Terry Fox's Jayson Ikani led his team past Oak Bay during B.C. junior boys semifinal Monday at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Garrett James property of Vancouver Sports Pictures 2024. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Boys Basketball

Terry Fox finds its stride: As its defence jives at a season-high, Ravens’ hoop mojo spilleth over! Win over No. 1 Oak Bay means Tuesday finals berth vs. St. Pats!

LANGLEY — It’s not right to call the Terry Fox Ravens the surprise of the 2024 B.C. junior boys basketball championships.

But it has been surprising these days to see a team hanging its hat, on a game-by-game basis this week at the Langley Events Centre, by the way it defines itself as a collection of Grade 9-10 talent.

To put it bluntly, these No. 5-seeded Ravens are a bunch of 15- and 16-year-olds who play the game as if they were a part of those early-to-almost-mid 1990’s almost-dynasty Ravens who won back-to-back senior varsity titles and brought a defensive mentality that in and of itself was a throwback in those days.

That’s a long-winded but fun way of saying that the while 2023-24 junior Ravens have a ton of talent and do so many of the flashy things well, they first and foremost play defence.

Defence. Defence. Defence… to the tune of an average of 37 points-per-game allowed (and an average of plus-18 points differential) over its first four wins, including Monday night’s semifinal thriller, a 49-42 win over the No. 1-seeded Oak Bay Bays of Victoria.

Matching up and boxing out in the trenches against Oak Bay’s Simon Wiwcharuk-Burr are Terry Fox’s Jayson Ikani (left) and Maxsym Cichecki during B.C. junior boys semifinal Monday at the Langley Events Centre (Photo by Ryan Molag property Langley Events Centre-TFSE 2024. All Rights Reserved)

Never one to let his team get too overconfident, veteran head coach Rich Chambers once again emphatically stated: “We didn’t play very well but our defence was good. Our kids have shown great growth… but if we don’t play better tomorrow, it’s not going to be very close.”

Chambers, of course, was referencing tonight’s 7 p.m. B.C. junior championship final against No. 3 seed St. Patricks Celtics of East Vancouver who edged the No. 2-seeded Vancouver College Fighting Irish.

The Ravens have not played in a B.C. junior boys final since winning it all back in 2002, magnifying the fact that these kinds of opportunities don’t present themselves all too often.

Watching it all come together this week for the Ravens has been a purist’s treat, and you could pen an entire tome on just how effective its personnel has performed within a well-schemed shifting zone which Monday adapted and confounded with its discipline and communication within 3-2 and 1-3-1 shells.

“I thought they ran a very effective zone against us,” said veteran Oak Bay head coach Dave Thomson. “I mean Richie is a hell of a coach. Bottom line, the guy knows how to coach. But we were in so much foul trouble that we couldn’t play the game we wanted to.”

In an emotion-packed game in which Chambers did get T’d up by the officials and Thomson came awfully close after protesting what he believed to be quarter-to-quarter inconsistency with inside contact, Terry Fox’s unique combination of defence, and offensive role-playing came to the fore over the game final two minutes with the game tied 42-42.

Highlighting that run was a steal by Ravens’ guard Noah Jean who fed his teammate, the speedy wing Jayson Ikani for a back-breaking fast-break bucket for a 47-42 lead with 31 seconds left.

Terry Fox’s recipe for success remained the same.

Ikani has been a revelation as a Grade 9, the kind of player bursting with so much upside that you get lost at times projecting his future potential when he’s doing half that stuff already.

The best example of that was with 3:21 left in the third quarter when in a half court situation, Oak Bay’s own aggressive zone defence had Ikani seemingly trapped as they effectively brought a double and suffocated his space.

Somehow, Ikani not only created a bounce in that congestion, but he parlayed it into a dynamic pivot which somehow allowed him a path about 10 feet from the rim.

He then played through the contact and scored, getting fouled in the process and adding the free throw to tie the game 34-34.

“You just have to go into it like it’s any other game, you can’t overthink it,” the Grade 9 Ikani said after scoring a game-high 20 points. “You can’t make the moment too big for you.”

Sage advice for a young one… from a young one.

Terry Fox’s Jayson Ikani led his team past Oak Bay during B.C. junior boys semifinal Monday at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Garrett James property of Vancouver Sports Pictures 2024. All Rights Reserved)

And that is the same kind of the mindset that Grade 10 centre Maxsym Cichecki brought to the floor for Terry Fox.

He finished with nine points, yet it was easily his best game of the provincial because he seemingly dispensed with the pressures that come from being a 6-foot-7 player, and instead just focussed on being a presence on the floor.

With Oak Bay’s big, long and physical core of Noah Beck, Olin Lakos, Lucas Border and Simon Wiwcharuk-Burr, the Ravens likely don’t win the game without Cichecki.

“He didn’t score much but he made it tough around the hoop,” said Chambers. “I couldn’t be prouder of the guys because they all struggled but they found a way.”

Marvin Reyes, also a ninth grader and team’s starting point guard, battled a great one in Oak Bay’s floor leader Marcus Kao.

Reyes and Kao sawed it off at 13 points apiece.

Beck, used as a kind of versatile stretch-three, led the Bays with 18 points, while Lakos, a powerful and equally versatile face-up guard, added seven points in the loss.

If you’re reading this story or viewing these photos on any website other than one belonging to a university athletic department, it has been taken without appropriate permission. In these challenging times, true journalism will survive only through your dedicated support and loyalty. VarsityLetters.ca and all of its exclusive content has been created to serve B.C.’s high school and university sports community with hard work, integrity and respect. Feel free to drop us a line any time at howardtsumura@gmail.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *