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MacNeill/McMath hoop rivalry delivers another thriller

Ravens rally in second half for 74-71 win over Wildcats

The MacNeill Ravens and McMath Wildcats served up another tasty appetizer Wednesday night ahead of next month’s Richmond Senior Boys Basketball Championships.

The Ravens improved to 5-1 in city play by rallying for a 74-71 victory. The result came two days after an 84-72 loss to the Steveson-London Sharks (3-0), while the Wildcats slipped to 2-1.

All three teams are capable of winning the city title — as are the defending champion and unbeaten Richmond Colts (4-0), along with the Hugh Boyd Trojans (2-2). The Cambie Crusaders and McNair Marlins can’t be taken lightly either in what is shaping up to be a wide-open tournament.

“It was a nice win tonight but I told (McMath coach) Jon (Acob) we will see them a few more times and I told (Steveston-London coach) Mike (Stoneburgh) the exact same thing on Monday too,” smiled Ravens head coach Steward Siy who is also looking ahead to the new South Fraser Zone playoffs.

MacNeill is coming off a breakthrough season that culminated with a fourth place finish at the provincial 3A championships. That group was led by graduated city MVP Usman Tsung who was almost automatic for 20-plus points per game.

This year’s squad is deeper with plenty of athleticism that is leaning more on its effort at the defensive end of the floor.

It was their smothering play late in the third quarter Wednesday that erased an eight point deficit and swung the momentum for good.

They also are relying on a more balanced attack too with four players reaching double figures — led by 19 from Tanner Devlin. Hudson Swaim added 15, Omar Abumalouh 13 and Grade 10 Everett Swaim 11, plus 13 rebounds.

“This is a very different team from a year ago and we are still finding out who we are,” continued Siy. “We have only had like four practices where we have had everyone due to injuries and multi sport kids. It’s fine though. We are happy where we are right now.”

The Ravens and Wildcats had a terrific rivalry at the junior level a year ago with McMath going on to win the Richmond title and finishing second at provincials. 

The most dynamic player on either side is Travis Hamberger and the Grade 11 guard showed why again with a game-high 26 point performance. He eventually fouled out in the late going.

“That hurt us a lot but we have to learn how to play without Travis. That’s the main thing and he has to learn that he can’t carry the whole entire team too,” said Acob.

“But that’s a good team though. They are very good defensively and they switch things around. They are also very disciplined when they run their sets and get lots of second chances with their rebounding and getting to loose balls. That’s where we need to help ourselves out more.

“They are going to be tough but so is the whole league going to be.”