G.W. Graham's Cairo Almarez celebrates as the Grizzlies edged Vernon to qualify for its first B.C. championship final. (Photo by Wilson Wong property of Wilson Wong 2020. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Boys Basketball

FINAL EDITION – TRIPLE-A 2020: No. 1 Duchess Park and No. 2 G.W. Graham match strength on strength in Saturday’s B.C. final!

LANGLEY — Welcome to our reports from Friday’s Final Four here at the 2020 B.C. senior boys basketball championships and the Langley Events Centre.

Please check back on this posting throughout the day as we bring you reports from both of today’s semifinals.

All stories by Howard Tsumura




Duchess Park’s Logan Schlick (left) keeps a close eye on Sir Charles Tupper’s Benny Bradford during B.C. Triple A Final Four clash Friday at the LEC. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of VarsityLetters.ca 2020. All Rights Reserved)

LANGLEY — Forty years after they did it the first time, the Duchess Park Condors are going to get another chance to bring home a B.C. senior boys varsity basketball crown back to Prince George.

“We were trying our best not to think of that, but it was in back of our minds,” said Duchess Park head coach Jordan Yu immediately after the Condors’ 61-43 win over East Vancouver’s Sir Charles Tupper Tigers, and before the team was set to meet members of that 1980 team for the first time in its post-game locker room.

“We had a goal to get into this (final) game from last year (after a semifinal loss to eventual champ North Delta), but to have the (1980) team here.. they are coming into the change room, it would have been a bit of a downer to meet them on a loss.”

Could it be any more fitting?

Sir Charles Tupper’s Noah Basas stands in and takes a charge from Duchess Park’s Caleb Lyons during Final Four Friday at the LEC. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of VarsityLetters.ca 2020. All Rights Reserved)

The 1980 Condors were the first team (post-1964 Prince Rupert Rainmakers, of course) from outside of the B.C. power base of Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island to win a top-tiered senior boys provincial basketball title, and the team had come to Langley as part of the BCHSBBA’s 75th anniversary celebration weekend. The Condors also won the 2002 AA title.

Duchess Park left no doubt off the opening tip that it had come ready to play.

The Condors came out on fire, building an 11-0 lead on forward Tony Zejnulahovic’s fast-break lay-in just past the midway mark of the opening quarter.

“We watched a ton of video on them and we knew they could get out in transition and hurt you in many, many ways,” Yu said of the Tigers. “So the big key was to take away their post, but then our (starting) post (Emir Zejnulahovic) got into big time foul trouble early so we went with everyone, and they did a tremendous job.”

Although the Tigers battled back to within seven points (28-21) with 1:14 remaining in the half on short baseline jumper by Luke Tobias, the Condors’ Jackson Kuc sunk a pair of hoops, including the second off his own put-back of an and-one miss, to make it 32-21 at intermission.

And while the Zejnulahovic brothers, Emir and Tony, battled through foul trouble in that first half, they played through the second just fine.

Midway through the third quarter, both Tony and Emir hit back-to-back three-pointers for a 43-28 lead.

“All tournament we have been telling Emir to keep shooting the ball and he had been 0-for-9 from three-point range,” added Yu. “So we said ‘Hey, law of averages’ He is such a great shooter, you should see this guy in practice. He doesn’t miss. We knew it would come. So to see the brothers hit them back-to-back was really nice.”

Caleb Lyons gave Duchess it’s largest lead of the game at 16 when he sunk a baseline triple, then Tony Zejnulahovic followed with a lay-up to make it 48-30 after three frames.

Lyons continued his hot streak, hitting a trey 2:32 into the fourth for a 20-point lead (53-33) and Tupper was unable to mount a rally from that stage.

Guards Kuc and Lyons each scored 15 points, while Emir Zejnulahovic added nine and brother Tony seven. Guard Connor Lewis had nine and a team-high eight rebounds.

