LANGLEY — We’ve punched our Final Four dance card.
Following quarterfinal-round action today, the Quad A No. 3 Centennial Centaurs of Coquitlam will face the Triple A No. 3 Duchess Park Condors of Prince George at 6:45 p.m., followed by the all-Quad-A No. 1 Burnaby South Rebels against the No. 2 Kelowna Owls.
KELOWNA 101 TERRY FOX 71
LANGLEY — The 2019-20 edition of the Kelowna Owls senior boys basketball team might not yet have a name that rolls off the tongue as its defined ‘superstar’ player.
Over the years you’ve seen them, so you know the drill.
Mason Bourcier, Grant Shephard, Parker Simson, Braxton Bunce, Mitch Goodwin and Taylor Loffler are some of those past leading lights.
Yet what about this current Quad-A No. 2-ranked Owls’ team, one which will play in the second of two TBI semifinals tonight at 8:15 p.m. against the No. 1-ranked Burnaby South Rebels?
In its 101-71 win over PoCo’s No. 9-ranked Terry Fox Ravens, guard Malcolm Greggor took his turn atop the Owls’ scoring leaderboard with 20 points, then right behind him were four teammates with 13 points apiece in Braden White, Jayden Lalonde, Ajay Gill and Rylan Ibbetson. And you can’t forget Ethan Braam who aded 11.
“It’s nice, we want balance,” said Owls head coach Harry Parmar, who added that all of those aforementioned past Owls’ stars have been known to stop by the gym to chat with current teams. “I know about the whole superstar thing, but this is a team, it’s not an individual thing.”
The Owls (6-1) go a legitimate 10 deep and Parmar, as is often the case with his teams early in the season, rolled their substitutions on Friday like hockey line changes.
Terry Fox got a game-high 20 points from point guard Ko Takahashi, while Cam Slaymaker added 15 points and Joao Coimbra 12 points.
The Owls, however, face a tough turnaround time to get ready for its semifinal clash with the undefeated Rebels (6-0) in the season’s first top-tiered No. 1 vs. 2 clash..
For his part, when asked what he would tell his team, Parmar was paying it all little heed.
“I’ll just tell them it’s time to play,” he said. “The other team has to do the same. Last year we didn’t get to bed until 1:30 in the morning (after beating Terry Fox in the B.C. semifinals) because we had the late game. So what are you going to do?”
BURNABY SOUTH 74 CLAREMONT 62
LANGLEY — There was a moment in the fourth quarter of Friday’s third TBI quarterfinal when a huge thud brought a silence to gathered crowd.
Writhing in pain on the floor of the Langley Events Centre was the Burnaby South Rebels’ 5-foot-10 Grade 11 guard Justin Sunga.
After a couple of tense seconds, Rebels’ head coach Mike Bell went out for a visit.
“I asked him how he felt and he said ‘Sore, but put me back in,’” Bell reported in the aftermath of an eventual 74-62 win over Victoria’s deep-and-dangerous. No. 10-ranked Claremont Spartans, a victory which propels the Rebels into tonight’s 8:15 p.m. semifinal against the winner of Kelowna vs. Terry Fox (now in progress).
Sunga sat briefly, then in a game which was still every bit up for grabs with about five minutes remaining, began to put a stamp on the game that only the province’s elite small-guard types can.
With 3:50 remaining, he drained a triple for a 65-57 lead, and with 1:45 remaining, exploded through the Claremont defence, taking his share of pounding on the way to the basket but finishing strong with a lay-up and accompanying and-one finish for a 70-59 lead that all but put the game away.
“That kid doesn’t want to come out of any game, doesn’t matter what you do to him, he wants to be on that floor,” said Bell, who last season deemed Sunga special enough to make him the lone full-time Grade 10 with the senior varsity. “Being shoved, being grabbed, being clutched. Teams will do that to him. He is a gifted little player and he plays bigger… he plays bigger than he is.”
Sunga finished with a game-high 22 points. Grade 10 post Karan Aujla added 18 points while Grade 11 guard Jimmy Zaborniak added 14 more.
Claremont’s 6-foot-9 senior Ethan Boag, who battled Aujla inside, scored a team-high 20 points while senior forward Nik Babaeff added 13.
“These games games make you tougher,” said Bell, who continues to play without injured 6-foot-10 senior post Sasha Vujisic, and who on Thursday got 71 of his team’s 74 points from underclassmen. “We’re getting every teams’ best. They are going to bring it to us and we have to make sure we match.”
