Fast-paced games with few whistles greeted the Vanier Towhees senior boys basketball team when they landed in Calgary for the Western Canada High School tournament.
But after dropping their first game at the Feb. 3-5 event, the Towhees made the necessary adjustments and won their next two to claim the consolation final. Coach Larry Street notes the use of the 24-second shot clock and aggressive play with few fouls were new elements for his team to deal with.
Vanier lost 72-64 to Paul Kane of Edmonton on Feb. 3 but bounced back to beat St. Mary’s of Calgary 78-67 on Feb. 4 and Winston Churchill of Calgary 69-57 on Feb. 5.
“This weekend proved huge for us as we learned to take better care of the ball, got more aggressive on offence and played together better,” Street said. “Brad Gunter was his usual tough self and a true leader; his hustle and finish were all-star like.
“Dillon Robson and Mark McGinnis were also important on offence while Jacob Wiebe and Cam Hughes are becoming important role players as starters. Key sixth man Dawson Casanave has been bringing a consistent game from the bench and is like a sixth starter. We’re starting to look like a ball club,” Street said.
The Towhees got it going against Paul Kane, a St. Alberta team that surprised the Courtenay crew with their rough and aggressive style. “It was a bit of a shock at the beginning but we started to adjust by the second half,” said Street, adding Paul Kane did a good job keeping all the Towhee shooters off balance.
McGinnis shot 75 per cent and scored 18 points to keep the score close.
“We played valiantly but had trouble with the full-court pressure – in your face and very tight on the ball. Still, this is why we came here and the lads are learning to take better care of the ball. Good all-round scoring and an excellent game for Jacob Wiebe (15 points) and Dillon Robson (11 points, six rebounds, four assists).” Street said. Player of the game Brad Gunter fouled out midway through the fourth quarter after collecting 11 points and six boards.
The St. Mary’s Saints, with a 100-year-plus tradition of hoops in Calgary, were up next. The fast, aggressive squad started 10-0 and 16-2 and looked as if they would walk away with game early.
“After a slight scolding, the Towhees got their act together, settled down, and trailed by only eight at the half,” Street said. “The third quarter was totally different, especially on defence, and we started finding powerful Brad Gunter (29 points, 11 boards three blocked shots) inside. He had his way with the smaller Saints and started to get numerous transition baskets along with Dillon Robson (13 points), usually as trailers.
“Mark McGinnis (20 points) was magic from three-point land, hitting four treys and some key free throws. We held this quick team to only 44 shots, thereby shutting down their fast break. Having only nine turnovers was important too.”
In the consolation final, the Towhees took on their second top-20 team in two days in Winston Churchill, a traditional hoops power and another fast and aggressive squad.
“They gave us a fight early and the first half was back and forth,” Street said. “Their problem was fouling too much and then they couldn’t get much inside with their big man against Brad Gunter,” said Street.
Gunter led the way with 30 points, 10 rebounds and three steals while Robson added 13 points, six boards and three assists. McGinnis had nine points, Casanave seven and Wiebe six.
The Towhees hosted Brooks in a league make-up game on Monday and were in Alberni on Tuesday for another league tilt. Results were unavailable at press time. This Saturday they are on the road for exhibition games at Claremont in the afternoon and Cowichan in the evening.