Duchess Park's Aidan Lewis measure a shot on Wednesday in the opening round of the B.C. championships at the LEC. (Photo by Dan Kinvig property of University of the Fraser Valley athletics 2020. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Boys Basketball

FINAL EDITION Triple-A boys Day 1: Varsity Letters gives you live game day reports and photos of all eight opening-round games!

LANGLEY — Welcome to the opening day of play here at the 2020 B.C. senior boys basketball championships.

Please continue to check back on this posting throughout the day for updates as we wind our way through the eight-game sudden elimination Sweet 16 bracket.


No. 1 Duchess Park of Prince George got physical with No. 16 seed Mark Isfled of Courtenay as the 2020 tourney opened Wednesday in Langley. (Photo by Dan Kinvig property of University of the Fraser Valley athletics 2020. All Rights Reserved)


By Dan Kinvig (special to Varsity Letters) 

LANGLEY — Mustering the requisite energy to play championship-calibre basketball at 8:30 in the morning is no easy task, but the Duchess Park Condors are about as comfortable as a team can be in the proverbial Egg McMuffin game.

For the second year in a row, the Prince George squad drew the early-morning opener at 3A provincials, and they had enough pep in their step to build a quick double-digit lead (16-6) over the Mark Isfeld Ice. That momentum proved pivotal as they punched their ticket to the quarter-finals, and they’ll face the Pitt Meadows-SMUS winner on Thursday at 3 p.m.

“We’ve been here before in the exact same game, and we kind of know what it takes to get these guys up to play,” Condors head coach Jordan Yu said afterward.

“We had to leave pretty early yesterday from Prince George – we were up at 6:30, so we just kept with our routine getting up this morning. And I think we showed up for the most part – at least in the first quarter.”

Duchess Park’s go-to defence is a 2-2-1 zone press, and they’re adept at forcing turnovers and then racing back the other way in transition. That’s what they opened with on Wednesday as they built a 24-12 lead at the end of the first quarter and a 45-27 lead at the half.

The Ice, though, are a gritty bunch, and they hung tough with Grade 10 point guard Temwa Mtawali and Grade 11 forward Mike Aguilar leading the way. Mtawali had a phenomenal performance, racking up a game-high 31 points to go with eight rebounds, four assists and four steals, serving notice he’ll be a force to be reckoned with on the championship side of the draw in future years. Aguilar chipped in with 11 points and seven rebounds.

Ultimately, though, the top-seeded Condors were able to keep the Ice at bay, maintaining their double-digit lead and pulling away in the fourth quarter.

Senior combo guard Jackson Kuc paced Duchess Park with 20 points and six steals, and twin brothers Tony and Emir Zejnulahovic showcased their versatile inside-outside skills. Tony had 14 points, nine boards and four assists, and Emir went for 13 points, eight boards and two assists. Cole Laing chipped in with 10 points for the winners, and Connor Lewis’s 10 rebounds were a game-high.

Afterward, Yu noted that Isfeld’s Mtawali is “a heck of a player.”

“We were obviously keying on him all day,” he said. “They run a lot of good sets for him. He’s super-quick and can handle the rock. He’s a real tough guard, a real tough match-up. We were hoping to get the ball out of his hands a little bit more, but that’s easier said than done.

“I can’t say that we had our best game today, but it was good enough to get everyone in, and a chance to feel the floor and a chance to feel this environment, and hopefully get the ball rolling for the tournament.”


Surrounded by SMUS Blue Jags, Putt Meadows still found a way to advance to Thursday’s AAA quarterfinals, setting up a clash with No. 1 Duchess Park. (Photo by Dan Kinvig property of University of the Fraser Valley athletics 2020. All Rights Reserved)

By Dan Kinvig (special to Varsity Letters) 

The Pitt Meadows Marauders did it with defence in their 3A provincial opener, turning in a gritty, blue-collar shift on their way to victory over the St. Michaels University School Blue Jags.

The Marauders’ offence was slow to materialize, but they set the tone at the defensive end, limiting SMUS to 18.2 per cent shooting from the field (2-for-11) in the first quarter and emerging with a 10-5 lead at the end of the frame.

It was more of the same from there, as Pitt’s tough-minded man-to-man approach put the clamps on the Vancouver Island champs in a 58-51 win.

“That physicality, getting after it on the perimeter, causing chaos – that’s a big part of who we are when we’re playing well,” Marauders head coach Brody Herman said afterward. “We have a bunch of Grade 12s who play a ton of minutes, and they’re really motivated, really driven, and they just grind. They lead us with that effort, and it’s fantastic.

“That’s an average performance for us (defensively).”

