There’s a new name on the Towhee Invitational championship trophy.
The King George Dragons of Vancouver went undefeated to capture top spot at the 42nd annual senior boys basketball tournament, hosted Jan. 13-15 by the G.P. Vanier Towhees.
The Dragons downed Point Grey Greyhounds 76-68 in Saturday night’s final. New Westminster Hyacks edged the Towhees 63-61 to finish third and complete a Lower Mainland sweep of the medals at the 12-team tourney.
The Highland Raiders finished eighth and were named Most Sportsmanlike Team. Brad Gunter was a first team all-star and earned the Nate daSilva award as Most Valuable Towhee. Dillon Robson of Vanier made the second all-star team. Bilal Naqshbandy of King George was tourney MVP.
King George began their march to the tourney title Friday with a close 70-66 win over the Kwalikum Kondors. First all-star Kristian Hildebrandt had 28 for the Dragons while Kevin Frampton led the Kondors with 29. It was another close one Saturday as King George shaded the Towhees 60-55. Naqshbandy and Hildebrandt had 13 each for King George while Gunter paced Vanier with 18.
The Dragons got 22 points from first all-star George Mija in the final while Kyrill Faurik scored 15 for Point Grey. “This was an excellent game between two guard-oriented teams who shot very well,” said Vanier coach Larry Street. “King George shot better, and it was a close battle.”
The Towhees opened Thursday with a 78-56 win over Pacific Christian Pacers of Victoria. Gunter led the way with 17 points and 11 rebounds while Jacob Wiebe added 16 points.
The Towhees controlled the play against a scrappy team that never gave up. “Every Towhee scored a basket and we were able to platoon squads and rest all team members for the three games in the next two days,” said Street. Cam Hughes played a solid game with eight points, five rebounds and seven assists.
On Friday, Vanier got by Woodlands Golden Eagles of Nanaimo 49-45 as Robson hit for 21 despite a sore knee. Gunter hurt his ankle and had to rest, so Wiebe (player of the game) stepped up with timely hustle play and key free throws. He finished with 15 points.
“Dawson Casanave did a great job shutting down their main man in the last quarter while Mark McGinnis hit three key threes to extend the margin. Great character play by the whole team at the end of the game,” Street said.
Two tough losses Saturday saw the Towhees fall 60-55 to King George in the morning and 61-59 to New West in the game for third and fifth. Gunter had 18 against the Dragons as the Towhees kept the game close but missed too many free throws and easy baskets.
“We shot 38 per cent field goals and 48 per cent free throws,” said Street. “Dillon and Brad had solid games inside while Dawson came off the bench to put in solid minutes.”
Street said his team was out of sync against New West, one of the better teams in the mainland. Nonetheless, Vanier played a strong fourth quarter, buckling down on defence and taking the lead with 20 seconds left. New West roared back to go up by one with 10 seconds left, forcing the Towhees to foul. Gunter made a great hustle play from a steal by Casanave but missed both his lay-up and rebound. “The team felt it was a minor victory coming back to almost win the game,” Street said.
Meanwhile, the Raiders dropped their Thursday opener 61-39 to defending tourney champs Wellington Wildcats of Nanaimo. James Jerezysnki had 15 for the Raiders. The Comox crew bounced back Friday with a 73-68 win over the Ballenas Whalers of Parksville as Noah Lewis hit for 31 points. On Saturday, Lewis and Ian Betts scored 17 points each as Highland topped the Timberline Wolves of Campbell River 58-46.
FREE THROWS Street said the crowds were awesome over the three days and the calibre of play was excellent … the Towhees hosted Brooks in a league game Tuesday afternoon, with result unavailable at press time …