Unity Christian's Wilton Haan struggles to find hits balance in a battle with the St. John's Eagles of Vancouver in B.C. Sinbgle-A quarterfinal action Thursday at the LEC. (Photo by Vancouver Sports Pictures 2020. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Boys Basketball

FINAL EDITION – SINGLE-A BOYS DAY 2: Elite 8 draw sends its top seeds to semifinals! Highroad-Fernie, KCS-Unity make it a true Final Four!

LANGLEY — We have gone final here at Day 2 of the 2020 B.C. senior boys basketball championships.

Here’s your game reports!




No. 1 Highroad Academy 79 No. 9 Cedars Christian 66

Highroad Academy’s Easton Abel takes to the airways on Thursday at the LEC. (Photo by Vancouver Sports Pictures 2020. All Rights Reserved)

By Gary Ahuja (special to Varsity Letters) 

LANGLEY — A blast from the past has the Highroad Academy Knights one game away from the program’s first appearance in the championship game in a dozen years, when he just so happened to be the team’s head coach.

Mike Shannon coached the Knights back in 2008 when his team fell in the championship final to Kelowna Christian Knights, who (depending on how the semifinals shake out) could very well be the team’s opponent in that game.

Shannon was at last year’s provincial semifinal as a fan, watching his former school give Kelowna Christian (which would win both the semifinal and championship game) its stiffest test of the tournament. In its three other games, the Knights won each by an average of 47 points but the margin of victory over Highroad Academy was just seven points.

And when the job opening came up, he was intrigued by what he saw: a group of kids that genuinely looked like they were having fun and returned nine players who recovered from the semifinal defeat to earn bronze – the team’s first medal since Shannon coached them to the silver back in 2008.

The Knights are through to their second consecutive final four after a hard-fought 79-66 win over the No. 9 Cedars Christian Eagles. Highroad Academy was up just a single point after one quarter before stretching the lead to seven at the half and eventually building a double-digit advantage on their way to the victory.

The biggest difference was a defensive adjustment the veteran coach said, switching his team to a 3-2 zone with a half-court trap to help them gain control.

Aidan Morris led the Knights with 31 points while Nico Kattenberg scored 13 points and had nearly half his team’s rebounds, bringing in 20 of the team’s 43 boards. As for Cedars Christian, the Eagles received 26 points form Evan Staves and 24 Ben Wolitski, a pair of Grade 11s on the squad.


No. 4 Fernie 84 No. 5 Barriere 71

By Gary Ahuja (special to Varsity Letters) 

LANGLEY — Regardless of what happens over the final two games, the Fernie Falcons have made some history.

For the first time ever, the Falcons are guaranteed their best-ever showing at the provincial championships thanks to a huge quarterfinal victory over the Barriere Cougars.

The fifth-seed Falcons trailed for less than a minute early in the first quarter before posting the 84-71 win over the fourth-ranked Cougars.

“They are a good team. I was a bit nervous before this game. I am usually not too nervous but that Barriere team put a little nerve in me. Luckily, we were able to pull it out,” said Falcons coach AJ Kennedy.

It was a pair of Grade 11s leading the way in the quarterfinal round as Asher Hannemann scored 29 points and grabbed 12 rebounds (with three assists and two steals sprinkled in) while Nesta Malcom finished with 26 points, eight rebounds (six of which were on the offensive end), three steals and a pair of blocked shots. Tyson Schilling (27 points, nine rebounds) and Cameron Kerslake (22 points, 10 rebounds, five steals and two assists) paced the Cougars attack

In its limited provincial championship history (this is just the fifth appearance in school history) the Falcons had never won in the opening round, but they took care of that on Wednesday with an 86-74 win over the Ecole Gabrielle-Roy Phenix. This group, however, was not content with just showing up and winning a game or two.

“When I asked the boys at the beginning of the year where they wanted to be, they said they wanted to win. They wanted to be the first team from our area to win provincials,” said Kennedy, who is in his third year with the Falcons and second as head coach.

No team from the Kootenays has ever won the 1A provincial title or even finished top four.

“I told them it would be a lot of hard work, a lot of tough games but if you guys put the work in, then the sky’s the limit for whatever you want to do,” Kennedy said.

Regardless if they finish first or fourth, the Falcons have already set the benchmark for a team from that region.

Up next is a showdown with the top seed Highroad Academy Knights.



