The Vanier Towhees came up short in their bid to win their first-ever Vancouver Island 4A boys basketball championship.
“For the second year in a row injuries played too critical a role in their quest for wins,” said head coach Larry Street. “The boys played their hearts out, left everything on the floor, played like it was their last game of their lives, and gave it the royal try, but just didn’t have enough due to key injuries and circumstances that affected the chemistry of the team.
“Injuries to key Grade 12 starters, and nagging injuries that occurred in February to various team members created a competitive team, but just not enough weapons to beat talented teams like Oak Bay, Dover Bay and Cowichan. At full strength, we handled Dover and Cowichan admirably this year. With injuries to key starters we just couldn’t keep up.”
Playing Feb. 26-28 at Mount Douglas Secondary in Victoria, the Towhees (North #1) opened with a 64-61 win over Claremont (South #4).
“Claremont played us very tough, and had a lead for much of the game, but the boys buckled down on defence the last quarter of the game and led by Anders Storgaard and Chase Hobenshield we squeaked out a win,” Street said.
“For a change, free throws won the game for us and solid team defence at the end. Anders led the way with 24 points, six steals, four assists and six rebounds, while hitting four big free throws in the last minute. Chase backed him up with 19 points and five rebounds while Tyler Knopp was a strong rebounder, ending with 12 boards and 15 aggressive points.”
That moved Vanier into the semifinal against Dover Bay of Nanaimo. Another well-played, close game notably due to the fact each team had faced the other four other times this year. “Unfortunately, Dover Bay shot a high percentage of threes in the last half, and boarded with us equally (35 rebounds apiece),” Street said.
The Towhees had difficulty getting out quickly enough to the five shooters Dover seemed to have on the floor at all times and lost 76-64.
“We had four starters in double figures (Anders 17, Bryce Olsen 14 and 9 rebounds), Chase 14 and Tyler 12) but other than Bryce we didn’t dominate the rebounds as we usually do. Also a solid game offensively, but the team defence wasn’t like it has been lately,” Street said.
Game three Saturday morning against Mt. Doug was win-or-go-home time for Vanier. “When the boys saw the coach put down empty boxes to collect uniforms after the game in front of them in the pre-game meeting they were having nothing of that!” Street said.
The Towhees totally dominated from start to finish, and all players played…luckily so that the starters would get a key rest before the evening game with Cowichan and the right to challenge second place.
Knopp was everywhere and played his best game of the year with 18 rebounds and 31 points. “He followed Anders’ lead on defence and was very aggressive while not fouling,” Street said. “Anders got 17 points and Chase had a solid double-double with 10 rebounds and 14 points.” The rest of the Towhees were outstanding on defence in a 73-53 win.
Game four against Cowichan was for third place and the right to challenge for the second and last Island berth to the B.C.s.
A tight game throughout, and the Vanier boys were certainly not going to lay down despite the fact they had injuries, including senior post Bryce Olsen. “Darren Smith and Tim Wilson came in and were tough on defence and rebounding,” Street said. “Grade 10 Coen Leopkey played considerable minutes, hitting two threes and helping keep the game close.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough weapons to score even though we were keeping Cowichan down. Anders in particular shut down Provincial Team player Josh Charles (11 points) and this was a key to the game.” Cowichan were just too big in the end, defeating the Towhees 57-49.
Hobenshield led the way with 15 points and nine rebounds, Storgaard had 10 points, eight steals and six rebounds, Darren Smith nine rebounds and seven points, and Knopp with eight points and seven rebounds.
Along with the team’s fourth-place finish, Hobenshield was named to the second all-star team as a Grade 11, Knopp led the tournament in scoring, and Storgaard was a first all-star and received the trophy as Best Defensive Player. “He arguably might have been the best player at the Islands,” Street said.
Storgaard and Olsen will be playing in the Island All Star Game in Victoria on March 28.
“A huge thank you to all the support by local fans, local businesses and the parents, staff, administration and students of G.P. Vanier,” Street said.
– Vanier Towhees Basketball