LANGLEY — Putting together the draw for a high-end 16-team invitational tournament is not easy.
But it’s fun.
You want to anticipate potential match-ups at the quarterfinal, semifinal and championship final stages, while insuring a balance between top and bottoms halves, as well as individual quadrants.
But you also want to create Day 1 match-ups with meaning.
So here’s my thoughts on Thursday’s eight Tsumura Basketball Invitational openers:
TOP HALF DRAW
BURNABY SOUTH vs. CENTENNIAL
Burnaby South may be a huge favourite in its 5:15 p.m. contest, but Centennial is a team on the rise filled with great Grade 11s. So win or lose, the Centaurs will reference their first shot against a No. 1-ranked team the entire season. Knowing how high the bar sits this early can be beneficial and can help facilitate the growth process.
G.W. GRAHAM vs. OAK BAY
Chilliwack’s G.W. Graham Grizzlies comes into the tourney having just ascended to No. 2 in the AAA rankings, and that will make this 7 p.m. game against a re-tooling Oak Bay Bays squad one filled with excellent energy.
TERRY FOX vs. W.J. MOUAT
Terry Fox is ranked Quad A No. 2 and playing like it. Mouat is a team discovering its identity in the early going. Yet the mere fact that these two time-honoured programs have a history of playing in big games, often times against each other, is something both head coaches can work with when they tip off at 1:45 p.m. It’s a perfect test of having to come out ready to play.
SIR CHARLES TUPPER vs. BYRNE CREEK
No. 3 Sir Charles Tupper and No. 4 Byrne Creek are Triple-A powers who have come top define the best of the new tier’s rivalries. It’s early in the year, but this 3:30 p.m. clash will feel like a playoff game and that is a guarantee.
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
KELOWNA vs. R.A. MCMATH
*When Kelowna clashes with R.A. McMath at 5:45 p.m., the Richmond team, which lost its star big man Victor Radocaj to the prep ranks during the off-season, will continue to try to define who they are while playing what has to be the toughest schedule in the province.
Or maybe that distinction belongs to the Owls? They log more miles than any other elite Quad A school on an annual basis because head coach Harry Parmar knows it’s the only way his guys can be ready for a run in March.
HOLY CROSS vs. RICK HANSEN
*Holy Cross head coach Anthony Pezzente and Rick Hansen head coach Steve Twele have been masters at getting their teams to peak in March. If that means a rocky December, then so be it. And so if you choose to watch this 2:15 p.m. clash, keep all of that in mind as you watch two superb bench bosses make their kids better.
BELMONT vs. NORTH DELTA
In a lot of ways, the 2018-19 Belmont Bulldogs are in the same place at Quad A where the 2017-18 North Delta Huskies were in Triple A last season. That’s something to consider when watching this 7:30 p.m. tip.
One year apart, with the Huskies a full season ahead in the delivery process, each program has been infused by talent from a junior varsity team which played in the B.C. Final Four the season prior.
North Delta parlayed a 2016-17 JV Final 4 into a senior varsity Double A Final 4 last season, and now they have eyes on a B.C. title.
Belmont shocked the field as a No. 23 seed and advanced all the way to last season’s JV Final Four.
HERITAGE WOODS vs. LORD TWEEDSMUIR
Battle-tested in the theme here.
The Heritage Woods team which faces Lord Tweedsmuir at 4 p.m. has regularly hosted its own season-opening Kodiak Classic, a tournament in which puts them against the best teams in the province. Making it a back-to-back proposition with a spot in this season’s TBI only makes the team’s early-season trial-by-fire even tougher. Lord Tweedsmuir, already dealing with a key injury within their ranks, knows it will get a battle beyond that of a regular opening-round tournament game.
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