The final week of the B.C. high school basketball season is now underway with Day 1 of the 2023 B.C, boys basketball championships.
Please check back here throughout the day for continual live game report updates on this tier.
ALL STORIES BY HOWARD TSUMURA
(All games at Arena Bowl)
TOP HALF DRAW
NO. 1 SEMIAHMOO 116 NO. 16 MT. BAKER 52
LANGLEY — The Semiahmoo Thudnerbirds have brought the mind-body connection to the B.C. tournament.
Wednesday’s convincing opening-round win over Cranbrook’s Mt. Baker Wild has put the South Fraser champs a pair of wins away from a return to Saturday’s title game.
And if you ask Totems’ Grade 11 starting guard Andre Juco about all that is still to come here on the big floor at the LEC’s Arena Bowl, he is quick to point out all of the tweaks he and his teammates have made since falling to the Burnaby South Rebels in the championship final a year ago this Saturday.
“I think the big thing was last year we got really tired,” Juco explained, referencing all of the new physical and emotional challenges he and his largely 10th grade Thunderbirds faced on the road to the Final Four and beyond
“This year we have made sure that we are preserving our bodies, so we do workouts before and after every game,” said Juco, who scored eight points in Wednesday’s win.
“And a lot of us have started to meditate,” he added.
“We had a guest speaker come in and it was pretty inspirational,” Juco continued. “He explained meditation, how he would visualize the game, and then try to bring it all to fruition. So we started to do it, and it makes you calm. You visualize victory.”
The ‘Birds came in as prohibitive favourites in the Nos. 1 vs, 16 opener, rolling out on a 49-15 run which took them midway through the second quarter.
Point guard Torian Lee dispelled any concerns of the building’s site lines, drilling four triples and finishing with 18 points.
Post Cole Bekkering added 11 points while Grade 9 forward Jack Snead came off the bench and scored 10 of his 14 points in the second quarter.
Mt. Baker got a game-high 21 points from Hayden Damstrom and 10 more Patryk Bendowski.
NO. 8 TERRY FOX 70 NO. 9 WEST VANCOUVER 45
LANGLEY — If you want to start waving the flag for a team that is playing its best defence of the season at precisely the perfect time, then maybe you want to jump on board the Terry Fox Ravens’ bandwagon.
The No. 8 seeds battled tooth-and-claw for two-and-a-half quarters with the No. 9 West Vancouver Highlanders in Wednesday’s opening round game at the LEC, yet in a chess match of switching defences between Fox’s Rich Chambers and West Van’s Paul Eberhardt, the breakthrough didn’t come until one team finally decided to toss out all of the trimmings and get back to some down-and-dirty man-to-man defence.
“When they went to man-to-man, that is what hurt us most,” said disappointed Highlanders’ head coach Eberhardt. “When we ran our cuts, they put a body on us, they got in our way and our guys didn’t react properly.
“Things that we know to do, we didn’t do,” added Eberhardt. “It’s unfortunate when you’re a team that relies on shooting , and you don’t hit any shots… it’s tough to pull it out and my God, did (Terry Fox) defend. That is a hell of a defensive team. I don’t know how far they can go, but if I was Semiahmoo… you can’t take them lightly because they can guard the ball.”
The Ravens will face the No. 1-seeds in a 7 p.m. quarterfinal on Thursday.
West Van scored just three points in the fourth quarter, its lone field goal coming in garbage time.
The veteran Chambers, never one to pump his own team’s tires unless it is truly deserved, could not hold back his joy for the way the Ravens defended.
“We were so good defensively today,” admitted Chambers, who says he and his coaching staff gambled, spending the past week preparing for both West Van and Abbotsford, the two teams he thought he’s be mosty likely to face. “It could have back-fired.”
While the Highlanders had shot after shot fall shy, the Ravens, on the heels of their defence, put forth a perfect team effort at the other end of the floor.
In a low scoring game, it’s all the more impressive to get all five of your scorers into double digits, yet that is just what they did.
Lukas Bulin hit four triples and finished with 16 points, a total matched by forward Brendan Nightengale, who scored eight points in the third quarter.
Christian Moore added 14, Fraser North MVP power forward Sukhraj Garcha 11, of which came in the second half. And point guard Ethan Chae, battling foul trouble, managed another 10.
Afterwards, Chambers had nothing but praise for the job Eberhardt did with an off-the radar West Van team, and his career in general, which has included a top-tiered B.C. high school title at R.C. Palmer in 2011 and later a CCAA national college title with the Langara Falcons.
“That guy is one of the top five coaches ever in basketball in B.C. … ever,” said Chambers. “He’s won at college, he’s won here in high school. He’s won at (four) different (high schools). He is a legend.”
