Vancouver high school boys basketball fans couldn't have asked for more but wouldn't be wrong to. After a spectacular showing at this year's Lower Mainland AAA boys basketball championships, for the first time in tournament history five berths to provincials were secured by Vancouver public and independent schools. The Richmond, Burnaby and New West leagues will regroup for next year.
In the Lower Mainland championship game, St. George's split nanoseconds in securing basketball court supremacy over Kitsilano with a put-back shot at the buzzer by tournament MVP Milan Mitrovic.
In the third-place game, Vancouver College bested Sir Charles Tupper in an anti-climactic seeding game in which each team sat a significant starter with injuries: Erickson Evangelista for VC and Gabriel Corpuz for Tupper.
The underdog thrillers this year were the Greyhounds of Point Grey whose 42-point performance by guard Andrew Mavety secured the fifth seed to B.C.'s and left a talented Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs squad feeling like rabbits in a greyhound's jaws after relinquishing several double-digit leads.
With the Lower Mainland championships in the annals, how will these five city hoops teams fare at provincials? To find out by watching live action, do not go to the Agrodome. That historic venue for the B.C. boys AAA championships was replaced as host site. For the second year in a row, the Langley Event Centre hosts the tournament March 13 to 17.
St. George's, Vancouver College and Kitsilano have all shown they are capable of beating the quality teams necessary to go deep into the tournament. Point Grey and Sir Charles Tupper likely do not have the depth to do the same but will do well to place with a couple of tournament wins.
Point Grey and Tupper play in two of four play-in games today to get to the Round of 16. Point Grey opens up against Fraser Valley No. 7 Yale with the winner facing the champions from the Okanagan, the Kelowna Owls, who have been the top-ranked B.C. team much of the year. Getting past Yale will be a tall order but the Owls will be waiting to put an end to any more substantial dreams.
In their third-straight tournament appearance, Tupper should get past Northern B.C. representative Correlieu but Fraser Valley No. 1 Pitt Meadow awaits the victor.
Pitt Meadows is my pick to win the tournament and they may be challenged by Tupper but not likely upset.
Vancouver College is hoping to secure their first title since 1967 and should get off to a good start. They're paired off with Vancouver Island No. 2 Belmont in their opener on Wednesday. They will likely face Kelowna in the quarter-finals, which should prove interesting as these teams have split victories in games this season.
Vancouver College needs a healthy Erickson Evangelista in order to stride far into the tournament field as their suspect bench depth showed in their lopsided Lower Mainland semifinal loss to St. George's.
Kitsilano faces the toughest first round match-up of any of the five Lower Mainland representatives. Kitsilano opens on Wednesday against Fraser Valley No. 5 W.J. Mouat, a team bolstered by the return of six-foot-nine Grade 10 Tristan Etienne to a line-up already resembling a football team.
Kitsilano's Luka Zaharijevic will likely need some post support from Dawson Perron to battle the bigs and secure some shooting space for the Kits snipers.
St. George's has shown resiliency through hardship to be crowned Lower Mainland court champion and will certainly be a strong candidate for the school spirit award regardless of tournament outcome. St. George's awaits the winner of Tuesday's tilt twinning White Rock Christian (FV No. 6) and Mt. Baker (Kootenay champion).
St. George's appears to have the roster depth and tenacity to make an extended run in the tournament. Their tenacious team defense and rebounding bode well for success in a tournament that often requires workmanlike grit to grind out the four wins needed to hoist the Ken Wright Memorial Trophy.
Whatever the tournament game outcomes, this should prove to be one of the most entertaining AAA boys provincial championship in recent memory for Vancouver hoops fans who have their choice of five schools to cheer for. If unable to make the journey across the Port Mann Bridge into the hinterlands, video-streamed games can be found at: www.bcboysbasketball.com and sportscanada.tv.
City hoops are alive and well.
Steve Anderson is a community sports organizer and volunteer basketball coach at Gladstone secondary. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.