LANGLEY — Welcome to Day 2 of the 2023 B.C. senior boys high school basketball championships.
It’s Elite 8 Thursday and we will give you the full scoop here.
Please check back throughout the day for coverage of all four quarterfinal games at this tier.
TOP HALF DRAW
STORY BY HOWARD TSUMURA
NO. 6 NORTH DELTA 69 NO. 14 COLLEGE HEIGHTS 59
LANGLEY — At the most important time of the season, the North Delta Huskies are discovering that their team credo is indeed a basketball truth.
“Our motto has always been that the first five minutes of the game are the most important of the game,” said Huskies’ head coach Jas Hothi on Thursday afternoon.
The 13-0 run that No. 6 North Delta put on the No. 14 College Heights Cougars of Prince George to begin the third quarter, and the defence they played over that same sizzling stretch, wound up making the difference as the favourites held off the underdogs 69-59 en rout to a berth in Friday’s Final Four.
“We just re-energized them, re-focussed them because a couple of our guys were having a tough first half,” said Hothi. “They came out and they took care of business against a great team, a tough, tough team.”
One of the players who endured that first half struggle was the coach’s son.
Point guard Harvir Hothi had just two points at the break, but with that five-minute ‘go time’ motto burning up his thoughts, the Grade 11 caught fire, fuelling that 13-0 run with his own kind of fire, scoring 11 points in the quarter, and 16 of his 18 in the second half.
“Everyone was locked in and we wanted the same thing,” said Harvir Hothi. “We all played well… we all played as a team.”
The Huskies’ 1-2-2 zone was no surprise to Cougars, yet facing it with the level of aggressiveness the Huskies bring to it proved to be antoher matter altogther in the early stages for head coach Jordan Yu’s Cougars.
North Delta helped out of its corners, and did it with the kind of active hands which triggered numerous fast breaks and easy buckets.
Yet after building its lead to 16 points, at 61-45 midway through the fourth quarter, the Cougars’ comeback began.
Behind the play of guards Guarav Bains and Bobby Kelly, and forward Troy Todaruk, all seniors, they whittled away at the deficit, at one stage an 8-0 run cutting the deficit to nine at 62-53.
The Cougars got as close as 65-59 on a Todaruk jumper with 2:30 left.
Coach Hothi, oozing positive vibes for his players, said the constant reinforcement he gives his team always starts from the same place.
“I just keep telling these guys to be great and they are so young,” he said of roster whose only main rotation is split between seniors and Grade 11s. “l tell them ‘Do what you do,’ to stick to things and they will fall your way.”
And coach Hothi, whose team will face the winner of the Dover Bay vs. Caledonia quarterfinal in Friday’s first Final Four clash (3:30 p.m., Arena Bowl), adds that having the program’s esteemed maestro offer his words of wisdom has been invaluable.
“The guys are loose, and the guys are focussed,” he said, “and of course we have the wiley vet Bill Edwards, who just knows how to tell us the right things to do at the right time,” added Hothi of the former UBC Thunderbirds men’s head coach, who coached the Huskies to B.C. top-tiered B.C. titles in 1975 and 1990, as well assisting the 2019 B.C. Triple-A championship team.
Arjan Atwal, the Grade 11 forward, scored 14 points, while senior guard Krishan Jeet added 13 and Grade 11 guard Amar Lalli added 11.
Bains scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half for College Heights. Todoruk also added 18 points while Kelly added 13. Grade 9 6-foot-4 centre Tolu Bankole, a starter, managed four points, but in the moments in which he needed to get a rebound, the youngster flashed courage, incredible instinct and the ability to grab caroms outside of a normal player’s range of grasp. In the years to come, he is one to watch.
STORY BY DAN KINVIG (Special for Varsity Letters)
NO. 2 DOVER BAY 83 NO. 7 MEI 76
LANGLEY — Luke Linder carved out a hefty slice of Triple-A tournament history on Thursday, but in the aftermath, he was more concerned with the piece of family history he narrowly missed out on.
