In mythology, slaying the dragon is never an easy task.
In reality, defeating the King George Dragons has become just as daunting a task at the annual Towhee Invitational senior boys basketball tournament.
The Dragons defeated New Westminster Hyacks 78-67 Saturday night to claim their second straight Towhee title. The Dragons, an AA squad ranked fifth in this week’s provincial poll, were competing in a 12-team tourney that featured top 10 Vancouver Island AAA teams G.P. Vanier (#6), Ballenas (#8), Spectrum (#9) and Stelly’s (#10).
Undaunted, the Dragons knocked off Carson Graham 78-71 in overtime Thursday and took out the host Towhees 82-67 in the semifinals Saturday morning before beating fellow Lower Mainlanders New West in the final. Kristian Hildebrandt of King George was tourney MVP while George Mija (first team) and Miguel Suarez (second team) were all-stars.
The Towhees finished third after beating Point Grey Greyhounds 61-60 Saturday. Mark McGinnis won The Nate DaSilva Award as Outstanding Towhee with Dillon Robson (first team) and McGinnis (second team) getting all-star nods. Point Grey was Most Sportsmanlike Team.
The Highland Raiders of Comox finished sixth (beating Seaquam 68-54, losing 75-58 to Point Grey, edging Spectrum 78-71 in double overtime and falling 83-59 to Carson Graham) with Noah Lewis and Nick Tancon named second team all-stars.
Vanier coach Larry Street said the 44th edition of the Towhee Invitational was possibly one of the most exciting. “Many of the top teams were quite similar in style, and our local teams were certainly competitive with the visitors,” Street said.
“We had two double overtime games, another overtime game and plenty of fast-break action. King George were worthy champions for the second year in a row, and definitely proved they are one of the top teams in the province … Double or Triple A.”
The Towhees put on a good show for their hometown fans.
Game one was against Stelly’s from Victoria, who were abruptly introduced to the new tenacity of defences the Towhees threw at them. Every Towhee was aggressive on defence and contributed to a high-scoring attack in an 84-48 win.
McGinnis paced all scorers with 33 points and continued his sharpshooting ways while Jaren Piercy is quickly becoming a bona fide scoring threat. Robson also contributed a double-double in rebounds and points.
In game two against Kwalikum on Friday night, the Towhees were eager to avenge the two losses to them last year. Kondors’ sharpshooter Kevin Frampton poured in 19 points, but it wasn’t enough as the Towhees went on to win 86-32. “Again, all the Towhees played and the team defence was entertaining to the fans,” Street said.
Robson led the way with 22 points while McGinnis added 17. There was excellent defensive intensity by Cam Hughes and Scott Stevens, and some great two-way play by Dan Tran off the bench. Newcomer Kris Ding (exchange student) hit his first baskets and shot 100 per cent for the game.
Game three was a Saturday morning semifinal against always tough King George. The Dragons opened a quick 9-0 lead on three treys. “Tourney MVP Kristian Hildebrandt was too much to stop, and it looked like the Dragons were going to run away with this one,” Street said.
But the Towhees dug in and brought the score back to 27-24 early in the second period. King George conducted another couple of runs and the halftime score was 48-36. The second half was entertaining but the Towhees couldn’t muster the same firepower as the Dragons. Robson again led the Towhees with 20 points, nine rebounds and steady inside defensive play.
McGinnis was held to 15 points while contributing five assists. Stevens was a force on the offensive boards with eight points and 10 rebounds and finished a +18 for the game. Cam Hughes had a +9, “Both great efforts by these pesky players,” Street said.
Vanier’s last game on Saturday evening was a rematch with the Greyhounds, who they had lost to in early December. “The Towhees dug deep into their tired bodies and mustered a 61-60 win, a great way to end the tournament and carry on into league play,” Street said.
“Luck was a factor too in this win. Bad luck cost us two free throws for a three-point lead with seven seconds left. WIth one second left, their point guard was fouled for two free throws. He promptly missed both as well, and we held on to the win to a happy crowd.
“Robson was a giant and had 28 points while McGinnis scored the winning basket with 14 seconds left and finished with 22 points and a season-high nine assists. The whole team was fantastic on defence, and heart,” Street said.
The Towhees hosted Ballenas in a North Island League AAA game Tuesday night, with result unavailable at press time.