay faces Burnaby South in a 4:45 p.m. quarterfinal on Thursday.
No. 4 VANCOUVER COLLEGE 88 FLEETWOOD PARK 55
LANGLEY — There was a time in late-January when the Vancouver College Fighting Irish, hosting their own annual Emerald Tournament, were as riddled with key injuries as any basketball team could be.
“Five starters injured, definitely tough, it’s been up and down with injuries but we’ve battled,” said Irish senior guard Hunter Cruz-Dumont, who poured home a game-high 27 points to help lead the Irish past Surrey’s Fleetwood Park Dragons 88-58 on Wednesday.
“But we’ve had a good stretch of practices, and I think this is our fifth win in a row,” added Cruz-Dumont. “We’re all confident right now with the way we’re playing.”
Against a Fleetwood Park team which had the ingredients to throw a wrench in Vancouver’s College’s way, the Irish never blinked.
Grade 11 Jacob Holt, the 6-foot-9 post, had 24 points and 11 rebounds, while Grade 10 guard Cole Cruz-Dumont had 11 points and 12 rebounds.
The key question for Vancouver College seemed to have been answered by its do-or-die wins over St. George’s, the second of which eliminated the Saints and showed the Irish’s chemistry had returned following its injury spree.
“The second quarter really did us in,” said Dragons head coach Nick Day, whose team got a buzzer beating trey from Grade 10 guard Rav Randhawa to pull within 20-14 at the end of the first quarter, but were swallowed up 18-5 by Vancouver College in the second quarter.
Randhawa finished with 11 points while the trio of Ray Saran, Gurek Sran and Abishek Kanagasabay scored nine each.
“We just told each other not to look at the rankings,” said Cruz-Dumont as his team licked its collective wounds over the final month of the regular season. “We knew how good a team we were and we just wanted to show it.”
Vancouver College tips off at 3 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals vs. Abbotsford.
No. 5 ABBOTSFORD 90 No. 12 TERRY FOX 61
LANGLEY — The offence took care of itself for the Abbotsford Panthers, but what most impressed in a dominant 90-61 win over Port Coquitlam’s Terry Fox Ravens was a defensive effort that head coach Greg De Vries must hope sets a tone for the rest of their stay here at the 2020 B.C. senior boys Quad-A championships.
“I was really happy with our team defence,” said De Vries, a prolific scorer in his playing days at Nelson’s L.V. Rogers, and later with the Alberta Golden Bears. “(Terry Fox’s) Cam Slaymaker .. he is one of the best in the province and we were really focused on him. I thought our guys played great help-side defence.”
The Ravens went through extended offensive dryspells, led by the 17 points of Slaymaker, and 13 more Joao Coimbra.
Abbotsford, which led by as many as 34 points early in the fourth quarter, got 20 points from Ben McGuickin, 15 from Karn Brar and 10 from Josiah Levale. The Panthers were outrebounded 36-25 yet shot the ball to tune of a sizzling 46.5 per cent from the field for the contest.
Abbotsford will now play the winner of an opening round game between Vancouver College and Fleetwood Park in a quarterfinal on Thursday.
“We don’t have nice match-ups against (big) guys like (Vancouver College’s) Jacob Holt or Dom (Parolin) from Centennial,” said De Vries. “But we work hard, we’re here, and all we want is a chance.”
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
No. 2 CENTENNIAL 80 No. 15 PRINCE GEORGE 46
LANGLEY — Over the space 365 days, Coquitlam’s Centennial Centaurs have gone from the role of hunters to that of being the hunted.
Last season, as the young and unproven new kids on the block, they knocked off the heavily favoured Vancouver College Fighting Irish in the opening round of the tournament.
One year later, as the No. 2 seed, their roles had been reversed, and Centaurs’ co-coach Rob Sollero admits it was a topic of pre-game discussion as Centennial prepared to face the Prince George Polars.
“We brought it up at beginning, in the pre-game speech,” said Sollero “We told the guys you have to remember that last year No. 15 (Heritage Woods) beat No. 2 (Kitsilano) and you have to remember that No. 14 (Centennial) beat No. 3 (Vancouver College). We made sure the guys were ready, and Prince George, they came prepared to play.”
Indeed the Polars were no No. 15 seed.
They threw a zone at Centennial which confused the Centaurs, and that allowed the Polars to outscore them 17-14 in the second quarter and trail just 36-28 at halftime.
To the Centaur’s credit, they made adjustments at the half, and en route to an 80-46 win, now prepare to face the Handsworth Royals in the quarterfinals.
“They put up a real fight in the first half so we had to go hard, but then we put some new stuff in for the second half, and it was good preparation for our next game against Handsworth,” said Centennial big man Dom Parolin who scored 24 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, both game highs.
The changes related to the Centaurs bringing in varied high-low sets, as well as running a 1-3-1 zone with the 6-foot-8 Parolin, 6-foot-7 Grade 10 KC Ibekwe and the solid 6-foot-5 Paul Didenko.
Parolin led the way, but the play of the team’s two Grade 10s was impressive as well.
Ibekwe had 19 points and eight rebounds, while guard Nick Yang had 10 points.
PGSS was led by a pair of senior forwards.
Harmandeep Gill scored 16 points while Jordan Foster had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
No. 7 HANDSWORTH 78 No. 10 YALE 57
LANGLEY — Chat up Handsworth Royals head coach Randy Storey about what some of his favourite parts of the game are, and he’ll likely tell you all about the time and the detail he likes to put into developing and planning the most efficient practice possible.
It goes without saying that teams that take that kind of pride getting ready for games are so often the ones that bring the best combination of fundamentals and execution to the game-day menu.
