SURREY — Height is a state of mind.
Or is that just another way of saying that if you’re short, you better find another way to get the job done?
Both schools of thought, through sheer necessity, have become essential daily ingredients for the senior boys basketball team from East Vancouver’s Sir Charles Tupper Secondary.
On Wednesday, Tupper’s AAA No 3-ranked Tigers showed just how much they believe they can maximize every inch of their roster by pulling off one of the young season’s most impressive wins to date, a 79-72 win over Abbotsford’s AAAA No. 4-ranked W.J. Mouat Hawks in the opening round of the Tamanawis Wildcats’ McElhanney Holiday Basketball Tournament.
Even without the services of its 6-foot-5 Grade 9 forward Luke Tobias, and guard regulars Norben Bulosan and Sebastián Lemos, the shorthanded Tigers proved to be an exercise in persistence, using sound technique to make up for their vertical challenges in the front-court, and then simply wore down the Hawks when it mattered most down the stretch drive of the fourth quarter.
Tupper, which trailed 48-41 late in the third quarter and looked ready to surrender to the depth, height and experience of the Hawks, took a 10 point (69-59) lead over Mouat late in the contest on a three-pointer by Gaurab Acharya with 3:15 remaining.
And even when the Tigers took their largest lead at 73-62, the Hawks battled back, knocking down three straight triples to pull within 73-71.
However Tupper’s Jovan Dhillon made the game’s defining defensive play when he blocked a Mouat shot, triggering an offensive foray which resulted in two made free throws by 6-foot-6 Grade 10 Matthew Dunkerley for a 75-71 lead with 43.6 seconds remaining.
“Today was all about technique, and blocking out,” said Tupper head coach Jeff Gourley, whose team earned the right to play in a 2 p.m. semifinal Thursday against AAAA No. 6 Burnaby South after it’s solid fundamentals and high hustle quotient allowed them to get to the vast majority of loose balls.
South’s Rebels were 17-point winners over Pitt Meadows in one quarterfinal. On there other side of the draw, AAAA No 2-ranked Tamanawis was an 88-66 winner over crosstown foe L.A. Matheson. The day’s final game pitted Surrey’s Clayton Heights Night Riders against PoCo’s Riverside Rapids.
“We drill into them all day long about technique,” continued Gourley of his Tigers, “about how we might give up so much height to so many teams, but that it doesn’t matter how tall you are if you can meet and greet (your opponent) and then box him out.”
Despite their short bench, and the fact they lost Ranell Sebastian from their guard rotation in the first half, the Tigers never faltered with the unflappable Acharya scoring a game-high 26 points, including six treys.
However a Tupper team whose fate is seemingly tied to the number of triples it hits per game, needed just nine on the day because they kept so many half-court possessions alive with their hustling ways.
Simon Crossfield added 16 points, Benson Laconsay 13, Dhillon 11 and Grade 10 post Dunkerley six.
The latter, however, was especially effective, playing extended minutes and showing how ready he already is to assume a mantle of responsibility in the paint at both ends of the court.
“He was just, wow,” Gourley said. “He was fearless out there against their senior.”
Harvir Johal led the Hawks with 19 points, while Dhivaan Bhogal added 18, Reis Sekhon 10 and Prab Sran nine.
The Tamanawis Holiday Classic continues Thursday then concludes with its championship final 4 p.m. Friday.
Sir Charles Tupper will be one of the many elite AAA teams taking part in St. Thomas More Collegiate’s Chancellor Invitational, set to run Jan. 10-13 at the Burnaby School.
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