Upsets and overtimes. Close games and large crowds. Great food and lots of noise. Even a couple of fire alarms.
The 45th annual Towhee Tournament had it all as the Vanier senior boys basketball team hosted an entertaining 12-team tourney on Jan. 17-19. Adding to the excitement, the Towhees made it all the way to the final before bowing to a vastly improved Mt. Douglas Rams team from Victoria.
Vanier got things off to a great start Thursday night with a 76-73 overtime win against the Killarney Cougars. "We did not know much about the Cougars, although we had seen them at the New West tournament in December, and they were struggling," said Towhees' head coach Larry Street.
"Home teams of big tournaments do not care to lose their first game...it hurts the gate and school spirit a bit," Street noted. And the Cougars were certainly out to steal one away from the hosts. It was a close game throughout, with fans treated to lots of scoring.
"Luckily, our boys won in overtime, coming back from a five-point deficit with one minute left in regulation time, and then six points down half way through the overtime," Street said.
"We kept Killarney in the game with our 26-turnover and 11-for-32 free throw performance. But gritty play and outstanding team character kept us in." Nate DaSilva Award winner as Most Valuable Towhee and first team all star Scott Stevens led the Towhees with 17 points and eight rebounds. Fellow first team all star Joaquin Paterna chipped in 15 points, eight assists, five steals and showed plenty of flare in his game. Second team all star Jaron Piercy added 11 points and seven rebounds.
Things were much easier for Vanier in their second game as they knocked off the Gladstone Gladiators of Vancouver 76-51 on Friday. All the Towhees played and everyone scored. "Team defence was stifling, and Player of the Game Isaac Ng was an inspirational leader on the court, just as he has been for all his teammates all year," Street said.
Harry Li, Piercy and Joss Biggins all scored 10 points. Joss Biggins led all rebounders with nine while Paterna had seven assists and four exciting steals. Vanier
out rebounded Gladstone 39-24.
Saturday morning's semifinals were very exciting. Mt. Doug had just defeated tournament favourite Wellington Wildcats of Nanaimo and the Towhees needed to play perennial powerhouse Centennial Centaurs from Coquitlam.
It was another close game for the Towhees, and every player again contributed immensely to a big 67-56 win. "Coquitlam's best player Jacob Buren was a load to stop. He scored 33 tough, athletic points," Street said. "Luckily, we held down all other Centennial shooters and prevailed with a solid win."
Stevens again led the way with 17 points while Piercy had 16. "Both shot the ball
very well," Street said. "Plenty of energy came off the bench with the likes of Jordan Balon, Colton Derycke, Ng, Gryphon Vester, Jakob Jungwirth and Lucas Falconer giving plenty of rest to the starters who would be needed to carry the load in the evening final."
A large, enthusiastic crowd were cheering on the Towhees in the lead-up to the championship game against Mt. Doug, but they were hushed when the Rams went up 17-2. The Towhees needed to dig deep, and in typical flamboyant style, Paterna got the team going, along with the grittiness of Falconer and Li.
"A true team effort brought the boys back, and early in the second half we went ahead 36-35," Street said. Play then went back and forth and stayed close until late in the fourth quarter when the Mt. Doug drained three straight three-pointers. Vanier tried to pull close, and it was tough in the end, losing a great game 68-61.
"It was very exciting and very loud in the gym. Good old-fashioned Courtenay enthusiasm," Street said. "Joaquin, like all the other Towhees, played his heart out and led with 18 points and five assists. Harry Li was a terror on the boards with eight while scoring 12 points. Scott Stevens had 13 points and seven rebounds, and Jaron Piercy rounded out the scoring with 10 points." The Towhees were outrebounded
by three, mainly due to 6',6" tournament MVP Ashton MacKinnon.
FREE THROWS The Towhees returned to North Island League action last night at Alberni, with result unavailable at press time ... they host the Cowichan Thunderbirds on Thursday, Jan. 24 with first place on the line ... Mt. Doug's only previous Towhee Invitational title came in 2008 ... the Towhees last won the event in 2007 ... the King George Dragons' bid for a third straight tourney crown ended Friday with their 61-50 loss to Wellington ... the Highland Raiders finished sixth; they beat Timberline 56-53, lost 60-38 to Centennial, beat Gladstone 66-56 then fell 92-42 to King George ...