The Dover Bay Dolphins’ standout senior guard was an absolute force of nature in his team’s quarter-final match-up with the Mennonite Educational Institute Eagles, going off for an incredible 49 points.
The Dolphins required every one of them as they managed to fend off the upset-minded Eagles 83-76.
Linder’s output established a new single-game scoring record in the relatively young Triple-A tier, whose record book dates back to 2014 when B.C. went from three tiers to four in senior boys basketball. The previous record of 46 points had been jointly held by MEI’s Isaiah Reimer (2018) and Xander Hay of Okanagan Mission (2022).
Afterward, Linder noted that it was his third career game where he’d fallen a single point shy of 50.
The significance of that? He still has to share the family single-game scoring record with his father Michael Linder, who had a 49-point night way back in the day during his high school career with the Westsyde Whundas.
“My dad had 49, and I’ve had 49 three times now,” Linder said with a wide grin, “and I still haven’t been able to get 50. I’m a little disappointed.”
What a luxury it was to be able to savour victory, and proximity to the family scoring record, after the Dolphins’ championship dreams had been in peril for 39-plus minutes.
The Eagles came out flying in this one, attacking Dover Bay’s vaunted zone defence with patience and poise. The No. 7 seed from Abbotsford found success early working a high-low game, with forward Micah Young feeding his counterpart Spencer Tatlock, and MEI grabbed a quick 11-5 advantage and led 21-18 after one quarter.
Luke Linder – one of three Linders on the Dolphins, alongside Frank (Grade 10) and Joe (Grade 8) – was almost single-handedly keeping his squad in it, alternating tough fadeaways with physical drives to the rim. But MEI continued to control matters, and owned a 41-32 cushion after a Gabe Vig steal-and-score to end the half.
The Eagles stretched the lead to 46-34 after Jared Hueberts drained a three early in the third, but Luke Linder took over the game at that juncture. He racked up 18 points in the frame – many of them in transition – as the Dolphins surged ahead for the first time since the first quarter.
MEI led 70-69 after a Vig transition layup with 4:46 left in regulation, but Luke Linder responded with four straight points to put his team back in front.
The Eagles continued to push, and cut the deficit to 77-76 after a Vig trey, and they got a stop on the next Dolphin possession. Vig tried to split a double team to get to the rim, but Dover Bay put the clamps on and took the ball away, leading to an and-one layup at the other end for Callum Walker. The Dolphins saw the game out from there.
“We just reminded them of our fitness,” Dover Bay head coach Darren Seaman said afterward, reflecting on what he told his team when the game seemed to be slipping away in the third quarter. “We grind, and we’re so fit that in those situations, we tell them just to hang in there and rely on your hard work, and just believe.
“We let the gamers game today, and Luke just showed up and did his thing. What else can I say, right? We rely on that sometimes, and today it worked.”
Vig finished with 23 points for the Eagles, and senior forward Young (17 points) and Grade 11 point guard Ben Brandsma (16 points) both had a tremendous performances in defeat. Tatlock, MEI’s outstanding Grade 10 centre, spent much of the night in foul trouble and was limited to 12 points, all in the first half.
Frank Linder, with 10 points, joined his older brother as the Dolphins’ only double-digit scorers.
“I was just playing my game – I just go as hard as I can every possession,” Luke Linder summarized.
“First half, that’s what my team needed. We weren’t scoring, and they needed me to step up on offence and keep us in the game until everyone else got going.”
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
STORY BY DAN KINVIG (Special for Varsity Letters)
NO. 1 ST. PATRICK 89 NO. 9 ARGYLE 70
LANGLEY — The St. Patrick Celtics aren’t yet firing on all cylinders defensively, the way Nap Santos knows they can.
A few glimpses of their swarming, ballhawking, transition-offence-igniting potential, though, were enough on Thursday to allow the Celtics to survive a quarter-final test from the gritty Argyle Pipers and advance to the Triple-A Final Four by an 89-70 score.
“We’ve got a lot of things to focus on – I don’t think we played a great defensive game,” Santos, the Celtics’ head coach, analyzed afterward.
