It was a fitting end to a wild and unpredictable three-week stretch of playoff basketball involving Richmond’s top 3A size schools.
The MacNeill Ravens’ journey began as the fourth place finisher in city league play. They were third at the Richmond Championships then were runners-up at the inaugural South Fraser playoffs. The ascend continued with a ninth place result at the BC 3A Championships — capped by a 73-69 victory over the Steveston-London Sharks on Saturday at the Langley Events Centre.
It marked the third consecutive week a different Richmond school had come out on top of a major post-season tournament.
It started with McMath Wildcats’ win at the city championship, followed by the Richmond Colts capturing the South Fraser title. MacNeill then produced the best finish among Richmond teams at provincials while the Sharks were at least consistent with a couple of runner-up finishes.
“That’s 3A in a nutshell. It has been all over the map. It’s been crazy,” said Sharks head coach Mike Stoneburgh. “Our biggest problem all season was the fact we couldn’t play with leads. They have been terrible for us. We let them back in the game again today. It’s been our story forever.”
The Ravens outscored their rivals by 14 points in the second half to erase a 42-32 deficit. They did it with their usual balanced scoring — 16 from Tanner Deviln, 14 each from Omar Abumalouh and Jackson Thackwray and 11 from Ben Estrellado. Jalen Johal capped his high school career with 26 for the Sharks.
None of the three Richmond teams managed to stay in the championship bracket beyond the opening round.
The 13th seed Ravens were trimmed 56-47 by No. 4 Tupper and the No. 10 Sharks fell 76-73 to No. 7 St. Thomas More.
The No. 6 Colts entered the championships on a high but lost 73-57 to No. 11 Magee and closed out their season with three more defeats in consolation play.
MacNeill rebounded with wins over John Barsby (70-61) and St. Michael’s University (53-49) while the Sharks took care of MEI (81-73) and Ladysmith (75-64).
Ravens’ head coach Steward Siy didn’t mind the low seeding since the MacNeill avoided three teams he considered bad match-ups — Duchess Park, Vernon and GW Graham. However, there will be much higher expectations heading into next season with a solid core of returning players led by the backcourt duo of First Team Richmond All-Stars Devlin and Thackwray.
“A lot of the group going into Grade 12 have now made provincials four years in a row. Just making it again shouldn’t be the goal. It’s more than that now. We should be looking at the bigger picture,” said Siy. “They seem to have bought into it. We will give them a little time off now then get back to work. We have a lot of good younger kids coming up too and they are great role models for them.”