LANGLEY — Diego Maffia, Bithow Wan, Parker Johnstone, Suraj Gahir.
When that’s a group of four who will not play in this evening’s Final Four here at the 2018 Tsumura Basketball Invitational, you know even the quarterfinal round is a battle to survive.
The net result of 12 championship-round games Thursday and then Friday morning?
B.C.’s top four-ranked Quad A teams will square off in a TBI battle royale.
No. 1 Burnaby South will meet No. 2 Terry Fox in a Quad A super-power clash at 6 p.m., while No. 3 Holy Cross faces No. 4 Lord Tweedsmuir in another tipping off at 7:45 p.m.
Here’s our look at the morning’s four quarterfinals:
TOP HALF DRAW
BURNABY SOUTH 77 OAK BAY 74
LANGLEY — It’s not often that the losing team seems the bigger story than the winning team, but after cheating defeat with a stone-cold dagger trey, winning head coach Mike Bell was more interested in handing out kudos to the opposition.
“What a great shooter Diego is… that kid is unstoppable,” Bell said of Oak Bay’s prodigious gunner Diego Maffia, who faced the single-minded purpose of an entire Rebels’ game plan but still scored a game-high 37 points. “You look at that game, we face-guarded him the whole way but that kid can shoot from anywhere in the gym and it’s going in half the time. And it was a great job by their team, being under-sized.”
It was also all about a clutch moment late.
A Maffia three had tied the game 71-71 with 1:20 left. The Rebels came back to go up 74-71 with one of their own. And that was answered by Jordane Burke’s trey as the Bays re-knotted the score at 74-74.
Burnaby South took possession and the Bays dialed in defensively, forcing a near-turnover by guard Justin Sunga.
However Sunga not only recovered the ball on the baseline, he hit a miraculous turnaround triple that held as the winner.
Maffia had a good look at three, but his shot swirled in and out of the cylinder with two seconds remaining.
Afterwards, the province’s deadliest shooter was expressing pride for his teammates but also dishing huge kudos to Sunga.
“That is life,” said Maffia. “It was great defence by us. We almost forced a shot clock violation but then he just turned around and that was an amazing shot. But then I got a chance and it went in and out. It’s unlucky, but that’s basketball.”
On he and his teammates being cast as embattled, under-sized underdogs?
“Everyone thinks we are small and that we lost everyone (to graduation),” Maffia continued. “But today we hustled and I am so proud of the boys. Everyone talks about (Burnaby South) as No. 1 but we’re in it with everyone. We are small. But we battle.”
They are also drastically under-practiced thus far, a fact made more understandable as eight of the team’s nine players multi-sport athletes.
“To be honest, if you count our practices as a full group, it’s like maybe five,” said Maffia, who has joined the team after playing high school soccer and volleyball this fall for his high school. “We’ve practiced so little, but we aim higher and higher every day.”
Added Bays head coach Chris Franklin: “It’s a work in progress but the plus-side is that effort is not a problem. If you can start there it’s a healthy way to start a season.”
Jordane Burke added 21 points for the Bays.
Burnaby South got 15 points apiece from Kyle Kirmaci and Jiordano Khan, while Baltej Sohal and Aidan Wilson each added 14. Sunga had nine, including two fourth-quarter triples.
“We’re getting better,” said Bell of his Rebels, “but weirdly enough, I feel like we’re acting like a bunch of young kids. Clearly our Grade 12s were better last year than I thought. We’re showing a lot of inexperience. We have to clean it up but it’s nice to come out with a win.”
TERRY FOX 89 BYRNE CREEK 56
LANGLEY — The depth of the Terry Fox guard group was a much-discussed topic to open the season.
Now that we’re getting a chance to see it in full flight, there is no question it has lived up to its promise.
Grade 10 Cam Slaymaker took the lead Friday in a comfortable win over Doube A No. 4 Byrne Creek, scoring a game-high 28 points.
Jaden DeLeon had 11, David Chien 10 more, and Ko Takahashi, coming off the bench, scored all of his nine in the second half, putting an exclamation point on the victory. Forward Grady Stanyer added a dozen.
“If we have a player like Ko coming off the bench that is a good, good thing,” said Terry Fox head coach Brad Petersen of a player who could be starting on any team in the province. “He gives us great minutes and it’s just another option for us, some added depth and some real quality depth. He had a great game and he is a dangerous guy.”
Bithow Wan and Sufi Ahmed, the Bulldogs’ seniors of influence, had 15 points apiece in the loss.
“We know that with our group, you have to play 40 minutes to beat us,” said Petersen. “A lot of guys can step up on different nights. You have to compete in every game and that is what is perfect about this tournament, the level of competition.”
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
HOLY CROSS 74 KELOWNA 59
LANGLEY — Michael Risi was having trouble standing up straight, but the Holy Cross Crusaders’ heart-and-soul senior leader insists that his body can take the pounding of the physical style he loves to play.
“I will play through it,” Risi promised after scoring 16 points but having to take a seat at the end of the bench a little earlier than expected after his back to the brunt of a fall on top of the pointed knee of Kelowna guard Hunter Simson on Thursday morning.
“I feel like it’s important for me to teach the guys the game,” Risi continued. “Senior boys basketball is a totally different game and the pace Mr. Pezzente likes to play, we have to push. I have to teach these guys that no matter if we’re up 40 or down 40, we’re going to play hard.”
And that is because despite all of the Crusaders’ accomplishments the past few seasons, and despite their lofty provincial rankings, they are still a very young team.
On Thursday, Grade 11 Brent Padilla continued his torrid early-season scoring pace by leading the team with 24 points. Uyi Ologhola and T.J. Fujimura each scored 12 points.
The Owls got 17 points apiece from Simson and Johnstone, while Jayden Lalonde added 10. Kelowna got as close as 48-44 in the third quarter.
“I am focusing on especially taking care of my body this season,” Risi added. “Stretching, rolling it out. Whatever it takes.”
LORD TWEEDSMUIR 89 NORTH DELTA 70
LANGLEY — The Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers have had to battle extra hard since the loss of heart-and-soul senior guard Patrick Jonas to a season-ending knee injury prior to the start of TBI 2018.
On Thursday, their level of compete was complete in a victory over the North Delta Huskies, who it seems, are dealing with some lesser but lingering injuries of their own.
Just as Burnaby South designed its entire game plan around stopping Oak Bay guard Diego Maffia, the Panthers did the same with North Delta guard Suraj Gahir in mind.
“They have a premier player in the province and we made some adjustments and face-guarded him and plugged the key,” said LT head coach Drew Gallacher. “We made other people try to beat us. But they had some key injuries in the game and if we play them another 10 times, that’s a three-point game either way.”
Gahir, who wound up scoring 23 points, was forced to leave the proceedings midway through the third quarter after re-aggravating a nagging charlie horse injury.
Afterwards North Delta head coach Jesse Hundal said that it is likely he will shut down Gahir in the short-term to get his leg back to 100 per cent.
“We played five games in three days at the Delta championships (in addition to four more at last week’s Kodiak Classic), so it’s been a lot of basketball,” Hundal said. “I think we have to look at the long term and at March, so I think we’re giving him a rest. He deserves it.”
Hundal indicated that point guard Arun Atker and forward Vik Hayer are also nursing various ills.
Ataker added 18 in the loss while Hayer scored 11. Austin Swedish scored 23 points to lead LT, while Arjun Samra and Elijah Devison each had 17. Jackson Corneil added 13.
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