The Vanier Towhees AAA boys high school basketball team completed a successful season at the Vancouver Island championships in Victoria this past weekend (March 3-5).
Held at Mount Doug, the tournament featured the top eight teams on the Island, all vying for two spots to the Provincial championships March 15-19 at the Langley Sports Centre.
The Towhees entered the tournament North Island #2, and matched up against South Island #3 Mount Douglas in their first game. Both teams are young and feature excellent Grade 11 talent. One obstacle for the Towhees was the fact the Rams were grazing on their home turf.
The Towhees started strong, going up 13-4 early. The feisty Mt. Doug team chipped its way back, and the half time score was 25-25. Both teams were playing very good team defence, with Vanier having the edge with rebounding. Senior Brad Gunter collected 14 first-half half points, 10 from the charity stripe.
The second half was a different matter. Mt. Doug played their tough 1-3-1 zone, yet the Towhees were getting plenty of good looks for open shots. “Alas, the boys could not shoot the ball into the biggest ocean,” said Vanier coach Larry Street. Shooting only 35 per cent for the game, the Towhees came up short, 59-42.
“Our defence was excellent, but only Brad was scoring for us. Brad played a giant of a game with 20 points and 17 rebounds. Cam Hughes was also playing well with eight points, seven rebounds, and 100 per cent free throw shooting,” Street added.
The next evening the Towhees had a rematch of a week earlier at the North Islands against Wellington of Nanaimo. That meeting was a walk-over for the Towhees, but not this time. “This was a very tight game with Wellington getting good scoring from all members of their team,” Street said
“From a fan’s point of view this was a fun game to watch with good defence and some great plays. In particular, Brad played his last high school game as was expected – with 21 points, 18 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two blocked shots.”
Street said the rest of the team was having trouble scoring until the last quarter. Down by eight most of the game, the Towhees made a run with less that three minutes left.
Sharpshooter Mark McGinnis got hot from three land and promptly hit five straight treys. Wellington could only answer a little, so the Towhees kept catching up and with 10 seconds left, Dillon Robson tied the game with two free throws.
On a side play for Wellington, coach Street instructed his players not to foul and play tough for the overtime. The inbounder Piero Simovic got the ball back and hit a long three to put the Wildcats up by three with 1.8 seconds left.
During the time out, the Towhees designed a play to use McGinnis as a decoy and get the ball to Robson. “But Mark is wide open, so the ball goes to him, a three goes up to tie at the buzzer, and – short. Wellington wins, and we’re finished for the year,” Street said.
“It was a great year at that, with a a record of 22 wins and 13 losses for a team made up of primarily Grade 11s. Brad played like an all-star, and proved to the province that he not only is the best volleyball player in our country, but a mighty fine basketball post as well. He proved to be the best post on the Island.
“Good, consistent play from the other starters Jacob Wiebe, Dillon Robson, Mark McGinnis and Cam Hughes. Good bench support from sixth and seventh men Dawson Casanave and Jacob Stewart, and a great supporting cast led by senior Trevor McGuire, and Grade 11s Dan Tran and Zach Hunter. Thanks to the enthusiastic juniors who came up for the last two tournaments for important exposure to what senior boys’ basketball triple A style is like,” Street said.
“Special thanks should go to assistant coach Blake Tobacca, who spent many hours helping the boys with their game. We also thank all our sponsors who make it possible for the Towhees to have a reasonably competitive schedule, and to help us afford to travel to the great tournaments we attend,” Street said.
TIP INS Dover Bay defeated Claremont 64-62 in the final on a last-second three-point shot … Oak Bay came fourth (defeating Wellington) and challenged Claremont on Monday night at Claremont for the second and last Island berth to the Provincials …