The Churchill Bulldogs are on a direct path toward the Vancouver city championship game Saturday night, but don’t tell their coach Rick Lopez.
The Bulldogs are ranked No. 9 in B.C. AAA senior boys basketball and the second seed in the public school city tourney behind the B.C.-ranked No. 8 Kitsilano Blue Demons. The two are on the opposite sides of the bracket and should meet in Saturday’s 6 p.m. final at John Oliver secondary, but the Bulldogs’ coach isn’t the type to take anything for granted.
“I’ve been telling the kids, any team can beat any other team on any given night,” said Lopez Wednesday afternoon after handing the host Jokers an 89-35 loss and advancing to Thursday’s semi-final against the Tupper Tigers.
“I don’t think it’s about beating any team and beating Kits,” said Lopez, “it’s about playing to our potential. If our guys come out and play well, I think we have a chance with anybody. And that’s the whole goal: to come out and give yourself a chance.”
He said the team is not looking at Saturday but “towards tomorrow.”
“If we overlook any of these guys, that’s how you end up losing those games,” said Lopez, who led a Churchill basketball team to Provincials five years ago for the first time in 35 years.
Churchill’s Mindy Minhas put on a clinic against the Jokers, earning game MVP honours for shooting 100 per cent from the field. That’s right: Minhas scored 36 points, including eight buckets from three-point range, and didn’t miss a single shot.
Tupper head coach Jeff Gourley said Minhas is the best high school player in B.C. right now, giving the Churchill player top honours over Walnut Grove stand-out Jadon Cohee.
Gourley also said Lopez is the kind of coach who can run an excellent basketball program but put an emphasis on developing good people, not just good players.
“Rick has built such a great program and in an honest way,” said the Tigers coach who competed in back-to-back city championships in the last two years. “He’s a spectacular coach, if there’s a guy in his city who knows his Xs and Os and knows how to make his team comfortable, he’s the guy. I have the highest respect for him and their whole program.”
Tupper beat the King George Dragons in an intense match that went down to the last minute of action after the Dragons closed a 13-point deficit to come within one point with 29 seconds to play. The Tigers pulled away by sinking four of six from the free-throw line and won 57-62.
The top six Vancouver public school teams advance to the Lower Mainland tournament.
In the two other quarter-finals, David Thompson beat Killarney 83-77 and Kitsilano downed Windermere 103-70.
Kitsilano and DT play 7:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon for a seat in Saturday’s tournament final. Churchill and Tupper play 4:45 p.m. Thursday, also at John Oliver.
The fifth-place game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Third place will be decided 4:14 p.m. and the final is set for 6 p.m. with all games hosted at John Oliver at the corner of Fraser and East 41st Ave.