The final week of the B.C. high school basketball season is now underway with Day 1 of the 2023 B.C, boys basketball championships.
Please check back here throughout the day for continual live game report updates on this tier.
STORIES BY BRAD ZIEMER (Special for Varsity Letters)
(All games at Centre Court)
TOP HALF DRAW
TOP HALF DRAW
NO. 1 ST. PATRICK’S 127 NO. 16 J.L. CROWE 41
LANGLEY — The St. Patrick Celtics did not need any luck of the Irish in their first-round win over the J.L. Crowe Hawks at the B.C. Senior Boys Basketball Triple-A Championships at the Langley Events Centre.
However, it did help to have the services of star 6-1 guard Irish Coquia, who drained a three-pointer on the game’s first possession as the top-seeded Celtics registered an easy 127-41 decision over the 16th-seeded Hawks of Trail.
Coquia is the star of a very deep Celtics squad that was able to score at will against their over-matched opponents.The Vancouver-based Celtics went on a 9-0 run to open the game, led 34-9 after the first quarter and never looked back.
St. Patrick won last year’s Triple-A provincials and as their No. 1 seed indicates, they are well positioned to repeat this weekend.
With Coquia and 6-3 swingman Jovin Sunner hitting threes at will, the Celtics built a 68-15 halftime lead. Even when coach Nap Santos went to his bench, St. Patrick was in complete control.
Santos knows the tournament will now get tougher for his team, which posted a 26-6 record this season and won the Sea-to-Sky championship.
“We know the further we get the harder it gets,” Santos said. “We understand that, so that’s why I wanted them to focus on their defence because that is what will get us through the next few days. We know there is a target on our back, so we are really going to be focused on getting the job done.”
Coquia was not just hitting long jump shots. He scored a number of times off the fast break and drew the biggest roar of the game when he delivered a behind-the-back pass to Jovin Sunner for a thunderous dunk off a fast break early in the third quarter.
“He’s talented but he deserves it because he works really hard,” Santos said of Coquia. “He puts in extra work, which is what you need to do to get to the next level and he wants to get to that next level. He deserves whatever accolades he gets.”
The Celtics continued to pile up the points in the second half and the clock wasn’t moving nearly fast enough for J.L. Crowe. The Celtics cracked the 100-point mark late in the third quarter when centre Diljot Sunner scored on a lay-up. St. Patrick led 101-22 after three quarters.
Coquia scored a game-high 27 points in limited minutes for the Celtics while Jovin Sunner added 21. Guard Aaron Ripplinger scored 15 points for J.L. Crowe.
NO. 9 ARGYLE 79 NO. 8 A.R. MACNEILL 59
LANGLEY — It hasn’t been the easiest of seasons for the Argyle Pipers. When the gym at their North Vancouver school suffered extensive damage due to flooding, the Pipers were forced to play all of their games on the road.
Maybe that’s why they looked right at home on centre court at the Langley Events Centre in Wednesday’s opening round of the B.C. Boys Triple-A Basketball Championships.
Sparked by the three-point shooting of guards Caden Ruby and Gavin Archer, the Pipers defeated the A.R. MacNeill Ravens of Richmond 79-59.
“It was pretty disappointing in that we haven’t had a single home game this season, but we did our best to get our fans out to all of our away games and a lot of times our fans outnumbered the other team’s,” said Archer, who led the Pipers with 21 points. “It’s still been a good season.”
Archer thinks Argyle surprised MacNeill with their outside shooting.
“I don’t think they respected our outside shooting from the start,” he said. “But we showed them we can shoot. We are not really an offensive team. We rarely score 80 points, so we are just dogs on defence. We hustle and a lot of us aren’t really basketball players. We are multi-sport athletes. I am a soccer player who trended into basketball late.”
The Pipers took control of what had been a tight game with a 14-0 run late in the second quarter and were up 34-20 at the break. Argyle did much of its damage from behind the arc as they drained six three-pointers in the first half. Ruby scored eight first-quarter points as the Pipers built a 19-15 lead after one.