DJ Laconsay had 16 points to lead Tupper, which was making its first Final Four appearance since losing to Fleetwood Park in the 2015 final.

Luke Tobias added 15 points.


NO. 3 G.W. GRAHAM 50 NO. 2 VERNON 49

G.W. Graham’s Clay Kurtz (left) and Vernon’s Isaiah Ondrik battle for a loose ball. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of VarsityLetters.ca 2020. All Rights Reserved)

LANGLEY — In a season in which they lost a game 135-128 in triple overtime, did you think the G.W. Graham Grizzlies had it in them to play the defensive gem of their season, right when it mattered most?

Chilliwack’s No. 4-seeded Grizz kept the No. 2 Vernon Panthers off the scoreboard for the first 6:17 of the fourth quarter, then gutted out a stretch drive which featured eight lead changes before Matthias Klim’s 14-foot baseline jumper ripped mesh with 31.4 seconds left pushed the perennial bridesmaids past the Panthers 50-49 and into Saturday’s B.C. championship final against Prince George’s Duchess Park Condors.

In the midst of the post-game celebration, GWG head coach Jake Mouritzen, who had led the team to four previous Final Fours and four more Elite 8s without that breakthrough win, so perfectly summed up the moment for himself.

“I’ve got two children and an amazing wife, and this is the fourth best day of my life,” said Mouritzen, his voice breaking and tinged with emotion.

Trailing 40-38 heading into the fourth quarter, the Grizzlies took a 42-40 lead on a driving layin by 6-foot-9 Zach Klim, and another off a putback off his own offensive rebound by Jude Hall.

Vernon, meanwhile, did not score until 3:43 remained in the game when Isaiah Ondrik hit a trey to put the Panthers on top 43-42.

G.W. Graham’s Jude Hall (centre) drives past Vernon’s Kevin Morgan (left) and Liam Reid. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of VarsityLetters.ca 2020. All Rights Reserved)

From that point forward, every basket brought a lead change, right down to Ondrik’s driving layin with 37.3 seconds left that put the Panthers on top 49-48.

That set the stage for Matthias Klim’s winner, one which came off a great penetration and dish by guard Jude Hall.

“We played good defence, and that is a pretty crazy score,” said Mourtizen, whose team has beaten Vernon at its own tourney in early December, literally days after Vernon had begun full team practices after winning the Subway Bowl B.C. Double-A football title.

Last season, Vernon came up short in the B.C. Triple A title game, losing 46-44 to North Delta.

“I can’t say enough about this group of kids… so disciplined, and they just do exactly what we ask them to do. The Klims were unbelievable, and (point guard) Cairo (Almarez) just played great defence.”

Clay Kurtz led the winners with 15 points and 10 rebounds, Jude Hall had 10 points and seven rebounds, Zach Klim eight points and 10 rebounds, and Matthia Klim 12 points and four rebounds.

“That was a team effort through and through, Cairo hit shots, Matthias hit big shots, we got some good defensive rebounds and we closed it out as a team,” said Zach Klim. “It indescribable. It’s nuts. I’m lost for words.”

Ondrik had 20 points and 11 rebounds in the loss, while Kevin Morgan had 10 points. Zack Smith didn’t score but had nine rebounds, six assists and five steals.

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.

2 thoughts on “FINAL EDITION – TRIPLE-A 2020: No. 1 Duchess Park and No. 2 G.W. Graham match strength on strength in Saturday’s B.C. final!

  1. Hi Howard. Thanks for all of the wonderful update articles written so well capturing the drama and excitement!! Not to be picky, but I think you forgot about the early ’60’s Prince Rupert Rainmakers provincial championship team as being a team from outside the Lower Mainland, Van. Island, Fraser Valley to win the Provincial title. Having coached in the Northwest Zone (Terrace Sr. Girls 1987-88) I know how proud the Pr. Rupert alumni are of that victory. in 1964 especially Ken Sheilds and coached by Norm Vickery. Thanks again for Varsity Letters.

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