If holding your opponent to 28.8 per cent shooting for the game while pilfering 19 steals is average, that’s a scary prospect for the rest of the 3A draw.

Points were tough to come by for both teams in the first quarter, and Pitt’s lead was 27-17 at the half.

The Blue Jags were a focused bunch coming out of the locker room – their swarming 3-2 zone held the Marauders scoreless over the first four minutes of the third quarter, igniting a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to 27-24. But Pitt Meadows stayed patient on offence, probing the centre of the zone for soft spots. They maintained a 39-32 lead through three quarters and pushed the advantage back to double digits at 44-34 early in the fourth.

Steve Nash’s alma mater mounted one last push, drawing to within 53-45 with four minutes left after five straight points from Karter Fry. The Marauders, though, came up with big plays on the offensive glass in the late going – Kiefer Wedel and Iman Ostovari scored putback layups down the stretch to stave off the SMUS rally.

Ryan Tougas (17 points, 12 rebounds) had a double-double for the Marauders, and Brendan Pardy (16) and Ostovari (12) also scored in double figures.

Fry had a huge outing for the Blue Jags – the Island MVP racked up 24 points, 14 boards, four steals and three assists. Ben Beattie (12 points, 10 boards) also posted a double-double for SMUS.

Up next for Pitt Meadows is a quarter-final date with top-seeded Duchess Park at 3 p.m. Thursday.

“Obviously they’re a phenomenal team,” Herman noted, “but we’re going to come and battle, we’re going to grind like we just did here. We’re excited for the challenge.”



Sir Charles Tupper Tigers’ Luke Tobias is slowed on his way to the hoop by Richmond’s A.R. MacNeill Ravens. (Photo by Dan Kinvig property of University of the Fraser Valley athletics 2020. All Rights Reserved)

By Dan Kinvig (special to Varsity Letters) 

LANGLEY — For much of the fourth quarter, Cinderella’s slipper looked to be a perfect fit for the A.R. MacNeill Ravens.

The Richmond-based school rallied from a double-digit deficit to grab a 38-37 lead over the favoured Charles Tupper Tigers with eight minutes left in regulation. Momentum was squarely in their corner, their physical defence had the Tigers frustrated, and they were backed by an enthusiastic student section which made so much racket banging on trash cans, you’d have thought you were at a Houston Astros game.

But Tupper, after struggling to generate points for much of the afternoon, found their form just in time, reeling off a decisive 13-2 run to earn a spot in the quarter-finals. They’ll face the St. Patrick-John Barsby winner at 4:45 p.m. on Thursday.

Afterward, Tigers head coach Jeff Gourley noted that a number of factors – the pro-Ravens crowd, the seeding differential, and MacNeill’s relentless physicality – combined to crank up the pressure on his squad.

“There’s a lot of young guys out on the floor, and this is big stuff for them,” he said. “The crowd really got at them, and that shook them a little bit. . . . They (the Ravens) were very physical, and we’re not very physical. They did a great job of coaching.

“But then we calmed down and everything was OK.”

Tupper started brightly, opening an early 12-2 lead, but an and-one floater from Marco Esteban took the lid off the hoop for the Ravens, and they would cut the deficit to 14-10.

The second quarter brought some great theater. MacNeill’s Tanner Devlin swished a trey to knot the score 20-20 and complete the comeback from the early double-digit deficit, pumping his fist as the crowd roared. Tupper’s Noah Basas answered with a step-back trey, accompanied by a chest-thump and an index finger raised to the heavens, and he would add another from downtown as the Tigers ended the half on an 8-0 run.

The offensive taps slowed to a trickle in the third quarter, as the two teams combined for a single point over the first four and a half minutes. The Ravens eventually got unstuck, outscoring the Tigers 12-6 in the frame to draw to within 34-32 heading to the fourth.

Devlin’s trey two minutes into the final frame gave MacNeill its first lead of the game at 38-37, but the Tigers steadied themselves. Derek Le hit a corner triple to restore the lead at 42-40, and the exquisitely named Matthew Dunkerley – Tupper’s 6’7” centre – shook loose for five straight points as the Tigers surged ahead 51-40. The Ravens reeled off seven straight points in the final minute, capped by – what else? – a Devlin three, but Tupper was clutch at the line in the dying seconds to seal the win.

With both teams hovering around the 30 per cent mark from the field, only three players hit double digits in points. MacNeill’s Omar Abumalouh scored a game-high 14, and Tupper got 12 from Basas on 4-of-6 from downtown and 10 from Dunkerley.

“It was just a matter of us settling down,” Gourley summarized. “We just kept rushing, rushing, rushing, rushing everything. It’s that first game, it’s always that first game.”


