LANGLEY — If you’re a high school basketball historian, you may remember this past February 9th as the day Oak Bay Bays’ senior guard Diego Maffia set a new B.C. single-game record by scoring 94 points in a 114-88 win over Edmonton’s Ross Sheppard Thunderbirds at Kelowna’s Western Canada Invitational.
Yet that very same day, in the heart of the Kootenays, a Grade 11 guard named Tanner Barclay had gotten back home from a tournament his Sparwood Spartans’ team had played in Fernie with some big news of his own to share.
But before he did, someone stole his thunder.
“I got home, and coach had sent me a link of (Maffia) scoring 94 points,” remembered the 16-year-old Barclay, during the Tuesday afternoon shoot-around sessions for Wednesday’s B.C. championships at the Langley Events Centre. “That was crazy and I have crazy respect for him because I can tell you that getting 83 points isn’t easy, either.”
Huh? Come again?
On the very same day that Maffia broke the 27-year-old record of 82 points held by Greg DeVries of Nelson’s L.V. Rogers, the 6-foot-1 guard Barclay did exactly the same thing, scoring 83 points in a 126-74 win over Trail’s J.L. Crowe Hawks at a tournament in Fernie.
On Wednesday, Barclay’s Spartans’ might have the toughest test of any opening-day team, as the No. 16 seeds from Sparwood (14-7) play the prohibitive tournament favourite and No. 1-ranked Charles Hays Rainmakers of Prince Rupert in a Sweet 16 game set for a 10 a.m. tip at the LEC’s south court.
But when you consider what they have gone through this season, they have done just fine to earn their spot.
When the 2018-19 season tipped off, the Sparwood Spartans, a regular provincial qualifier at the Single-A tier, got some interesting news about just where they would have to play this season.
Nearby Elkford Secondary couldn’t field enough players for a team, so the two student-athletes from that school that wanted to continue to play were allowed to join the Spartans.
The only thing was, it put them one body over the Single-A class limit and thus forced them to play against larger schools at the Double-A tier.
And one of those two players? You guessed it: Tanner Barclay.
“It took the good part of our season for everyone to mesh, but it’s really come together,” said the team’s assistant coach Adam Christensen during shootarounds. “We’d compete a little better at Single A but it’s all worked out.”
Enough so that Sparwood rallied from 21 points down at halftime of the Kootenays’ final against Grand Forks to rally past the Wolves 86-79 and earn their spot at provincials in their new tier.
“That and the Tanner’s 83-point game have been the highlights of our season,” Christensen said.
Asking Barclay about how he felt during the second-highest single-game scoring performance in B.C. high school boys basketball history was a lot like asking Maffia how he felt after scoring 94.
“It didn’t start out as one of the greatest, I missed my first couple of shots, but from there I just started hitting,” said Barclay who hit 15 threes that game. “If I missed one, I’d go on a streak of hitting three or four more. To me, it’s just about having confidence in what you practice.”
Barclay is not a slight kid.
He brings a strength of physique to the court, looks athletic and in control from the moment he begins to dribble, and in a South Court gymnasium he had never shot in before, he was immediately playing the strings.
“When he scored his 83, we were driving and fast-breaking and he just started pulling up from everywhere,” Christensen remembered. “He’d be right on the (three-point) line, or 15 feet behind. It didn’t matter.”
The team has a lot of promise beyond this season.
Beside Barclay who is averaging 36 points per game, fellow Grade 11 Devon Elliott is also having a solid campaign, averaging 25 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks per game.
Yet everyone concerned knows the Rainmakers are massive favourites.
“I think all of our boys have been following their top player, the Utah State commit,” Christensen said about Charles Hays’ dynamic 6-foot-9 senior forward Liam McChesney. “So I think we’re here to enjoy the first game and have fun. After that I think we’ll be able to step up a little more.”
Barclay is just hyped for the chance to play a big-time team.
“I am excited to go up against a good team,” he says, “so that we can see what they are like and compare. It will be fun for sure and I am excited.”
Beyond this year?
“Up to now, I haven’t gotten any interest,” Barclay admits. “It’s hard up here in the Kootenays. There’s no one around. I am just playing, playing hard, and whatever comes, comes.”
Yet this week, over the course of the team’s journey through the Double A bracket, don’t be the least bit surprised if a whole lot of people suddenly start to notice.
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