It was a historic win for the MacNeill Ravens Monday night that also served as a reminder of what’s in store for them in a couple of weeks.
The Ravens clinched first place in the Richmond Senior Boys Basketball League with a hard fought 74-67 victory over the host Steveston-London Sharks. It marks the first time in school history the Ravens have finished on top in city regular season play at the 3A level. They will look to cap a 10-0 run in their final league game Wednesday against RC Palmer.
Ironically, it was a league-opening win over the second place Richmond Colts back in early December that will likely be the difference between the teams sitting No. 6 and No. 10 respectively in the latest provincial 3A rankings.
The Ravens’ status reflects four tournament wins and significant progress from a year ago when they were on the outside looking in at the city championships with a .500 record. This time they will be the No. 1 seed when it tips-off Feb. 12.
“The guys are so committed. Even with our juniors, we are practising together. It’s constant building,” said MacNeill head coach Steward Siy. “That’s how we get chemistry. We are lucky that our kids have always been committed and it goes back to summer ball too.”
The Sharks took a serious run at the Ravens’ unbeaten record, opening up a 24-9 first quarter lead. They maintained a 13-point cushion until the late stages of the opening half when MacNeill cut the deficit to 39-34. The momentum continued over the final two quarters to grind out the win, despite a tough night of shooting.
The Sharks (6-3) are destined for a fourth place finish and could see the Ravens in the playoffs.
“This was a good game to get us started for the playoffs. The way it is now we might be seeing them again,” continued Siy. “We didn’t take them lightly and were ready for them. Richmond is tough with a lot of good teams.
“We were down and the guys continued to work. They kept their poise and believed in themselves. It’s really great to see. Steveston-London played very well.”
Sharks head coach Mike Stoneburgh would welcome a potential semi-final date with the Ravens in two weeks but is also well-aware his team will have its hands full in the opening round, likely against the vastly improved Hugh Boyd Trojans in a 4/5 match-up.
“The playoffs are going to be very interesting and we’re not sleeping on anyone,” he said. “ We have some moments where we kind of go a little bit off and we start turning the ball over, commit fouls, give up easy shots or second chance opportunities. We have to stop doing that and it has kind of been our Achilles’ heel this season. They are just too good of team for second of third opportunities.”
Usman Tung and Sky Tan led the Ravens with 18 and 17 points respectively. Ethan Wight had a game-high 22 for the Sharks.