Heritage Woods' Afu Bullock (right) tests the wingspan of Wellington's Jackson Peters during second-day quarterfinal action from the 2023 Tsumura Basketball Invitational on Thursday at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Ryan Molag property of Langley Events Centre 2023. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Boys Basketball

TBI 2023 Select 16 Day 2: It’s quarterfinals day here at the LEC and we’ve got the complete scoop from all four games!

LANGLEY — We’ve gone dark at 1 a.m. Final two game reports will be posted in the morning!


(All games at Centre Court)



Churchill’s Nathan Lidhar (left) finds his passing lane cut off by North Delta’s Gurdas Dhillon during second-day quarterfinal action from the 2023 Tsumura Basketball Invitational on Thursday at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Wilson Wong protected image 2023, All Rights Reserved)


LANGLEY — They missed out on a berth to the provincial championships last season and there is no trace of them to be found in the first few sets of B.C. Top 10s this season.

All of that adds up to a mass case of fire-in-the-belly for Vancouver’s Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs.

On Thursday, the Bulldogs stepped up biggest as crunch time began, closing a drum-tight game with a 13-7 run to beat the Triple-A No. 6 North Delta Huskies 63-57 at the Langley Events Centre and advance to this afternoon’s 3 p.m. semifinal against Burnaby’s St. Thomas More Knights.

“We have a lot of guys coming back this year and they are hungry, I can see that,” head coach Steven Xu said after the win. “The guys on the bench every day are challenging the starters, and a lot of guys improved over the summer. The entire team is hungry to go back and finish what we didn’t get done last year.”

The uniqueness of North Delta’s defence played a pivital role in frustrating Churchill in a game the eventual winners led by just a 52-50 score early in the fourth quarter.

“I think for us, it was being comfortable with their zone defence… it gave us a lot of trouble today,” said Xu. “So just being patient with it, that is going to help us later in the season.

“It was a tight game until the fourth, and then we got a couple of defensive stops amd that turned the game. The guys were patient and they were learning and those last two-to-three minutes seperated it for us.”

Thomas Jefferson, the Bulldogs’ prolific guard, hit six triples en route to a game-high 25-point performance, with three of those triples coming over a thrid quasrter in which Huskies’ star point guard Harvir Hothi (23 points) was just starting to heat up.

Senior guard Daneil Tedess-Lee hit a triple in each quatter to finish with 12 points for the winners, while senior Luka Sabotic scored six of his eight points in the second half.

Arjan Atwal had 10 points and Harjan Virk a further nine for the Huskies.

St. Thomas More’s Jacob Oreta takes aim against the South Kamloops Titans during second-day quarterfinal action from the 2023 Tsumura Basketball Invitational on Thursday at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Wilson Wong protected image 2023, All Rights Reserved)



LANGLEY — For the St. Thomas More Knights, 11 is indeed a magic number.

On Thursday, as TBI 2023 reached the midway mark of its four-day run at the Langley Events Centre, Burnaby’s Knights came through with a decisive 73-53 win over the South Kamloops Titans.

For the detective-readers in our audience, here are the facts:

*Every Knights player who hit the scoresheet is in Grade 11.

*Last season, virtually all of what is now the 2023-24 STMC senior varsity team won the B.C. junior boys championship title as the No. 11 seed.

*And wait for it… St. Thomas More’s leading scorer on Thursday was none other than the same guy who nailed the game-winning shot to beat Tamanawis in last season’s junior B.C. final. That player? No. 11 Zeru Abera.

On Thursday, Abera, the stocky 6-foot-3 guard, scored a game-high 24 points. More offensive support came from guard/forward Shane Deza who had 21 points.

Jacob Oreta and Rylan Chau, two other guards, added 11 and 10 points respectively.

Larry Shyga-Gisa led the Titans with 13 points while Keenan Brulotte and Gage Androlick scored nine each.

Aftrwards, first-year STM head coach Denzel Laguerta appreciated the way players like Abera and Oreta have helped shepherd what is a basically an across-the-board start-up franchise through its first few weeks at the senior varsity level.

“We’re really trying to emphasize playing together, and (Abera and Oreta) are both learning how to lead a team,” said Laguerta. “We have emphasized really sharing the ball and playing team defence and today it showed. We hit eight threes as a team, all from drive, kick-outs.”

The man of the hour at last season’s B.C. junior boys championship final,STM’s Zeru Abera, shown here being guarded by Tamanawis’ Sunny Dhami, scored a game-high 22 points including the winning bucket with 2.4 seconds remaining. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of Varsity Letters 2023. All Rights Reserved)

After opening the season with losses to Quad-A powers Oak Bay and Kelowna at the Kodiak Classic last week, the Knights will march into this afternoon’s semifinal against Sir Winston Churchill (3 p.m., LEC South Court, TFSE TV free livestream) looking to build on a four-game win streak.