The third quarter was a back-and-forth affair, but the Ravens weren’t able to chip away at Argyle’s lead. In fact, the Pipers managed to extend it to 17 points and led 60-43 heading into the final 10 minutes.
“I think our defence made the difference,” said Argyle coach Sean Zhang. “They (MacNeill) are a fast team, they can really get some momentum if we don’t guard them well. The key to winning this game was our defence.”
Ruby added 20 points for Argyle. Joaquin Bautista scored 20 for MacNeill. Things don’t get any easier now for Argyle as the Pipers meet the top-seeded St. Patrick Celtics in the next round.
“It will be a tough game, but we’ll try our best and see what happens,” Archer said.
NO. 4 BYRNE CREEK 75 NO. 13 SOUTH KAMLOOPS 66
LANGLEY — The Byrne Creek Bulldogs survived a stubborn challenge from the South Kamloops Titans to advance to the second round of the B.C. Boys Triple-A Basketball Championship.
The No. 4 seed Bulldogs led most of the way but were never able to build any kind of comfortable lead against the 13th-seeded Titans.
It wasn’t until guard Justin Pamintuan knocked down a pair of free throws with 31 seconds remaining to put the Bulldogs up by eight that their lead was safe. They won 75-66 and coach Bal Dhillon acknowledged it wasn’t easy.
“They played very well,” Dhillon said of the Titans. “I really don’t know what the difference was, maybe a little bit of experience. We played a little bit of a tougher schedule than them, so maybe that was a factor.”
The underdog Titans got just the kind of start they wanted, racing out to an early 17-10 lead. But the Bulldogs began to chip away at that lead and only trailed by two points, 21-19, after the first quarter.
The teams traded the lead on multiple occasions in the second quarter. Guard Faisal Rashid’s lay-in off a fast break gave the Bulldogs a 40-38 lead at halftime.
Byrne Creek increased that lead to 58-53 after three quarters.
Dhillon leans heavily on his bench. At least nine of his players see significant floor time and no one player normally averages more than 15 shots per game.
“Today we went 10 or 11 deep but we can easily go 13 deep,” he said. “There are guys on the bench who deserve to play but it’s just the nature of the beast and at this time of the year things tighten up a little bit.”
Grade 12 centre Biar Akuoc is a difference-maker for the Bulldogs, especially at the defensive end. Opponents don’t get many second-chance opportunities when there’s a 6-10 guy standing under the basket. Akuoc hauled in multiple rebounds at both ends of the court and his size changed a lot of shots for South Kamloops.
“He does so much for us that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet,” Dhillon said Akuoc. “Her changes the game and just even from a leadership standpoint he’s like a heart and soul type of guy.”
Player of the game Mohammed Dukuly had 11 points for the Bulldogs.
NO. 5 LORD BYNG 60 NO. 12 WELLINGTON 52
LANGLEY — No seniors. No problem.
The Lord Byng Grey Ghosts are a young team and playing without a Grade 12 player on their roster at the B.C. High School Boys Triple-A Basketball Championships.
That didn’t seem to matter as the Grey Ghosts beat the Wellington Wildcats of Nanaimo 60-52 in Wednesday’s opening round at Langley Events Centre.
The Grey Ghosts led pretty much from start to finish, but the win certainly did not come easy. Wellington hung around until the end.
“I think it was our defence that was the difference,” said Lord Byng guard Eli Mullin, who was named player of the game. “As a team we really stepped up defensively in the second half. We had some foul trouble in the second half, but our bench is pretty deep.”
Mullin’s late three-pointer gave Lord Byng a 25-18 lead at halftime. They were up 12-10 after one quarter.
Mullin hit a long three-pointer at the buzzer to put Lord Byng up 42-34 after three quarters. He also hit two other threes in the third, when the Grey Ghosts led by as many as 12 points.
Mullin finished the game with 21 points.