On Wednesday, after the No. 7 seeded Royals of North Vancouver clashed with the No. 11 Yale Lions of Abbotsford, and came away 78-57 winners after limiting their foes to just 25 per cent shooting from the field (9-of-36) over the second half, the first thing Storey brought up was… you guessed it: Practice.
“We’ve been having great practices the last couple of weeks,” the coach said, after his team earned an Elite 8 quarterfinal clash with the No. 2-seeded Centennial Centaurs on Thursday (6:30 p.m.).
“I think we’re pretty long and athletic so when we’re digging in, we can play some good defence.”
Storey’s past Royals’ teams have been filled with players who have talent, but always equal grit to match.
On Thursday, five Handsworth players hit double figures on offence, four of whom are seniors.
Wing Zack Watters led the way with 17 points, while guards Marko Stojsavljevic (13) and Robet Lutman (10) followed suit, while post George Horn had 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Handsworth’s 6-foot-4 Grade 10 post Matthys Van Bylandt had 16 points and 10 rebounds.
“There is a wonderful togetherness on this team,” said Storey. “It’s a team of guys that you can lose with, so consequently, we’re winning. If things don’t go our way we find a way to get it back together. We’ve got a lot of key Grade 12 guys and that is a big part of it.”
Jayden Bains led Yale with 19 points and nine rebounds, while Joseph Ho scored 15 points and Ben Pike another 13.
No. 3 KELOWNA 104 No. 14 FRANK HURT 35
LANGLEY — Hunter Simson followed the fantasy progress of the 2016 Kelowna Owls right through to the Final Four of Varsity Letters’ 75th anniversary bracket to determine the greatest team in B.C. boys high school history.
The fantasy Owls didn’t win the grand prize, but they did dominate the competition in their 2016 title year like few others ever have, and that’s more than enough inspiration for Simon and the rest of the 2020 Owls.
“That team was amazing,” Simson in retrospect of a team which included the likes of his brother Parker, UBC forward Grant Shephard and Mason Bourcier of the Carleton Ravens.
“Everyone on that team could score 20 points a game, they ran every team out of the gym,” he noted with pride. “We’re trying to emulate that as much as possible, like everyone sharing the ball, scoring, and not taking time off on defence.”
That was pretty much what happened Wednesday as the Owls did not allow Surrey’s Frank Hurt Hornets to mint a double-figure scorer, while producing five of their own in a 104-35 win.
Jonathan Haughton’s 21 points led the winners, while Jayden Lalonde had 13. Maclom Greggor, Simson and Ajay Gill each scored a dozen.
On the other bench, the Hornets were making their first tourney appearance in almost 28 years, and although the result hit like a shot to the chin, head coach Duane Linnen was doing his best to roll with the punches.
“Nerves and no confidence, that’s all I can say,” Linnen said. “But it’s a first step. It’s the first time we’ve been here in 28 years, so hopefully these guys are going to be able to come out and play better tomorrow.”
Hurt’s student section didn’t care about anything except the fact that its school was playing in a provincial tournament game.
They never let up their cheering from start to finish, and in the fourth quarter let loose an explosive cheer for a basket despite the fact they trailed by 74 points at the time.
“The school has been so supportive,” said Linnen. “It’s just been crazy. We’re down and they’re still behind us 100 per cent. I am so appreciative.”
No. 11 CLAREMONT 69 N. 6 HOLY CROSS 67
LANGLEY — Ethan Boag believes in what he’s saying, even though Claremont’s blue-chip senior forward knows it actually sounds a little strange, especially on the first day of the provincial championships.
“We needed to learn how to lose first, if that makes any sense,” the 6-foot-9 Spartans’ standout explained in the aftermath of hitting the biggest shot of his life with 7.3 seconds remaining Thursday, snapping a tie and sending his No. 11-seeded Victoria team into the Elite 8 with a 69-67 win over the No. 6 Holy Cross Crusaders of Surrey.
Of course the reference is to the Spartans’ loss to Oak Bay in the Vancouver Island championships, one which came on the heels of an 18-game win streak.
On Wednesday, point guard Kyle Pepper was running the show as the game clock ticked down and the scoreboard read 67-67.
Going into a dribble-drive, Pepper lost his footing, but not his focus, staying with the play and somehow getting the ball to Boag, who took on the Crusaders’ super senior Uyi Ologhola and somehow got a tough shot to fall through the irons with 7.3 seconds remaining.
“Over the last couple of possessions we had set a lot of high ball screens for Pepper, but that time he fumbled it,” admitted Claremont head coach Brandon Dunlop. “But he’s a lacrosse player, he’s a tough kid, and he stuck with it. It wasn’t pretty but for him to find Ethan, and then for Ethan to go up strong knowing there were just a couple of seconds left on the clock? I couldn’t be more proud.”
Nik Babaeff made a great baseline cut in time to take a Pepper pass and turn it into a lay-in for 67-65 Claremont lead with 52.9 seconds left.
Holy Cross’ Brent Padilla, however, grabbed an offensive rebound and made the put-back count to tie the game at 67-67 with 36 seconds left, setting the stage for Pepper’s and Boag’s heroics.
“It’s two great teams, that is what provincials are all about,” said Dunlop. “Everyone is good. Everyone know’s each other’s plays. It just comes down to will. We stuck with it.”
Boag finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds, Babaeff had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Benn Manns had 13 points.
Ologhola scoerd a game-high 25 in the loss, adding 12 rebounds and seven steals, Padilla added 12.
Only once did a team own a lead larger than 10 points and that belonged to Claremont who led by 11 with three minutes left in the first quarter.
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