Laguerta says his team is also buoyed by the fact that STM is making a little TBI history of its own.

“(I’ve been told) that STM has been in the TBI basically since its inception and that this is the first time we’ve made a semifinal,” said Laguerta. 

“I was like ‘Wow, that does have some stakes’… and this could be a special group,” Laguerta continued. “It’s neat that they are the first ones that will be a part of it. We’re not taking it for granted and I know the kids aren’t. They are enjoying every second of it.”

Andre Novicic of the defending B.C. Double-A champion King George Dragons helps lead his team to a win over Surrey’s Sullivan Heights Stars during second-day quarterfinal action from the 2023 Tsumura Basketball Invitational on Thursday at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Wilson Wong protected image 2023, All Rights Reserved)




LANGLEY — Darko Karac helped the King George Dragons win his school’s first-ever boys provincial senior varsity basketball title last season.

Ask him about it, and he’ll tell you about every step along that journey.

But now, with one championship ring and an unquenchable thirst to add a second in this his senior year, the Dragons’ 6-foot-4 senior point guard is making it his quest to help his teammates reach their potential over the course of the 2023-24 season.

And what’s the best way to do that?

How about a good, old-fashioned triple-double, still enough of a rarity in the high school game that any time you collect one, its overall team effect is worthy of mention.

On Thursday, Karac played with his senses, adjusting his game to best serve what his teammates needed most, in the end finishing with a 16-point, 12-rebound, 12-assist performance.

“In the first half, I was a little passive, trying to get my teammates looks,” said Karac who left the court for the halftime locker room with four points and his team leading 37-27.

Sullivan Heights, a rising program from Surrey, saved their best for last.

At one stage trailing by 17 at 46-29, they rallied behind a three-point second-half barrage from Ethan Hugall who hit four of his seven treys over the final two quarters en route to finishing with a game-high 23 points.

The Stars got to within nine late before Karacput his head down and got into the paint, finishing the game off with three free throws.

“When they went on their run in the fourth, I tried to attack the rim more instead of shooting or settling for shots,” he explained. “Big shout-out to my teammates for getting me open looks. That was a big game-changer for us.”

Fellow seniors Faisal Shawwa (21 points) and Andre Novicic (18 poionts) led the way offensively in the win.

Julius DeJesus added 12 points in the loss for Sullivan Heights.

For Karac, just being on the LEC’s Centre Court hardwood brought back good memories.

Noah Robertson of Nanaimo’s Wellington Wildcats (right) rises for a shot against Heritage Woods’ Dylan Walace during second-day quarterfinal action from the 2023 Tsumura Basketball Invitational on Thursday at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Ryan Molag property of Langley Events Centre 2023. All Rights Reserved)



LANGLEY — Mesh the experience of a Heritage Woods Kodiaks team which played on a huge wave of emotion en route to a return to the B.C. senior boys Quad-A championships last season, with that of a deep and talented incoming class of Grade 11s who did their part to carry the Kodiaks to the B.C. junior Final Four and what have you got?

How about a team that is percolating just under the radar with a roster just beginning to scratch the surface of its full potential.

“For us it’s boxing out and getting rebounds,” said senior guard Aidan Wilkie, one of the holdovers from last season’s B.C. senior boys provincial qualifier, who scored a team-high 24 points to lead his team past Nanaimo’s Wellington Wildcats 84-64 in a TBI quarterfinal clash Thursday at the LEC.

“We’re not a huge team so making sure we always have bodies on guys is also important,” continued Wilkie, whose stat line included five triples. “I’d say we’re a faster team, so ball pressure all the way up the court has been super important. It’s that and our chemistry.”

The latter has been especially important as a huge number of Grade 11s, fresh off their JV success a season ago, have seemed to find their feet in a special way over the early days of the season.

“These kids love each other and they are starting to gel,” said Kodiaks’ Roj Johal, who coached the junior boys team last season and this year has welcomed former Kitsilano high school star Clayton Crellin to the staff. “The 11’s are bringing stuff to this team and there is a chemistry developing.”

The Kodiaks did well to limit Wellington’s Grade 10 star Grayson Ritzand to 40 points. Ritzand, who had 12 points at the half, went 10-for-10 from the stripe and finished the game hitting four fourth-quarter treys.

All of that said, the Kodiaks move on to face the winner of Friday’s King George vs. Sullivan Heights quarterfinal, in a Friday Final Four game.

And it’s the next step in their evolution this season to continue to compete for 40 minutes regardless of their foe.

While Wilkie was huge in a third quarter in which he scored 14 points, balance was the order of the day for Heritage Woods as three members of last season’s JV Final Four team all hit double figures.

Afu Bullock hit for 14, Joseph Thompson for 13 and Dylan Wallace for 11.

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