Showing the focus on his follow-through is St. Pat’s Daniel Marcelo during the Celtics’ opening-round win Wednesday over Nanaimo’s John Barsby Bulldogs. (Photo by Dan Kinvig property of University of the Fraser Valley athletics 2020. All Rights Reserved)

By Dan Kinvig (special to Varsity Letters)

LANGLEY — Just over a week ago, Daniel Marcelo and his senior boys basketball teammates from Saint Patrick Regional Secondary were in the stands at the Langley Events Centre, watching the school’s junior boys squad win a provincial title in thrilling fashion.

It gave Marcelo a vision for how he hopes this week will go for the Celtics seniors as they take their turn on the LEC’s Centre Court hardwood.

“Seeing how they play . . . it’s how we play, that style from our coaches,” he explained. “How we practice, that’s how they practice too.

“Watching them get the W, it was really inspirational. Now us being at provincials, we want to get a banner for our school and our community.”

So far, so good for the Celtics, as they sprinted past the John Barsby Bulldogs in their 3A provincial tourney opener on Wednesday afternoon.

Speed trumped size in this one, as the Celtics – without a single player on their roster taller than 6’2” – simply wore down a more physically imposing Bulldogs squad – with three players listed at 6’5” – with their defensive pressure and lightning-quick transition offence.

The first two Barsby possessions were a microcosm for how the rest of the game would play out. St. Patrick guards Marcelo and Jose Malabanan wreaked havoc on the press, swiping steals that led to four quick points in transition. The Celtics had a 10-2 lead just two minutes in, and it was more of the same from there.

You’d have forgiven the fans in the stands if they’d experienced shortness of breath just watching St. Patrick’s breakneck pace. One of the referees even confessed with a chuckle, during a four-quarter stoppage, that it was “the most I’ve run in my entire life.”

“Coach Nap (Santos) has told us that since we’re maybe the smallest team out there, our speed has to be one of our best abilities,” Marcelo noted. “Getting rebounds, pushing it to the guards, shooting, that’s just our style of play. It’s really fun. We do a lot of conditioning during practice, and during games we’re fit enough to just run the lights out of people.”

St. Patrick, which moves on to face the Tupper Tigers in the quarter-finals at 4:45 p.m. Thursday, got 21 points from Marcelo and 15 from his backcourt mate Malabanan. Justin Macatangay added 13 points for the Celtics, who knocked down 13 triples.

The Bulldogs got nine points from senior guard Ethan Hart, and seven points and seven boards from Daniel Sackey.




St. Thomas More’s Nick Osho strains to maintain possession of the basketball during tense opening-round clash with Richmond’s Steveston-London Sharks on Wednesday. (Photo by Dan Kinvig property of University of the Fraser Valley athletics 2020. All Rights Reserved)

By Dan Kinvig (special to Varsity Letters) 

LANGLEY — The St. Thomas More Collegiate Knights and Steveston-London Sharks treated everyone at the LEC’s Centre Court to some proper March Madness, dueling right down to the final buzzer in the 3A tournament nightcap on Wednesday.

Each team, at different stages of the second half, appeared to be in control, but it was the Knights who ultimately survived and advanced after senior point guard Gabe Nicario blocked a potential game-tying three-pointer from the Sharks’ Jhnoelle Vergara at the horn.

STMC earns the right to advance to the Elite Eight, where they’ll face No. 2 seed Vernon on Thursday (8:15 p.m.).

“We just did our thing, man,” enthused Knights Grade 11 forward Chayze Deza, who was selected as player of the game after pouring in a team-high 20 points. “We came together as a team. We’re brothers, that’s what we’re meant for. We just stuck up for each other. No matter how big their comeback was, we just stuck together.”

Steveston-London’s comeback, make no mistake, was big.

STMC built a 35-29 lead over the course of a hotly contested first half, then opened the third quarter on a tear, reeling off a 12-4 run. Dante Digirolamo hit back-to-back threes, and Nicario got to the rim for the other six Knights points during that stretch as the lead ballooned to 47-33.

Steveston-London’s Grade 11 guard Nao Kawano caught fire at that point, sparking a rally. His triple cut the deficit to 50-45, and shortly thereafter, Vergara’s old-fashioned three-point play drew the Sharks to within 52-50. Add it all up, and it was a 17-5 surge for the No. 10 seed.

STMC’s Alden D’souza helped to steady his team, though, hitting a pair of key triples late in the third to give his team a 58-52 edge heading to the fourth.