“I have worked a lot on my shot and I enjoy shooting the threes,” Mullin said. “But I am trying to develop more of an inside game as well.”
Forward Marko Radic added 16 points for Lord Byng.
The Wildcats were led by 6-3 forward Grayson Ritzand, who scored 12 of his game-high 25 points in the final quarter.
STORIES BY DAN KINVIG (Special to Varsity Letters)
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
NO. 7 MEI 93 NO. 10 STEVESTON-LONDON 88
LANGLEY — Gabe Vig is the engine that makes the Mennonite Educational Institute Eagles go, and he came roaring to life in the second half on Wednesday to power his squad to victory in their opener at Triple-A provincials.
After struggling with his outside shot in the first half, the Eagles’ senior shooting guard erupted after the break, scoring 27 of his game-high 37 points as MEI outlasted the Steveston-London Sharks 93-88.
“You know how it is with Grade 12’s, right?” Eagles head coach Tim Smith said afterward. “You have so much emotion, and you’re wanting to impress. So there were definitely nerves in the beginning, but Gabe has been our guy all year. He’s played so well.
“You want to see some of those threes drop, and they did (in the second half).”
Despite Vig being somewhat out of sync in the first half, the Eagles maintained loose control of the proceedings – largely because the Sharks had no one on the roster within three inches of Spencer Tatlock’s 6’8” stature. MEI’s smooth Grade 10 centre showcased his versatility – posting up, hitting fadeaway jumpers, pinning a Shark layup attempt on the glass, even hitting a second-quarter triple.
Tatlock had 13 points in the first half, but the Eagles’ lead at the break was slender at 42-41.
After failing to connect from downtown over the opening 20 minutes, Vig was dialed in the third, counting three triples among his 14 points in the frame as MEI took a 66-55 lead into the fourth.
The Eagles maintained their momentum, grabbing their largest lead of the night at 79-62 after Ben Brandsma found Eli Thiessen in transition for a layup with just over six minutes left in regulation.
Simon Zeng nearly dragged Steveston-London all the way back. The senior guard proved nearly impossible to keep out of the lane down the stretch, racking up 15 points in the final frame including a pair of and-one layups that gave the Sharks a fighting chance.
With less than two minutes remaining, the Sharks’ Gavin Cameron caught fire, scoring six quick points including a runner in the lane that cut the deficit to 90-88 with 30 seconds left.
Vig came up with a pair of clutch free throws, though, and Cameron, on the ensuing possession, finally missed a shot as the Sharks’ comeback effort stalled.
Tatlock finished with 18 points, and Brandsma (13) and Micah Young (11) also scored in double digits for MEI.
Zeng was heroic in defeat, scoring 25 for Steveston-London. Eight of Cameron’s 20 points came in the fourth quarter, and Kaden Nelson (19 points) and Shaun Johal (12) also contributed offensively for the Sharks.
Afterward, Smith noted that his team benefitted from its experience at last year’s provincials, where the Eagles far exceeded their No. 12 seed and finished sixth overall.
The veteran bench boss noted, though, that his team will need to tighten up their defence for Thursday’s quarter-final, after the Sharks scored on seemingly every fourth-quarter possession on Wednesday.
“It was one of those things were you’ve got to win and move on,” he said. “That’s what it comes down to.
“We’re looking forward to tomorrow. You get that first win, and that’s what you want.”
NO. 2 DOVER BAY 81 NO. 15 CALEDONIA 34
LANGLEY — Trying to score on the Dover Bay Dolphins is a little bit like wrestling an octopus – there are just too many arms to contend with.
The Dolphins’ 2-3 zone defence, fortified with incredible length at every position, is mean at the very least, if not downright unfair.
The Caledonia Kermodes experienced it first-hand on Wednesday, as Dover Bay smothered them 81-34 in the Round of 16.
At the top of their zone, the Nanaimo squad sends a pair of lanky and mobile 6’4” pitbulls – Oyama Crouch and Luke Linder – at opposing ballhandlers. Get past those two, and you’re funneled right into 6’9” Jack Benjamin, flanked by Frank Linder (6’6”) and Matthew Cote (6’3”).
