It was a big day on and off the court for the AR MacNeill basketball program Monday.
The Ravens officially welcomed the 2019-20 season with their sixth annual Stronger Than Cancer Opening Day — raising over $2,000 for the B.C. Cancer Foundations, through a raffle, concession sales and donations. Seven MacNeill teams were in action, utilizing both of the school’s gyms, and a Richmond Youth Basketball League mini-game was also part of the evening’s festivities.
The evening concluded with an intriguing Richmond Senior Boys Basketball League match-up that saw the hosts pull away in the late going for an 82-63 victory over the Hugh Boyd Trojans.
The Ravens are coming off its best season in school history — capped by a fourth place finish at B.C. AAA Championships last March. They were No. 3 in the pre-season provincial rankings and it was evident Monday it will be a different approach to prove they are among the top teams in B.C.
A year ago they leaned heavily on graduated Richmond League MVP Usman Tung most nights. This is a deeper team with more athleticism that features only one starter in Grade 12.
Just how much depth was showcased in the early going when Grade 11 guard Tanner Devlin came off the bench to help the Ravens overcome a slow start with 16 of his game-high 20 points in the opening half.
MacNeill seized momentum of the game thanks to their relentless pressure defence that produced plenty of turnovers. Grade 10 Everett Swaim chipped in with 16 points and his Grade 12 brother Hudson added 14.
There were plenty of positives in the Trojans’ game too as a senior loaded line-up has a good chance at earning the schools’ first provincial berth at the AA level in over a decade.
When standout guard Nicholas Berda drained a three-pointer at the buzzer to conclude the third quarter, his team was down by just eights. Boyd, however, would get no closer as the Ravens’ full court pressure took its toll on a limited rotation.
Berda finished with 17 points and Payton Hinds added 14.
The senior girls game saw the Trojans cruise to a comfortable victory. Boyd should be competitive when it comes time for the inaugural South Fraser AA playoffs in February.