NO. 13 ELGIN PARK 67 NO. 4 ST. GEORGE’S 63
LANGLEY — Casual observers might have studied Surrey’s Elgin Park Orcas this season and branded them suckers for punishment.
Afterall, this is the team that not only graduated 10 seniors from last season’s provincial AAA championship runner-up team, in the off-season, it moved up to the laregst Quad-A tier and joined a South Fraser loop that is the toughest zone in the province.
Yet all of that as well as a tortuous path through the South Fraser championships did nothing to slow the Orcas, who as a No. 14 seed produced a massive 67-63 upset of the No. 4 seed St. George’s Saints of Vancouver.
“I guess we’re a 13 seed,” said Elgin Park head coach Kirk Homenick, understandably proud of the path his team has taken to get the B.C. quarterfinals on Thursday.
“We’re just a little suburban team from South Surrey… we were just trying to hang in with the big boys here today.”
They did that and more against a Saints team led by it 6-foot-4 senior all-everything standout Will Hyland.
Using its size inside with 6-foot-8 Grade 11 forward Dylan Homenick, the head coach’s son, and 6-foot-7 UBC-bound senior scoring machine Adam Olsen, the Orcas parlayed their paint presence into a pivot point for everything else their offence did.
When Hyland tied the score at 50-50 with 7:47 remaining, Olsen, who finished with a game-high 30 points, went to work, scoring nine straight points, six coming off and-one efforts inside.
He then delivered a bullet feed inside to Homenick who stepped up to the free throw line and sunk a pair for a 64-57 lead with 1:46 remaining.
St. George’s had a final kick left, and Hyland’s back-to-back treys made it 64-63 with 42.6 seconds remaining, forcing the Orcas to hunker down and win it from stripe.
“We did a great job finding our bigs early and it really changed the way they had to adjust to us and it really gave us the perimetre today,” said coach Homenick.
Of course, he had reason to be a proud dad after his son Dylan Homenick finished with 12 points and 20 rebounds en route to Player of the Game honours.
“He has elevated so high this past year, he went through some injuries last year and this year, he developed a great back-to-basket game. He owned the boards today. I mean, I am a proud parent.”
Grade 11 6-foot-5 forward Eric Castle, another of the team’s inside forces, finished with 12 points.
Coach Homenick, however, offerd his kudos to Saints’ Hyland, who is the biggest part of any team preparing to play St. George’s.
“No matter how much film you watched, he still got into the paint, didn’t he?” Homenick said. “He hit a couple of big threes in the fourth, too. He had a heck of game and we had our hands full with him.”
Grade 11 guard Isaac Brown added 13 in the loss for the Saints. Elgin Park plays the Kelowna-Claremont winner in tomorrow’s 8:45 p.m. quarterfinal.
NO. 5 KELOWNA 79 NO. 12 CLAREMONT 60
LANGLEY — Just in case the Kelowna Owls weren’t ready for the Claremont Spartans on Wednesday in the opening round of the B.C. Quad-A championships, Owls head coach Harry Parmar got a little bit of an assist from the Elgin Park Orcas.
Surrey’s Orcas, the No. 13 seeds, parlayed a tough season in the South Fraser league to oust the No. 4-seeded St. George’s Saints of Vancouver, driving home a message that anyone can beat anyone on any given day.
“Sometimes it’s good for the kids to see that right before they play,” said Parmar, whose Owls came through with a 19-point win over Victoria’s Spartans and will now face Oracs in Thursday’s 8:45 p.m. quarterfinals. “They go ‘Oh-oh, we don’t want this to happen to us,’” smiled Parmar. “It wakes them up.”
Yet the veteran head coach, who led the Owls to the title in 2016 and has put his team in four of the last six finals, knows he still has to keep the main thing the main thiung with his players.
“We play any team that comes about,” said Parmar, who not only got a game-high 23 points from guard Nash Semeniuk, but 18 from his backcourt running mate Walker Sodaro and 15 more from Owen McParland.
Afterwards Parmar highlighted the play of Sodaro and McParland as keys in the win.
“We’ve been in this tournment long enough that we’ve seen that kind of stuff happen before,” he continued. “Elgin is a very good team. They have a lot of length and we’ll have to figure some stuff out. But man, we’re going to play game and do what we do.
“We like this court,” he continued of the LEC Arena Bowl. “The Owls like the lights here, and we shoot the ball well here.”
The Owls and Orcas have played once already this season, back on Dec. 7, with Kelowna prevailing 92-74 in the opening round of the Tsumura Basketball Invitational, also at LEC.
The Spartans, who kept the Owls’ lead under double-digits, until a 10-2 run to start the third quarter put Kelowna up 48-31, got 17 points apiece from Arjun Sangha and 6-foot-7 forward Camden Sparkes. Grade 10 guard J Elijah Helman added 10 more.
