LANGLEY — No one can read a team in the 11th hour before the Big Dance better than B.C. high school coaching basketball dean Bill Disbrow.
And so after a 20-minute session on the Langley Events Centre’s Arena Bowl floor Tuesday afternoon was over for his No. 7 seeded St. George’s Saints, what did he see in his team?
“I didn’t tell them anything before they went on the floor except that they had 20 minutes,” admitted Disbrow, whose Saints, as Mainland runners-up, draw what might be the toughest No. 10 in top-tiered tourney history at 1:45 p.m., Langley’s defending Quad A champion Walnut Grove Gators.
“But these kids are always loose,” said Disbrow. “They just go out and have fun. They are ready to play.”
In this instance, ‘fun’ does not infer a lack of caring. More, it’s a feeling of team brotherhood that Disbrow says this collection of Saints has in ways so many of the teams he has guided over the last half-century did not.
“It’s sometimes disconcerting how much they laugh,” he says of his team which fell to Vancouver College in the Lower Mainland final two Fridays ago. “They laugh all practice. But of course we’ve aimed for this all year. The hope and plan is to be here playing our best and I think we are.”
Think about how competitive each and every one of Disbrow’s tourney entries has been from the glory days at Richmond, through the near misses at Vancouver College with Lloyd Scrubb, and now at Saints, and they can’t be dismissed, especially when Disbrow adds a caveat.
“This group has been more together than any group I have ever coached,” he says. “They truly love each other.”
And for his part, Disbrow feels that although his team has an extremely tough opening game, that the draw is very fair.
“For me, it’s nerve-wracking because sometimes I am not sure who is doing the draw,” he says. “Sometimes it’s been ‘Wow, how did they come up with that?’ At times it’s been unfair to the kids. But that’s not the case this year. I thought it was ideal. We’ve got it tough but we came out as (Mainland) No. 2 so we got what we deserved. Hopefully we are ready for it.”
If Saints are able to win against Walnut Grove, they could well face No. 2 overall seed Tamanawis, the Fraser Valley champs, in the quarterfinal round should Tammy get by North Peace in round one. But even looking beyond the first three minutes of Wednesday’s opener is dangerous.
So with all of the parity, with all of the great games expected on opening day, maybe it’s the intangibles like the love teammates have for each other which ends up counting for a whole lot.
And besides, on the night before our great tournament begins, it’s fun to imagine that all things are possible.
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