The Knights nursed a two-possession lead for much of the final frame, but Sharks senior Vergara was heroic down the stretch. He poured in 13 points in the fourth, including a floater in the lane – plus the foul – to get his team back to within 72-71 with 1:30 left.

Nicario responded with a baseline J to give his team some breathing room, and in the final minute, he twice went 1-for-2 from the free throw line, sandwiching a clutch putback by Vergara to bring the score to 76-73 with eight seconds left in regulation. The Sharks had a shot to send the game to OT – Vergara flew down the court with the seconds ticking down, but Nicario met him at the top of the arc and did a great job to contest the shot without fouling.

Nicario stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, eight rebounds, seven steals and five assists, and Digirolamo and Nick Osho scored 12 points apiece for STMC.

Vergara’s 22 points for the Sharks were a game-high, Kawano added 13 points, Brady Wong scored 10, and Jalen Johal had eight points, 10 boards, and two blocks.

NO. 2 VERNON 81, NO. 15 MEI 37

Vernon point guard Zack Smith helped his Panthers take the first step towards a return to the B.C. AAA final in a win over the MEI Eagles on Wednesday. (Photo by Dan Kinvig property of University of the Fraser Valley athletics 2020. All Rights Reserved)

By Dan Kinvig (special to Varsity Letters) 

LANGLEY — Last season’s provincial 3A runners-up sent a resounding message to the rest of the tier – they’re back, and they’re looking for one more win than they got in 2019.

The Vernon Panthers – who were on the wrong end of a heartbreaking 46-44 decision to North Delta in last season’s title game – blitzed Abbotsford’s MEI Eagles in their opener, holding the Eagles to single-digit scoring in three of the four quarters and 22.1 per cent shooting from the field for the game.

“We haven’t even had a year-end celebration from last season,” Panthers assistant coach Bob Corbett said afterward. “We basically went on spring break, came back, and started getting ready for this year. The guys, all the way along, they’ve acted like they’ve got another thing to do.

“We’ve gone through some ups and downs this year, but now everybody’s healthy, and we’ve been on the floor enough. They did a great job in the weight room in the off-season and bulked up. They’re back, they’ve got a point they want to make.”

This group of Panthers features four football/basketball dual-sport athletes who helped the school win its second straight B.C. AA Subway Bowl championship in December. The basketball squad boasts the same type of toughness – both mental and physical – required succeed on the gridiron.

Vernon’s defence was locked in from the opening tip – they built an early 9-2 lead, stretched it to 18-4, and were off to the races from there.

Isaiah Ondrik picked up player of the game honours, racking up 22 points, nine rebounds and four assists, and Zack Smith – the provincial football MVP-winning quarterback – posted a huge double-double with 19 points and 17 boards. Kevin Morgan added 14 points for the Panthers, who will face the winner of Wednesday’s late game between Steveston-London and St. Thomas More in the semis on Thursday at 8:15 p.m.

“I was really pleased with how well we came to play defensively,” Corbett noted. “They (MEI) ran a bit of their offence, but we pushed them out of it. We didn’t give them any free looks. They’re young – Mike (Lee, Eagles head coach) is doing a great job with them. It’s their first time in this type of environment, and our guys have played so much here it’s considered a second home for them.”

The Eagles, indeed, are a youthful bunch – Tyson Ardell, a UFV Cascades volleyball signee, is the lone senior among the top seven players in MEI’s rotation. Grade 10 point guard Jaylen Lee’s nine points were a team-high on Wednesday, and Ardell had eight points and eight boards.




G.W. Graham’s Jude Hall is surrounded by Ladysmith 49ers on Wednesday. (Photo by Dan Kinvig property of University of the Fraser Valley athletics 2020. All Rights Reserved)

By Dan Kinvig (special to Varsity Letters) 

LANGLEY — The G.W. Graham Grizzlies’ version of the Twin Towers might not be quite as dominant as Tim Duncan and David Robinson were back in the day for the San Antonio Spurs, but as literal twins, they perhaps deserve the moniker just as much.

Matthias Klim, listed at 6’10” in the tournament program, and “little” (6’9”) brother Zach give the Grizzlies a size advantage that would stack up well in any tier, and they helped the Chilliwack squad get off to a solid start in the 3A provincial tourney on Wednesday.

“It’s nice to have 6’10” in high school basketball,” Grizzlies head coach Jake Mouritzen noted with a chuckle. “Mattias and Zach are multi-sport athletes – they play baseball, and throw a 90-mile-per-hour fastball. They’ve been big for us all year.

“They’ve kind of flown under the radar a little bit, only because our guards have played really well. But they’ve been playing really well the last few weeks – they could have easily been first team all-stars last week at our regionals. They’re big, they’re athletic, they move well. As long as they stay in the game mentally, they’re great.”