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
NO. 7 ABBOTSFORD 85 NO. 10 HERITAGE WOODS 76
LANGLEY — Dilveer Randhawa can finally admit he’s carried the hardest loss of his hoop career around for exactly one year.
He’s referring, of course, to the Panthers’ 76-71 first-round loss in the opening round of the 2022 B.C. tournament to Surrey’s Fleetwood Park Dragon.
Fifty-two weeks later, the 6-foot-4 forward was trading in the feelings of that loss for the elation of victory following an 85-76 win over Port Moody’s Heritage Woods Kodiaks own the first day of the 2023 Big Dance.
“I have remebered that since last year,” said Randhawa, who poured home a game-high 38 points against a Kodiaks team which refused to back down and just kept on coming all game long.
“It was my Grade 11 year, and we had seniors on that team that wanted to make a deep run,” he said. “I took it personally because for my Grade 10s and 11s on this team, I wanted to be a good mentor, and get as far as we can. Every day we had that goal in mind to just work, work, work.”
A 6-foot-4 force who also owns a deft three-point shooting touch and a physical, shutdown attitude on defence, Randhawa played the kind of fourth quarter his team couldn’t have won without.
Trying to slow the rapid-fire buckets being generated by the Kodiaks’ Lima Twa, both Randhawa and spectacular senior guard Hayden Sansalone (15 of his 24 points came in the second half) took turns putting the team on their shoulders.
Randhawa scored 14 fourth-quarter points, including a pair of critical triples, and overall went 12-of-15 from the free throw line in the second half.
His trey with 1:40 left gave the Panthers a 78-71 lead, and it was enough to serve as the team’s last field goal of the contest.
While Lima scored 13 in the quarter and Kai Rawnsley another six, Abby finished the game with 10 free throw trips in a row to close out the game,
Fellow senior guard Harshen Alamwala added 10 points in the win.
“I knew I had to get to the rim becasue my shot wasn’t falling early,” said Randhawa. “So I knew getting to the rim and getting contact and getting to the free throw line was my best option.”
The Panthers will play the winner of the final game of Wednesday between the No. 2-seed Oak Bay Bays and the No. 15 Prince George Polars in a 5:15 p.m. quarterfinal game on Thursday.
NO. 2 OAK BAY 102 NO. 15 PRINCE GEORGE 54
LANGLEY — Ask Oak Bay head coach Chris Franklin for the one defining trait about his No. 2-seeded Bays here at the 2023 B.C. Quad-A championships and he doesn’t hesitate for a second.
“I think they can guard, and I think they can defend… the fellas, they have bought into what we’re doing,” he said, moments after Oak Bay’s 102-54 opening round win over the North Central champion Prince George Polars.
Yet they can also score the basketball, depending on the situation, beginning with its senior offensive leader Griffin Arnatt, or as they have shown on other occasions, through a deep committee of guards and forwards.
That’s just what the Bays did Thursday.
“I would say our main focus is defence,” agreed Arnatt, the MVP this season at the TBI, Legal Beagle and Vancouver Island championships. “That is what we see ouselves as, but I think anybody on our team can go out there and score 20 points. I haven’t seen the stat sheet, but I think six or seven guys must be over 10 points.”
Not quite, yet Arnatt couldn’t peg his team’s scoring depth any more accurately.
Against a robust and hard-working group of Polars, it was Oak Bay’s defensive tone setter Thomas Beames, a Grade 11 guard, leading the way with 17 points, followed by 6-foot-4 Grade 11 forward Finley Lillis with 14. Senior forward Matthew Magnan had 11.
Beyond that, the remaining nine players on the roster all had between nine and three points apiece.
Moving forward, what kind of Bays’ team will we see take to the floor in its 5:15 p.m. semifinal against the No. 7 Abbotsford Panthers?
Remember, this is a Bays team, which on the final day of the Emerald Invitational at Vancouver College in January, topped the Panthers by a 106-89 score.
The key thing to remember there is that the Panthers’ 6-foot-4 senior forward Dilveer Randhawa, who that night scored 53 points for the Abby cause.
“We’ve generally kept teams in that 50 (point) zone, but not that game,” smiled Franklin. “No. 24 that night, I think he had 54 on us. So we’re looking forward to it. They’re a good team, he’s a good ball player and it’s a great opportunity. If you’re playing in the Final 8, you’re playing good teams and there’s no two ways around it. I am just thrilled to that my kids are in that situation where they get to play.”
Last season, the Bays had the misfortune of falling to eventual finalist Semiahmoo in the tourney’s opening round.
NO. 6 FLEETWOOD PARK 75 NO. 11 W.J. MOUAT 47
LANGLEY — There was a time, just a few years past the turn of the century, when the bulging behemoth known as the Fraser Valley Conference, had simply grown too large for its own good.