“Offence will always take care of itself – we’ve worked really hard with that.
“It was more of a focus on boxing out, loose balls, trying to get those boards.”
Both St. Patrick and Argyle had outstanding fan support at the LEC’s Centre Court, and the energy in the gym shifted in the first quarter as the Pipers, after going down 12-6 early, reeled off a 9-0 run to let the defending champion Celtics know they were in a game. Seniors Gavin Archer and Carl Spat did all the scoring during that stretch, scoring nine and six points, respectively, in the first quarter.
What happened next, we’ll call a Green Wave – defensive stops ignited transition opportunities for the Celtics, who responded with a 16-0 run of their own bridging the first and second quarters.
Argyle didn’t wilt – they battled back to get to within double digits at the half, trailing 38-31.
St. Patrick found another stretch of defensive traction bridging the third and fourth quarters, as they grabbed their largest lead of the night at 76-50. Liam Jaymalin sparked the Celtics at the offensive end, attacking from the baseline for a trio of acrobatic layups and draining a corner three as part of a nine-point fourth quarter.
Irish Coquia’s 28 points were a game-high for St. Patrick, while Kaden Carrion (17), Joey Panghulan (16) and Jovin Sunner (11) also scored in double digits on the night.
Archer paced the Pipers with 22 points, and Caden Ruby (14 points) and Spat (12) also contributed offensively.
For all his words of caution about how his team needs to clean things up on the margins defensively, Santos believes they’ll rise to the occasion on Friday when they meet the Lord Byng-Byrne Creek winner in the semis.
“They’ve proven, over the years that I’ve had these kids, that the bigger the game, the bigger they play,” Santos said. “They’ve proven that every year. We’ll be ready tomorrow.”
NO. 5 LORD BYNG 81 NO. 4 BYRNE CREEK 62
LANGLEY — With a roster comprised entirely of Grade 11 athletes, the Lord Byng Grey Ghosts could have looked at the 2023 Triple-A championship as a stepping stone – an opportunity to gain crucial experience in preparation for true title contention in 2024.
Well, the future is now for these Grey Ghosts.
They’re Final Four bound, in the wake of an 81-62 quarter-final victory over the Byrne Creek Bulldogs in Thursday’s nightcap.
“It feels great,” Byng forward Dylan King enthused afterward. “With a young roster, we’ve got to come out and match the intensity of all the other teams, you know? Today we came out to play. We matched Byrne’s intensity – they were up high pressing, very aggressive. I think we did a good job handling that.
“I think we’ve really matured this season. We practice every day – all day, all night, school lunches, everything.”
One of the fun subplots of this game was watching King, at 6’4”, probe for space in the paint vs. Byrne’s 6’10” shot-blocker extraordinaire, Biar Akuoc. Sometimes, King got his shot sent back. Others, he was able to wriggle his way into pockets of space for little floaters or reverse layups.
By the final buzzer, King had amassed a game-high 35 points – a marked contrast to his first match-up with Akuoc earlier in the season.
“We actually played them at the Steveston tournament, and I had a bit of trouble,” King said with a chuckle. “I’m not going to lie – I got blocked a lot.
“Ever since then, I’ve tried to come up with different ways to finish around the 6’10” guy, you know? You’ve just got to work your way around.
“I mean, today I got some good finishes on him, but he got his fair share of blocks, too.”
The Grey Ghosts built a double-digit lead in the first quarter and stretched it as high as 19 late in the third.
The Bulldogs mounted a fourth-quarter push, and got back to within 66-55 after an Atawa Baraba layup, prompting a Lord Byng timeout.
The Ghosts found a quick answer, though – Eli Mullin drained a three, King followed with a reverse layup, and the comeback bid was history.
Attila Storhas chipped in with 14 points for Byng, and Jeffrey Brown added 11 for the winners.
Baraba’s 20 points paced the Bulldogs, while Justin Pamintuan (19) and Cusmos Djunga (11) also contributed offensively.
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