With Burnaby South's Karan Aujla (background) proving to be a tough foe, King George's Adam Spano battles for a rebound in Saturday's TBI final at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Wilson Wong 2021. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Boys Basketball

TBI Boys Finals 2021: Burnaby South extinguish King George Dragons’ fire with a suffocating defence borne in the heat of Rebels’ own practice gym!

LANGLEY — Come Monday, he will get back to demanding the very best from his players under the crucible of what is a Burnaby South senior boys basketball practice.

But on Saturday night, under the bright lights at centre court of the Langley Sports Centre, Rebels’ head coach Mike Bell couldn’t help but call his players “A coach’s dream.”

With passionate, hellacious defence as its calling card, the Quad-A No. 1-ranked, undefeated defending B.C. champion Rebels overwhelmed Vancouver’s Double A No. 2-ranked King George Dragons 69-37 to capture the 2021 Tsumura Basketball Invitational championship title.

And afterwards, on a night in which both teams received a jumbotron-like pre-game player-by-player introduction, Bell traced the origins of his team’s decisive win back to the sweaty and decidedly-more anonymous confines of its own gymnasium.

“It’s all been created on the defensive end,” said Bell, whose team continued to perform on that side of the ball as if re-defining the word ‘lockstep’. “When we have five guys, regardless of who they are, and they have been able to keep energy up, put pressure on the ball and be in the right gaps, and rotating right on time, it’s a coach’s dream.”

Bell, whose team has made its mark with game-changing second and third quarters, did just that again on Saturday, clamping down and limiting King George to just six points combined over those two frames while scoring 40 themselves, thus carrying a 62-16 lead into fourth quarter.

It was a game in which the team’s two seniors of influence, forward Karan Aujla and point guard Jimmy Zaborniak, were its two best players on offence.

Aujla dominated in the paint and scored a game-high 21 points despite sitting out half the game, and was later named TBI Tournament MVP, while Zaborniak, named his team’s Player of the Game, orchestrated with aplomb while adding 10 points.

But everyone played defence, and getting buy-in to make that the priority was what made Bell most happy.

“I am hard on them, right, so the accountability and consistency that we preach, it comes from practice. If we are able to battle there, then that’s just going to make them want to battle more (in games). Right now, our game is a representation of our practices.”

King George forward Adam Spano had to fight to earn every point he got Saturday, finishing with a team-high 13 points for the Dragons. Grade 9 forward Zeke Jackson added two points.

Guards Jose Zuluaga with 11 points (all in the fourth quarter), Max Astak with six and Palmer Currie with five accounted for the rest of the scoring.

“We’re excited to grow and learn from this tournament, and then be back in March hopefully (for provincials) with some more magical moments,” said Dragons’ head coach Darko Kulic.

For Burnaby South, its guard group beyond Zaborniak all found ways to pitch in as Greg Petalcorin added nine points, Jaymarc Bowayan six, and Miguel Ladio five, the latter’s all coming in the fourth quarter. Forwards Armaan Hehar and Andy Chen added seven and five points respectively.

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