The Klim twins keyed the Grizzlies’ stifling defensive performance – they notched four blocks apiece, and Ladysmith managed just 24.4 per cent shooting from the field. Zach Klim had a big scoring night, racking up a team-best 21 points to go with 16 rebounds, while Matthias added 10 boards and six points.

The game began to turn G.W. Graham’s way late in the second quarter, as Cairo Almarez hit back-to-back triples to give his team a 34-21 lead at the half. The Grizz maintained that momentum out of the locker room, scoring the first seven points of the third quarter to stretch the margin to 20 points (41-21).

They would only score two points the rest of the frame, though, as the 49ers mounted a comeback led by Rocco Calabrese. The senior guard went 5-for-9 from beyond the arc for the game, on his way to 21 points, and Ladysmith got the deficit down to seven (45-38) with plenty of time remaining in the fourth. G.W. Graham scored the next 11 points to salt the game away, though, and Zach Klim punctuated the win with a two-handed dunk in the late going.

The Grizzlies advance to face the Magee Lions in the quarter-finals on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

“We’ve played in these (close) games all year,” Mouritzen said, analyzing his team’s ability to steady the ship in the late going. “In second-half situations, the guy losing it the most is me right here (on the bench). They’re good. They don’t seem to panic. Sometimes they fall asleep. But we played a schedule where we played games like that all year. We played lots of 4A teams, lots of the best in 3A. We’re seasoned this year – we’re ready to play in those big games, so hopefully that pays off this week.”

Almarez finished with 12 points and three assists, and Clay Kurtz contributed eight points and seven boards to G.W. Graham’s cause.

Ryan Bastian and Eric Gueldenstern scored eight points apiece for Ladysmith, with Bastian adding a team-best 10 rebounds.

NO. 11 MAGEE 73, NO. 6 RICHMOND 57

Magee’s Sunsar Jawanda cuts a swath past Richmond’s Matthew Burke. The Lions came through with an upset victory and are now Elite 8-bound. (Photo by Dan Kinvig property of University of the Fraser Valley athletics 2020. All Rights Reserved)

By Dan Kinvig (special to Varsity Letters) 

LANGLEY — A furious fourth-quarter finish yielded a moment of March magic for the Magee Lions, as they pulled off an upset win over the Richmond Colts – and as a double-digit seed, no less.

The Lions, limited to 26 points during a ragged first half, exceeded that total during a red-hot, 27-point fourth quarter that saw them turn a close game into a rout.

From head coach Kevin Tyfting’s perspective, it was simply a matter of his Grade 11-laden roster growing comfortable under the bright lights of the provincial tournament, and patiently running their offence after an isolation-heavy first half.

“We’re almost all Grade 11s, and they’re new (at the senior level), so they have great times and they have bad times,” Tyfting explained. “Sometimes it takes a while for them to relax and do what they do best. And when they do, we’re not bad.

“We score off passing – we’re not one-on-one players, and we were trying to do too much of that in the first half,” he added. “We basically were way more patient . . . In the second half, it was more about passing to each other and trusting that they go to the right spots.”

The first half was closely contested, with South Fraser zone champ Richmond ending the second quarter on a 5-0 run to grab a 30-26 lead heading into the break.

The Lions started to find traction in the second half, working the ball into the paint to forwards Aaron Ungprasert (6’6”), Daniel Rocha Zandbergen (6’4”) and Rourke Macdonald (6’4”), with point guard Harvie Dorado providing support from the perimeter. Magee opened the third quarter on an 11-2 run and held a 46-41 lead at the end of the frame, and they tore off a 12-3 run to open the fourth, building a double-digit cushion they’d maintain the rest of the way.

Dorado went 3-for-6 from downtown on his way to a team-high 21 points, and Ungprasert (13 points), Rocha Zandbergen (11 points, 13 boards) and Macdonald (10 points) also scored in double digits.

Richmond’s own Grade 11 standout, Arminas Ilciukas, racked up a game-high 23 points, and Jonathan Hu added 18 points. Lazar Stanojevic, the Colts’ 6’6” centre, contributed eight points and 12 rebounds.

Magee advances to face the G.W. Graham-Ladysmith winner in the quarter-finals, Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

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.

One thought on “FINAL EDITION Triple-A boys Day 1: Varsity Letters gives you live game day reports and photos of all eight opening-round games!

  1. Howard- Arguably the best year (1967) for the top two 1st All-Star guards (Ron Thorsen and Billy Robinson). Is there another year with two 1st team all-star guards that matches their bball careers after high school?

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