B.C. high school basketball coaches could barely contain their excitement Tuesday evening as they spoke with Varsity Letters just minutes after the official decision came down that B.C. high school basketball’s delayed opening was over, and that tip-off around the province would take place on Wednesday.
“They have been waiting to go now for weeks,” said Steveston-London senior boys basketball coach Mike Stoneburgh of his players when reached in the gym Tuesday evening just prior to a team practice ahead of its opener against King David on Wednesday in the opening round of the Point Grey Invitational.
“We had to cancel our Monday game, but they’re all here now, in the gym, waiting to practice and wanting to come firing out of the gates.”
Over in Burnaby, veteran St. Thomas More senior boys coach Aaron Mitchell was literally five minutes away from starting practice with his Knights’ boys team.
“We just handed out the jersies, and it’s Christmas all over again,” said Mitchell, “speaking for the coaches, for the fans, for referees, for the scorekeepers, I know we are all excited to be a part of it again.”
After a two-day delay to the start of the winter portion of the B.C. high school sports calendar, B.C. School Sports gave the green light to a Wednesday start.
A BCSS press release read in part: “The Board, in consultation with our stakeholders and partners, feel that school sport provides much needed benefits for students, and it’s important that they continue. However, the Board is sensitive to the number of teams in the winter season, particularly, but not limited to basketball, and the invitational tournaments and events that happen around the province prior to the Christmas break. Interschool competition may occur, provided that schools make every available effort to implement and follow the guidance from the Ministry of Education relative to reducing fuel consumption. Interschool competition may occur, provided that schools make every available effort to implement and follow the guidance from the Ministry of Education relative to reducing fuel consumption. Schools should carpool, use public transit or busses where possible and defer or reschedule events, where possible, that require significant travel.”
The new elicited a spontaneous outpouring of joy in South Surrey as the Semiahmoo Totems senior boys team came off the floor.
“Oh my gosh, we just had a mini-celebration in practice when we got the official word that it was a go,” reported Totems head coach Ed Lefurgy. “High school basketball means a lot to our school, and it means a lot to our province, and to know it’s officially back, we couldn’t be any happier. We all know what sports means to so may kids. It provides community. It is an extended classroom.”
Over in the Edmonds neighbourhood of Burnaby, Byrne Creek Bulldogs’ senior boys basketball coach Bal Dhillon was preparing his team for its Wednesday city league opener against the Cariboo Hill Chargers.
“I feel so good for them,” he said of his players. “We work hard to be a competitive program here, but really, being able to play high school basketball is an important part of childhood, and we have to remember that, that all of them are still kids.
“So this is great to have back for everybody,” he added. “I feel great for our Grade 11s and our Grade 12s, but I also feel sad for our Grade 12s from last year and the fact that they missed out on all of this. And I hope that we never have to go back to that.”
A constant string of disappointments since the spring of 2020, including the cancelled season, had Riverside Secondary girls basketball coach Paul Langford cautiously optimistic about Tuesday’s news.
“I don’t want to take anything for granted… a month ago we’d never even heard about an atmospheric river,” began the Rapids’ longtime coach, whose team has Friday-Saturday home games scheduled against Burnaby Central and Sir Winston Churchill. “I have my fingers crossed that we will play, and though the anticipation is high, there have been so many disappointments that I am a little worried, because I would love for them to play.”
Brooskwood Bobcats’ girls basketball coach Chris Veale, who is coaching both Grade 9 and senior varsity teams at the Langley school this year, was having trouble comprehending how big a void almost two seasons without games has been for his players.
“To lose that much time, I even felt like a big piece was missing from my life,” said Veale, “so I can’t even imagine being 16 years old and having essentially a chunk of your life ripped away from you and losing two years of games. That’s like an eighth of your life.
“So right now they are so jacked, they just can’t wait.”
STM’s Mitchell, whose popular A Hoops Journey podcast has been like a lifeline for the B.C. basketball community during the pandemic, understands the importance of his student-athletes simply getting the opportunity to get on the floor and compete as a team.
“It’s the overall structure this gives them,” said Mitchell, whose team hosts Terry Fox on Thursday. ‘We have a 7:30 (p.m.) practice, so OK, I need to get home and get some homework done.’ They need that routine and the tools it helps give them when they leave high school. They will learn about that during the high school basketball season whether they know it or not.”
For all the good it does for the kids, and coming in the midst of some of the toughest times imaginable, this was the kind of good news we could all use.
It just felt good, right?
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