City teams take aim at B.C. berths

Palmer and MacNeill are favourites at this week's Mainland AA tournament

RC Palmer Griffins and MacNeill Ravens are hoping to renew their rivalry on Thursday night with B.C. berths already in their back pockets.

The top 10 ranked Richmond schools are favoured to meet in the final of this week's Lower Mainland AA Boys Basketball Championships which take place at MacNeill.

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The Griffins are the top seed in the six team tournament after winning their eighth consecutive Richmond championship last week. They will likely play Britannia tonight (7:30 p.m.), while the second seed Ravens are destined to meet third seed Notre Dame in the other semi-final at 5:45 p.m. MacNeill took a perfect record into the city tournament before falling 78-66 to Palmer in the the semis. They rebounded to edge McNair 81-79 in the third place game.

"Ourselves and MacNeill are the favourites (this week) and now we have to make sure we get it done," said Griffins head coach Paul Eberhardt. "If we both play to our ability then we are moving onto (the Langley Events Centre for the provincials)."

For the third straight year, the Griffins were not the favourite at the city championships yet still found a way to get it done. They capped a memorable week with an 84-69 win over top 10 3A ranked McMath Wildcats in front of a packed gym at Burnett secondary.

The Griffins used a huge second half performance from Antonio Jhuty to pull away after taking a 38-34 lead into the locker room. The Grade 12 guard showed why he is one of the most prolific scorers in school history by putting on a shooting clinic from the perimeter - hitting a number of deep threes en route to a 34-point performance. Point guard Gurjit Pooni was also terrific, finishing with 23 points and 13 assists.

"I didn't think we were playing that well to be honest with you and was little surprised we were ahead (at the half)," said Eberhardt. "We were missing a lot of shots and we usually don't do that for four quarters. Antonio decided 'I'm going to end it' and hit like three 40-footers in a row.

"We also got our tempo going in the second half which makes us pretty tough when we get into full court."

In arguably the deepest playoff tournament in its near 20-year history, the eight team event lived up to the hype with some closely contested games from start to finish.

The Griffins opened with a 90-87 quarterfinal win over the Richmond Colts, then got past the MacNeill.

The Wildcats also had a tough road to the final, outlasting Hugh Boyd 65-60 in the opening round, before cooling off the red hot McNair Marlins 67-54 in a battle between a pair of top 10 ranked 3A teams.

McMath joins the Marlins, McRoberts Strikers and Boyd at this week's Lower Mainland AAA Tournament.

The No. 3 seed Wildcats will host the winner of No. 6 Byrne Creek and No. 11 Gladstone tonight at 7:30 p.m. An all-Richmond quarter-final match-up is also looming as the No. 4 Marlins could be entertaining the No. 5 Strikers, also at 7:30 p.m.

The No. 9 Trojans played No. 8 Point Grey last night with the winner moving on to face top seed St. Thomas More.

The Richmond Colts are the city's lone entry in the Lower Mainland AAAA Tournament. The No. 5 seed hosted No. 12 Burnaby Mountain last night, with the winner moving on to meet No. 4 Kitsilano in today's quarter-finals.

Both the Lower Mainland AAA and AAAA Tournaments will conclude next week at the Richmond Olympic Oval with the semi-final games being held on Feb. 19.

At the buzzer....

Coaches had high praise for the staff and students at Burnett for their efforts in hosting the championships for the second straight year. They have taken the event to another level complete with team posters, a tournament program and even game hosts that welcome spectators to the school.

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