And that’s just the starting lineup. This is a deep squad that can bring more size off the bench when those guys need a breather.
Dolphins head coach Darren Seaman, asked about the genesis of his team’s 2-3 zone, noted that the idea came from an unexpected source.
“To be honest with you, it was Chris Franklin from Oak Bay who made the suggestion,” he admitted with a chuckle. “Early in December, he said, ‘You might want to look at this.’
“He probably regrets it, because we got them the tournament after that. At the UVic tournament, we beat them in the semifinal.
“We were kind of half-and-half at first – we’d go man-to-man, and then 2-3. We’d put the 2-3 on, get scored on, and take it off. It wasn’t until we committed fully . . . Christmas was the big turning point for us. We’ve added some of our own touches on it, as well – it’s not just your standard, old-school 2-3 defence. We have different looks.”
The Dolphins’ length allowed them to cover impossible tracts of on-court territory on Wednesday. They were both disruptive on the perimeter, and aggressive collapsing inside when the Kermodes were able to work the ball towards the paint.
Dover Bay raced out to a 17-5 lead early, extended it to 42-16 at halftime, and extended the margin beyond 40 in the second half.
Luke Linder paced the Dolphins’ balanced attack with 17 points, while Tarman Sandhu (14), Hudson Trood (11) and Crouch (10) also chipped in offensively.
Grade 11 guard Chaz Genaille knocked down a trio of three-pointers among his team-best 12 points for the Kermodes, Justin Caritta scored eight points, and Brome Hansen had seven.
The scary thing? In Seaman’s estimation, the Dolphins didn’t play particularly well at the defensive end on Wednesday.
“It was a long day, waiting to play this game – hanging around the hotel, coming back and forth from here,” he explained. “We could have been more competitive from the get-go defensively.
“It wasn’t our best outing.”
That’s bad news for the rest of the field as we close the book on Day 1.
NO. 6 NORTH DELTA 71 NO. 11 ALBERNI DISTRICT 47
LANGLEY — These North Delta Huskies are hungry.
Ravenously so, if their their first-round Triple-A clash with the Alberni District Armada is any indication.
The South Fraser zone champs were like a dog on a bone, racing out to a 19-2 lead to open the game, en route to a 71-47 triumph.
“The last two weeks, we’ve been really focused,” Huskies head coach Jas Hothi said afterward.
“Through South Frasers we’ve been trying to keep (the players) focused and doing things with them to make sure they’re not nervous. Just making sure everybody knows their job and the game plan – making sure it’s clear – and just breathing. And at the end of the day, having fun.”
The Huskies, to be sure, showed a shortage of nerves and a surplus of fun on Wednesday.
Grade 11 forward Arjan Atwal lit the fuse for North Delta, scoring 10 first-quarter points highlighted by a pair of triples.
The Armada, to their credit, answered the Huskies’ stunning 19-2 game-opening surge to get the deficit back to 10 points (24-14) late in the first quarter.
But North Delta’s opportunistic 3-2 zone defence continued to create lightning-quick transition opportunities – they reeled off another monster run (18-2 bridging the first and second quarters) to stretch the lead to 28 to effectively put the game on ice.
The Huskies’ lead was 44-21 at the half, and they built that margin with exceptional depth, as eight players hit the scoresheet over the opening 20 minutes.
It was more of the same in the third quarter – North Delta extended their cushion as high as 31 points, and cruised home from there.
Atwal finished with a game-high 19 points, Krishan Jeet counted a trio of triples among his 16 points, and Harvir Hothi contributed 12 points for the Huskies.
Senior guard Liam St. Onge paced the Armada with 17 points, and Ty Cyr chipped in with nine points of his own.
Wednesday’s game was a historic occasion for Alberni District, which was making its first appearance at senior boys basketball provincials in 26 years.