CENTENNIAL 87 G.W. GRAHAM 66
LANGLEY — It was a game in which Centennial’s star big man Dom Parolin was forced to leave the proceedings in the second half for one of the most unusual, and perhaps potentially most legendary reasons ever.
Yet in the end, Coquitlam’s Quad-A No. 3-ranked Centaurs had more than enough to get by Chilliwack’s No. 5-ranked Triple-A G.W. Graham Grizzlies and earn a spot against Prince George’s Duchess Park Condors in a 6:45 p.m. semifinal tonight at the TBI.
Parolin, the star 6-foot-8 forward, while attempting to block a shot in the third quarter, got his nose caught in the nylon netting of the hoop and was forced to leave the game with a bleeding nose.
“I’ve coached for 30 years and I’ve never seen that before,” said Centennial head coach Rob Sollero of Parolin who had 13 points at the time. “But he’s going to be fine.”
The Centaurs were able to gain an early stranglehold in the contest and thus “we were able to make sure a lot of guys got their touches today,” added Sollero. “We played fantastic defence over the first three quarters. Leif (Skelding) really stepped up as our leader and a guy like Dante Petrescu came off the bench and hit a lot of big shots for us.”
Skelding led the winners with a game-high 24 points while Paul Didenko added 17. Petrescu added 10.
For the Grizzlies, Clay Kurtz scored 18 points and Matthias Klim 15.
Next up for the Centaurs?
A 6:45 p.m. clash against a Duchess Park squad out of Prince George riding a wave of emotion following its upset win earlier today over the Holy Cross Crusaders.
“We played them last year at the STM Chancellor Tournament and they were so well-drilled, disciplined and really ran their sets well,” remembered Sollero.
DUCHESS PARK 89 HOLY CROSS 76
LANGLEY — Just to prove it was no fluke, Prince George’s Duchess Park Condors built what looked like an insurmountable lead heading into the fourth quarter, proceeded to give it all right back to the provincial powerhouse Holy Cross Crusaders, yet still had enough wherewithal to claim a major upset in the opening game of the 2019 Tsumura Basketball Invitational quarterfinals Friday morning at the LEC.
The Condors, in an amazing display of resiliency, squandered a 17-point lead in the latter stages of the third quarter to trail 72-71 with 4:04 remaining, yet B.C.’s No. 3-ranked Triple A team went on an astounding 18-4 game-closing run.
Duchess Park head coach Jordan Yu told Varsity Letters on Thursday that his team was treating the TBI just as if the calendars read ‘March’ and his team was playing at the provincial championship tournament.
That mindset served the Condors well off the opening tip.
They had great energy but fought the rim with reckless abandon early in the first quarter.
Yet with the triumvirate of Caleb Lyons, Connor Lewis and Tony Zajnulahovic finding their stride, the northern tourists took flight, and in the final minute of that third quarter, Duchess Park had built its largest lead of the game at 67-50.
The first seven minutes of the fourth quarter, however, belonged to Quad-A No. 5 Holy Cross.
Behind the power of Uyi Ologhola and the three-point shooting of TJ Fujimura, Surrey’s Crusaders came roaring back, Ologhola’s driving lay-in with 3:13 remaining capping what was an 18-point swing and a 73-72 lead.
“I have always felt that building a lead, like a 17-point lead, that’s when you’re most vulnerable,” smiled Condors’ head coach Jordan Yu. “I would actually much prefer to play with a five-or-six point lead.”
Impressively, the second wind came on the shoulders of the 6-foot-4 Zejnulahovic brothers.
First, Tony’s lay-in and subsequent and-one opportunity was completed for a 75-73 lead. Then, brother Emir did exactly the same for a 78-73 lead with 2:18 left.
Guard Jackson Kuc then took over, scoring nine of his 18 points over that key game-closing stretch.
First, Kuc hit a trey, then he made a driving lay-in off a half-court steal. He also went 4-of-4 from the free throw line.
“I wanted us to play for the win, as opposed to playing not to lose,” added Yu, who can use the video of this victory as a constant reminder the rest of the season to both illustrate the fine line between success and failure to his team.
“Now, we’re going to ice, rest, and break out the bananas,” the former UBC point guard said as his team hits the floor for a 6:45 p.m. semifinal tonight against the winner of the Centennial vs. G.W. Graham quarterfinal which tipped off at 10:30 a.m.
Ologhola led the Crusaders with a game-high 24 points while Brent Padilla added 16 and Fujimura nine points.
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