Talks were held and ideas exchanged for some kind of equitable re-alingment, one of which called for the creation of a Surrey-only zone, one which would likely earn three B.C. tournament berths at the highest tier.
The idea was not a popular one because so many outside of the city felt that there was one problem: Surrey teams simply weren’t good enough.
With about five minutes remaining in the fifth Sweet 16 opening-round game, that very notion sounded laugh-out-loud insane.
That’s when Fleetwood Park’s Aaron Uppal was extending for a driving lay-in to put his Dragons ahead of Abbotsford’s W.J. Mouat Hawks for a 73-44 lead.
The No. 6-seeded Dragons would not only go on to record an eventual 75-47 win, earning a berth in Thursday’s quarterfinal round.
They were following hot on the heels of wins earlier in the day by No. 1 Semiahmoo and No. 13 Elgin Park, giving the South Fraser three of the first five Elite Eight berths clinched, with three more games remaining.
“The sheer population and the number of kids playing…” began Fleetwood Park head coach Nick Day. “Surrey is now one of the strongest cities in the province for basketball talent and that is showing up this week.”
Led by Uppal’s game-high 25 points, as well as 13 from Eesher Sarai, 12 from Inder Deol and 11 more from Izaec Oppal, the Dragons used a 19-0 run to start the fourth quarter, building a 73-44 lead and never looking back.
“The South Fraser is a beast, and I think if you look at the league, there’s some very good teams — like Elgin Park and Holy Cross — that are not here but could very well be,” said Day who felt the trials of the regular season helped his team Wednesday.
“Give Mouat credit, they are a very scrappy team and well coached and (head coach) Rich Ralston does a great job,” said Day. “But we just had to stay with our tempo and push the ball when we could and just up the intensity and the defence just a little. After that we were able to get out and run and play our game.”
Alvin Swarup scored all 16 of his points in the first half for Mouat, while Armaan Sandhu added 14.
Fleetwood is set to face the Vancouver College vs. Tamanawis winner in its quarterfinal at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
NO. 2 VANCOUVER COLLEGE 84 NO. 14 TAMANAWIS 64
LANGLEY — Surrey’s underdog Tamanawis Wildcats dictated the terms for much of the evening Thursday against the Vancouver Sea To Sky champion Vancouver College Fighting Irish.
And on a night when the Tammy’s three fellow South Fraser zone running mates all scored Sweet 16 victories, the No. 14 Wildcats looked every bit the part of upset-minded spoilers.
Yet after playing the Irish to a 34-34 halftime tie, Tamanawis started to lose a bit of its mojo, and before long, it was Vancouver College finding its stride in the transition game and eventually rolling, closing the game on a 10-4 run en route to a berth against Fleetwood Park in a 3:30 p.m. quarterfinal Thursday.
“We came out with low energy and they came out with so much more, pressing us, playing our game,” said Irish star senior guard Mikyle Malabuyoc. “We need to start out the way we play instead of letting them dictate the tempo.”
And to that end, Vancouver College head coach Mer Marghetti stressed the importance of piecing together every part of the team’s pre-game prep in a purposeful manner to better insure there isn’t the same struggle Wednesday.
What did she put it down to?
“A long day, first-day jitters, maybe not the best warm up and then you just come out flat,” she said. “I think you have to find the balance between excitment and composure. Come out too excited, you won’t have composure. But you try to be relaxed, then you won’t have the energy. So they struggld to find that energy with the excitement, because thery were trying to be composed.”
The best picture of an Irish team that has the balance right?
How about Malabuyoc attacking off transition, scoring 12 fourth-quarter points and going 8-of-9 from the stripe in the process?
Irish post Roko Maric scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half, while guard Isaiah Bias scored 12 of his 14 in over the final two frames. Charles Menard had 11 points.
Tejveer Sanghera with 20 points and Surtaj Bhangu with 19 led Tamanawis while Seva Virk added 15, hitting four triples on the night.
Vancouver College played its Thursday foes once already this season, facing Fleetwood Park in the second round of the Tsumura Basketball Invitational at the LEC, a game the Irish won 78-77 in overtime.
“We didn’t have our football players yet,” Merghetti said of a group that includes Charles Menard, Michael Joseph, Finn Teasdale and Emilio Sida. “And Mikyle was injured but still played.
“We hope we’re a different team now,” the coach addd. “But every team is a different team now.”
If you’re reading this story or viewing these photos on any website other than one belonging to a university athletic department, it has been taken without appropriate permission. In these challenging times, true journalism will survive only through your dedicated support and loyalty. VarsityLetters.ca and all of its exclusive content has been created to serve B.C.’s high school and university sports community with hard work, integrity and respect. Feel free to drop us a line any time at email@example.com.