Championship games are certainly not lost on December mornings but they can be important building steps towards winning one. That’s the position a pair of top teams from the Richmond Senior Boys Basketball League found themselves in at the Tsumura Invitational.
The 20-team tournament at the Langley Events Centre was stacked with schools in the provincial 4A and 3A rankings. Saturday’s title game saw Centennial outlast Kelowna in a battle of two of the top three 4A teams in BC.
The McMath Wildcats and MacNeill Ravens weren’t in championship contention but were getting plenty of great match-ups that will serve them well in the new year.
The No. 6 3A ranked Wildcats capped a hectic two-week stretch by splitting a pair of games on Saturday against 4A honourable mention teams.
A 94-79 loss to Heritage Woods was followed by a 78-67 victory against Lord Tweedsmuir. It was the McMath’s 11th game in 13 days that included an earlier final four appearance at the season-opening Big Ticket Tournament and a league win against McRoberts.
“There has been a lot of games and not enough practices but that was the plan to get us ready for the season,” smiled head coach Jon Acob, whose team completes a hat trick of tourneys at Seaquam this week. “We are throwing in a lot of match-ups and rotations just to see how we are doing so then when hopefully we will be ready for league play.
“It is good for their confidence to be seeing these teams. Right now we stack up pretty good but it’s really all about peaking at the right time of the year.”
For a strong group of Grade 11s that happened last season when the Wildcats made a memorable run to the provincial junior boys title game before falling to Burnaby South. Many of them are year-round players that helped the Shooting Stars win U16 Club Nationals last summer. The time in the gym is evident by their three-point shooting prowess and athleticism.
“Our top eight have all played senior ball and it also helped that our senior and juniors practiced together last year,” continued Acob. “That (provincial) run was very good for our confidence and the style that we play.
“They believe in our style and they move the ball around well. With our defence, we have to get more aggressive and do more of the dirty stuff.”
The group is led by guards Travis Hamberger and Jon Downton. Hamberger was a first team all-star at junior provincials who has already eclipsed the 30-point mark more than once this season. Downton was MVP at club nationals.
The No. 7 ranked Ravens are on the same progression path as their crosstown rival. They too played in both tournaments and got a steady diet of quality opponents, highlighted by a 65-59 win over 4A honourable mention Oak Bay. MacNeill opened the tourney with an overtime loss to Seaquam, another 4A HM.
MacNeill is at the Bob Gair Tournament in New West, Dec. 18-20 before heading to the Surf N Slam Tournament in San Diego Dec. 27-30.
Honourable mention Steveson-London Sharks are currently in California for the Corona Del Mar Beach Bash Tournament, starting Wednesday.