Les Hamaguchi got exactly what he was hoping for out of the fourth annual Bob Carkner Memorial Basketball Tournament.
No, the host team didn't win the senior girls title for the first time in several years, but the Steveston-London Sharks now know exactly where they stand as the high school season heads into the home stretch.
If the Sharks are to become the first Richmond school to qualify for the B.C. "AAA" tournament in 12 years, they will very likely need to get past the Burnaby South Rebels. On Saturday, they were step-for-step with province's 10th ranked team before running out of steam in a 64-52 loss.
Hamaguchi now has about five weeks to figure out how to close the gap even further and the highly-regarded veteran coach is excited about the challenge.
"We haven't been to the final of our tournament for a few years and, in the big picture, I was happy with a lot of the things we did." he said. "They are a bigger and more physical team than we are. We are going to have to find different things to deal with that."
An intense battle between two provincially ranked teams (the Sharks are honourable mention) was a refreshing change for girls basketball in Richmond which has not been a factor at the elite level in recent years as many top athletes have focused on other sports.
The Sharks have one of B.C's most dynamic guards in Anmol Mattu, who remarkably is playing her fifth and final year at the senior level. Joining her in the backcourt is Grade 10 Aliya Prasad and the pair had Steveston-London poised to pull off an upset.
The hosts erased a 28-27 halftime deficit thanks to a 10-0 third quarter run that was keyed by a pair of three-pointers from Mattu. Steveston-London led 50-48 with six minutes remaining when the Rebels took control by scoring 16 of the game's final 18 points.
The Sharks' perimeter game went cold down the stretch, while Burnaby South did much of its damage in the paint with high percentage looks. That's where Hamaguchi knows his squad has to be better.
"We are slowly trying to build some offence out of our bigs," he said. "It's hard because they really aren't big or natural scorers either. But we still have to capitalize on the feeds to them and it's coming.
"They are starting to drive and become more aggressive. They are so much better than they were at the start of the year and we're definitely going in the right direction. You just can't count on threes and long twos to keep going in."
The Sharks opened with a 63-35 win over Byrne Creek and were hoping to meet unbeaten city rival McMath in the semi-final. However, a grad function left the Wildcats without their Grade 12 players and they dropped a 57-34 decision to the Carson Graham Eagles.
The Sharks took care of the Eagles 7763 thanks to a whopping 38-point performance from Mattu which helped earn her tournament MVP honours. Prasad added 22 and was named to the all-star team, along with Alyssa Graeme.
McMath went on to finish fourth. Hillary Schaap was an all-star selection.
Steveston-London will host McMath Jan. 30 (5: 45 p.m.) in league play.
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