“There’s been a buzz for the last week and a bit,” Armada head coach Craig Brooks said. “The community’s jumped on board, and these guys were ecstatic to be part of local history and whatnot, to get over that dry spell.”
As to his team’s slow start, Brooks’s analysis was that “a little bit of it was nerves.
“I don’t know that we’ve shot that cold at any point of the season,” he said. “And just physically, we weren’t owning the space that we needed. Hats off to North Delta – whatever space we gave, they took. It took us a little too long to get fired up, and by then, it was too late.
“We didn’t come in with the mentality of just being satisfied with having made it, but sometimes the moments are a little too big, and you get get a little shell-shocked in the beginning. We’ll recover, and return stronger the next game tomorrow.”
NO. 14 COLLEGE HEIGHTS 62 NO. 3 ST. THOMAS MORE 60
LANGLEY — Like a pair of Air Jordans on the shelf at Foot Locker, Bobby Kelly and the College Heights Cougars spent the better part of 40 minutes on Wednesday evening eyeballing Cinderella’s slipper.
When they finally tried it on – wouldn’t you know it, it fit!
Kelly’s heavily contested fadeaway jumper with 10.4 seconds left in regulation was the difference as the Cougars of Prince George stunned the St. Thomas More Knights by a 62-60 count, energizing the Triple-A draw with an exceedingly rare 14-vs.-3 upset.
“We wanted to be a Cinderella story of the tournament,” College Heights head coach Jordan Yu said with a smile afterward.
“We had a lower ranking than we wanted, and we knew we had a really tough first game. So we said, ‘You know what, guys? You got us here, let’s just go out and play.
“We always watch the college national championships, and you always see that Cinderella team that just plays loose and is firing on all cylinders. That was our game plan – just let it go and play loose.”
Indeed, the Cougars appeared to be in their element from the opening tip. They connected on an early haymaker, building a 17-5 lead with Troy Todoruk and Kelly leading the way. Todoruk swished a trio of treys in the first quarter, and Kelly added eight points in the frame.
STM senior forward Chris Ainsley kept his squad in it, scoring 12 points in the first half as the Knights were within 35-29 at the break.
The Knights continued to claw their way back in the third quarter as their aggressive trapping defence started to find some traction, and they drew even at 43-43 after a steal ignited a fast break capped by a Denayden Daniel-Lee layup.
It rarely strayed beyond a one-possession game from that point, and in the fourth quarter, snipers Todoruk and STM’s Timmy Gonzales dueled down the stretch. Gonzales drained three clutch treys in quick succession; Todoruk answered with a couple of contested fadeaway jumpers and a triple of his own to keep the Cougars in it.
In the dying seconds, with the score knotted at 60, Kelly made a back cut and took the pass, but was met by a pair of STM defenders in the paint. Spinning away from contact, the southpaw lofted a tough jumper, and it found the bottom of the net.
The Knights’ Tarrence Booker had a long two-point jumper to tie it, but it rimmed out, setting off the College Heights celebration.
“We’re a little bit surprised,” Kelly admitted afterward outside a raucous Cougar locker room. “But you know, it’s exciting. We had that faith that we could do it.
“I got the ball in my hands, and saw (the defender) leaning a little bit, and then I just floated and hit it.
“It feels great, to be honest. I’ve never been in a game like this. The energy, as you can hear, we’re all psyched. We’re hyped.”
Todoruk’s game-high 22 points included five three-pointers. Kelly scored 18, point guard Guarev Bains scored 12 en route to player of the game honours, and Tolu Bankole added 10 points for the Cougars.
For St. Thomas More – the Fraser North zone champs – Ainsley finished with 19 points, and Gonzales (13) and Booker (12) also scored in double figures.
“That’s a very talented team,” Yu said of STM. “We haven’t had much opportunity to play high-level competition like them all season.
“We have a couple graduating seniors, but for the most part we’re pretty young. . . . We kept it loose in our team room, kept it loose with our game plan, and the boys stepped up.
“It was just locking down on the defensive end, and trying to play out every possession.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.