No. 2 Kelowna Christian 88 No. 7 Glenlyon Norfolk 54

Kelowna Christian’s Nate Wiebe goes airborne against Sam Zhao of Glenlyon Norfolk during B.C. boys Single-A quarterfinals Thursday at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Vancouver Sports Pictures 2020. All Rights Reserved)

By Gary Ahuja (special to Varsity Letters) 

LANGLEY — Make it another trip to the semifinals for the Kelowna Christian Knights.

The Knights will play for a medal of some colour for the seventh time in the past nine years following an 88-54 win over the Glenlyon Norfolk Gryphons in the 2-vs-7 matchup in Thursday’s quarterfinal round.

While the offence may get the attention, coach Dan Benson was more impressed with the defence.

“I like how they locked in on the defensive end in the first half, holding those guys to 21 points,” he said. “(Glenlyon Norfolk) is a good team and they have some good players there and we had to focus in hard on those guys.”

While the defence didn’t give the No. 7 Gryphons much of a sniff, the offence was keeping the scoreboard operators busy, racking up 31 points in the opening 10 minutes to build what proved to be an insurmountable 19-point lead. The score was 52-21 at the break as the defending champions from Kelowna look for one more win to advance to the championship game.

This is the program’s 16th appearance at the 1A tournament and in the first 15 trips, they have a 1A record six titles as well as a silver and a bronze. The Knights also played one season at 2A and did not look out of place, capturing the 2013 provincial title. Their seven combined titles have come within the past dozen years.

“We know what our expectations are and what we can do. We never want to fall below those expectations,” Benson said.

Against the Gryphons, Kelowna Christian had the deep ball working, connecting on 14 of their 24 shots, a staggering 58.3 per cent success rate.  By comparison, those numbers were better than the Knights’ 40 per cent (4-for-10) success rate from the charity stripe.

Nate Wiebe (22 points, six-for-8 from the three-point line) and Indy Hallett (19 points, four-for-seven from beyond the arc) did the bulk of the damage for the Knights. Jake Sabbagh added 15 points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists.  Connor Elliott led the Gryphons with 18 points.

The victory sets up a semifinal showdown between the No. 2 Knights and the No. 3 Flames and will be the teams’ first head-to-head meeting this season.


No. 3 Unity Christian 92 No. 6 St. John’s 55

St. John’s Steven Li comes up with a block in his team’s quarterfinals loss to Unity Christian on Thursday. (Photo by Vancouver Sports Pictures 2020. All Rights Reserved)

By Gary Ahuja (special to Varsity Letters)

LANGLEY — There was no way the Unity Christian Flames would allow history to repeat itself.

The scene: facing a win-and-your-in game against the Credo Christian Kodiaks, the Flames suffered a heartbreaking one-point defeat in what was then the Fraser Valley zone championships last year.

The same two teams faced the exact situation a few weeks back, with two differences: this time they were playing for the final berth for the Eastern Valley zone and this time, the Flames prevailed, punching their ticket to the BC High School 1A Boys Basketball Tournament.

It is Unity Christian’s first appearance (and just fifth overall) at the Big Dance since 2014. 

“Last year was a hard loss, we didn’t make it and we were fully expecting to go,” admitted Dave Bron who is in his third year as head coach and ninth overall with the program. “That hurt so to go this year has been huge.”

The Flames have 10 graduating seniors on the team and Bron has worked with that core for six years.

“I have worked with these boys since Grade 7 and we have had this goal to contend for a championship for five years now, so to be here, to have a shot is great,” he said.

But the Flames are not content just being at the party, they want a spot at the table as they look for their first-ever medal in their fifth appearance. Unity Christian last played at provincials in 2014 when they finished a program-best fourth. The team is guaranteed to place no lower than that following their second consecutive blowout victory on the Fieldhouse court at Langley Events Centre.

In Wednesday’s opening round, the third-seed Flames downed the No. 6 Northside Christian Northstars 93-50. They followed it up with a decisive 92-55 win over the No. 6 St. John’s Eagles.

Unity Christian led from start to finish against the Eagles, up 25-12 after one quarter and 52-20 at the half. The Flames shot a sizzling 59.4 per cent from the field and won going away despite going to the foul line just six times. They also held a 53-28 rebounding advantage, including snaring 17 offensive rebounds compared to the Eagles’ 18 defensive boards.

Wilclair Neufeld led the offence with 23 points while Wilton Haan had 15 points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Defensively, the team made things difficult in the lane for St. John as the Eagles shot just 27.4 per cent. Of the dozen players on the Flames roster, only three below six feet.

“We have a very athletic, fast team with height we obviously want to score a lot of points, but defence comes first,” Bron said.

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