LANGLEY — It was one of the those games seemingly meant for a senior’s service.
You know, those Grade 12 veterans who, on the road to the penultimate games of their high school careers, could somehow summon all the savvy and all the moxy that any head coach could ever ask for.
Yet there are those rare occasions, like Friday night here at the 76th annual B.C. Senior Boys Basketball Championships, when a rookie steps on the stage of the Quad-A Final Four semifinals and stares into the brightest of lights at the Langley Event’s Centre’s Arena Bowl.
That’s what Cole Bekkering did, and he never blinked.
In one of the best performances this century by a Grade 10 in the game to get to the big game, Bekkering played not only with every ounce of physicality he could muster, he did it with the kind of control, nuance and flair that his equally young, No. 7-seeded Semiahmoo Totems teammates needed as they held on to edge the No. 3 Vancouver College Fighting Irish 93-91.
The victory moves Surrey’s Thunderbirds into Saturday’s championship finals against the Burnaby South Rebels, who earlier in the evening defeated Langley’s No. 8-seeded Walnut Grove Gators.
Semi and South met in the 2018 final with the Rebels prevailing 80-72.
“He’s physical but he is also very patient,” Totems’ head coach Ed Lefurgy said of Bekkering, a 6-foot-5 ‘still under construction’ forward, who while still physically maturing, is already strong and naturally-talented enough to play the power game in the paint ,and build up a head of steam as a ball-handler in the transition game.
“He has this strange combination of skills that… there is no one else like him in the province,” continued Lefurgy.
In its 86-73 quarterfinal win Thursday against Centennial, it was Grade 10 guard Torian Lee pouring home a game-high 32 points for the Thunderbirds.
On Friday, while Lee was once again outstanding with 18 points, it was Bekkering who wound up delivering the mail, scoring 13 of his 37 points over a fourth quarter in which the sum of all the game’s runs, ebbs and flows seemed to finally point towards the Irish.
Vancouver College, which tried its best to survive without its senior guard Cole Cruz-Dumont, who was at less than his best with a heavily taped ankle, eventually had to put its scoring sensation out on the floor in the fourth quarter.
All Cruz-Dumont did was make an instant impression, at one stage scoring 11 straight points as part of a 21-point night, pulling Vancouver College to within a pair at 73-71.
While Cruz-Dumont and Grade 11 guard Mikyle Malabuyoc — who scored a team-high 31 and is playing like a first-team all-star — were finding offensive success, the Fighting Irish’s full-court zone pressure schemes were forcing turnovers after seemingly every VC made-basket.
Yet in the end it was Bekkering’s ability to win physically in the toughest areas of the court.
Afterwards, a smiling Bekkering actually credited playing against Centennial’s 6-foot-10 centre K.C. Ibekwe the day before as helping get him extra ready for everything the Irish would throw his way.
“I would say so,” he said. “Against (Ibekwe) lay-ups were tougher, and so coming in today, they seemed easier than yesterday. (VC) had smaller guys in the paint so things were more open for me and (6-foot-7 Grade 11) Marcus (Floares).”
Facing Burnaby South big man Karan Aujla on Saturday will, however, be another huge test.
Starting forward Sam Snyder, the only senior to see the floor for the ‘Birds on Friday, had 14 points. Floares had 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Grade 11 guard Maddox Budiman had nine points.
For Vancouver College, guard Enrique Garcia came off the bench to score 18 points while gutsy forward Chuck Menard, who earlier in the playoff run refused to let a partially-separated shoulder slow him, gutted through what appeared to be a lower body injury, and finished with seven points.
So how did a pair of Grade 10s in Bekkering and Lee help lead a team into the B.C. final, seemingly before its time?
“I think it’s how hard we work,” Bekkering said. “We’re always in the gym together, always getting up shots, and that is something that is going to show up in big games.”
Oh yeah, did we mention wise before his age as well?
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