SURREY — Who is the No. 1 team going to be this week in B.C. senior boys Quad A basketball?
“Ah, good luck with that!” Lord Tweedsmuir head coach Drew Gallacher said after a rollercoaster five-day ride for his team ended with an impressive 104-97 victory Tuesday over the visiting Terry Fox Ravens as part of 2018-19 B.C. high school season that over its first 16 days is already threatening to be one of our all-time best.
Take it back to Friday night at the Langley Events Centre and No. 1 Burnaby South’s 85-82 OT thriller over No. 2 Terry Fox in the semifinals of the Tsumura Basketball Invitational.
Move into Saturday and consider No. 4 Tweedsmuir’s 82-77 win over that No. 1 Burnaby South team in the TBI’s championship final.
At that point, only Monday and Tuesday play dates remained within the current polling period, and most teams do not schedule any heavyweights over those days.
They had a precarious Fraser Valley East league game scheduled for Monday at Langley’s Walnut Grove Secondary, and lost 96-74 to a Gators team which is proving to be deadly under the lead of guard Jarrett Jacobs.
Then on Tuesday, at home, Lord Tweedsmuir might have played their best game of the season, closing out the contest by going 10-of-12 from the free throw line.
In keeping with the opening theme of ‘Who is the province’s No. 1 Quad A team?’, it’s like Gallacher says: “Good luck with that.”
What was most impressive about Lord Tweedsmuir’s victory Tuesday over the Ravens?
Their depth is scary.
In its loss to Walnut Grove, the team lost Tsumura Basketball Invitational MVP Arjun Samra to a hip injury at some stage in the second half, and it was serious enough that Samra did not play Tuesday. Gallacher, however, made it clear that Samra’s injury played no part in his team’s loss to Walnut Grove.
Yet with both Samra and guard Patrick Jonas (knee) out of the lineup Tuesday, Lord Tweedsmuir was down about a combined 40-to-50 points per game.
“I think our strength is our depth and we showed it tonight,” said Gallacher. “Not only was this a character win, but it was a testament to how skilled we are one-through-12. Our top two scorers were out of the lineup but we had others step up.”
Boy, did they ever.
Guard Alex Le had his breakout game, hitting eight three-pointers en route to a game-high 33 points. Le was so effective on multiple scoring platforms, that he finished the game going 6-of-7 from the charity stripe.
“He was a beast,” understated Gallacher. “And he took care of the basketball.”
Of course it wasn’t just Le.
Five Panthers reached double figures in scoring, and the blue-collar manner in which Grade 11 forward Jackson Corneil scored his 24 points suggest that by season’s end he will be one of the most effective front court players in the province.
Guards Josh Hamulas with 17 points, Austin Swedish with 15 points and Elijah Devison with 12 were all excellent.
And that depth just continues to make the Panthers better and better.
“You should see how intense our practices are because we go after each other with all of the depth we have,” added Gallacher.
Yet it’s not like the Ravens aren’t right there with Lord Tweedsmuir and Burnaby South.
On Tuesday, a Hamulas turnaround jumper with 7:03 left in the third quarter gave the Panthers a 55-43 lead.
But in the fourth quarter, Terry Fox’s Grade 10 guard Cam Slaymaker simply took over the game, scoring 19 of his team-high 31 in the frame including 12 of 14 over a stretch in which Terry Fox knotted the score 82-82 with 4:20 left.
Yet Le hit a three, then made a steal and lay-in, all over a six-second span to make it 87-82 Tweedsmuir with 3:56 left.
It was still anyone’s game, but when Fox big man Grady Stanyer fouled out, taking his 22 points and paint presence with him, the Panthers had a much easier time establishing tempo in the front court.
“They came out with something to prove, they just came out absolutely ready to play,” said Terry Fox head coach Brad Petersen. “They caught fire, and holy cow did they put on a shooting show.
“But offensively, we’ve never had a problem,” he continued. “But us giving up 100 points? We’re not going to beat them playing that kind of basketball. We’re very happy with the personnel we have, but I am just not happy with the effort.”
Jaden DeLeon with 15 points, Jacob Mand with 12 and Ko Takahashi with nine provided the majority of the offence behind Slaymaker and Stanyer.
Of course, Walnut Grove is the team that threw the wrench into the proceedings.
If the Panthers had beaten them Monday, they would be the unquestioned No. 1 team in B.C. when the rankings get released Wednesday afternoon.
Now, pause must be taken.
Yet the classy Gallacher wasn’t trying to suggest for a second that head coach Reid Taylor and his Gators didn’t deserve their win.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Walnut Grove,” he said. “They beat us in every aspect and they deserved the victory. But we look forward to seeing them again.”
As a bit of a refresher, the Gators took a two-game Vancouver Island swing early last week where they wound up losing 90-76 to Belmont and 108-103 to Oak Bay.
And if the Bays’ Diego Maffia is the most prolific scorer in the province this season, then Walnut Grove’s Jarrett Jacobs may not be too far behind.
“I think he dropped 47 on us and we tried everything to stop him,” said Gallacher. “We doubled him, we zoned him, we tried to stunt him. And he just handed it to us. And there were also a couple of other guys on that team that stepped up very well.”
And so let this three-ring circus continue.
It looks like Lord Tweedsmuir, Burnaby South and Terry Fox are the top three in whatever order… with the rest of the pack capable of an upset, and yet another team ready to join that mix of top 15-type talent in Walnut Grove.
It’s enough to turn a coach into, well, a fan.
“I have kind of caught myself being a fan this year,” Fox’s Petersen admits. “It’s such exciting basketball and the best part of it, for the fans, is that on any given night…”
You know how the rest of that saying goes.
“So many teams have the potential to make deep runs,” Petersen concluded. “I am a coach but I am also a fan of basketball and I love to see really competitive games like tonight’s.”
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