LANGLEY — Once, twice, and now three times makes it a trend.
At least that’s what Centennial co-coach Rob Sollero surmised Sunday night, after his No. 2-ranked Centaurs faced the No. 1-ranked Burnaby South Rebels for the third time this season, this time for the first-ever Fraser North Quad-A hoops crown.
“It’s happened all three times we’ve played them,” Sollero said, of what was ultimately a 76-69 loss to Rebels in a game which, for all intents and purposes, could have been for the No. 1 overall seed in upcoming B.C. Quad-A championship draw.
“We battle, battle, battle, then we get halfway into the second quarter and then we let them get on a 15-3 run,” he continued to explain. “It’s happened in all three games. We dig too deep a hole for ourselves. We need to play like we did in the fourth quarter, for the other three quarters.
After trailing by 20 points (55-35) in the second half, the Centaurs finished the game on a 31-17 run and got as close as six points, at 72-66.
While the Rebels, according to head coach Mike Bell are “a nine-and-a-half” on a 10 scale in terms of their overall health, they have still managed to make those minute-15 surges regardless who of who they have been able to put out on the floor .
When the two teams met in the championship final of the Terry Fox Legal Beagle on Jan. 11, South closed the half on a 17-5 run to lead 40-28 at the break.
In that game, however, Centennial successfully turned the tide and won 66-60.
Six days later, however, in the semifinals of the Abbotsford Snowball, the Rebels stormed the gates again before the half, this time en route to an 80-63 victory which has kept them in the tier’s No. 1 ranking the past five weeks.
Sunday’s clash, played before a near sell-out crowd at the Langley Event Centre’s Centre Court Complex (which featured seating on both sides of the court opened for spectators) was the best endorsement that the health of the boys high school game in this province could get in the run-up to B.C.’s: A No. 1 vs. No. 2 game which got no promotion or advertisement at all, was nonetheless the talk of the hoops community all week.
And with marquee stars like Centennial’s Dom Parolin and Burnaby South’s Sasha Vujisic opposing each other, it was like a preview to what may lie in store when the LEC’s Arena Court stages the B.C. finals on March 4-7.
“It’s great to be here for this kind of a game… having the crowd on both sides, I haven’t seen that here before outside of being in the arena,” said Rebels’ head coach Mike Bell. “It was great to get that atmosphere, and the first Fraser North title.”
It was also well-earned.
Four Rebels led a balanced attack, hitting double figures with the kind of chemistry and aplomb which suggests they are indeed as healthy as their coach says.
Guard Justin Sunga was his usual clutch self, scoring a team-high 18 points including a 7-of-8 performance from the stripe.
Vujisic had 17 points, while fellow post Karan Aujla had 13. And swingman Emir Krpic’s developing chemistry with the group after re-joining them in January might be the wildcard which winds up separating the Rebels from the rest of the pack come March.
“Emir is really buying in, and he’s like a pitbull,” Bell said after Krpic finished with 12 points.
“But to be honest,” Bell said, “I like our defence right now more than our offence. I thought our offence struggled. We relied on second chances and transition opportunities, and we didn’t run our sets very well.
“(Centennial) had some good strategy to take that away from us.”
They also have Parolin, who is playing a level above his competition, showing enough to suggest that at 6-foot-9, he’s among the most complete and versatile bigs we’ve seen in this, the upcoming tournament’s 75th birthday.
“Dom is a special player, as you can see,” said Sollero of Parolin, who opened the game’s scoring with a thunderous dunk, added another flush, hit four treys and finished with 37 points. “He’s knocking down the three, he’s posting up, he’s dunking and he’s making great passes.”
Braeden Markiewicz added 11 points and Leif Skelding seven for the Centaurs.
Rebels’ coach Bell, like everyone else at the LEC, tipped a hat in Parolin’s direction.
“Dom’s a battler and he wouldn’t go away,” Bell said. “That’s why he won the (Fraser North tournament) MVP. I am sure if you look at the stat sheet, it just says 2’s and 3’s by his name. He filled that stat sheet pretty well. We have to do a better job on him, I have to say.”
Which invites talk of a fourth meeting this season, this time in the B.C. tournament?
Will the two teams be situated on opposite sides of the draw?
And where will they stand in relation to a Kelowna Owls team which has some blemishes of its own, but can also boast of having beaten both teams this season?
We have to play the wait-and-see game until the draw is unveiled on March 1.
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