B.C. High School Boys Basketball Championships did not go smoothly for more than a half-dozen Surrey teams last week at the Langley Events Centre and, at first glance, it would seem that nowhere was that more obvious than at Southridge School.
Playing in the boys double-A tournament, the No. 3-seeded Storm were knocked out of the first round on March 4 76-60 by the No. 14 seed George Elliott Coyotes, from Lake Country of the Okanagan region. It was considered the first real upset of the four-day tournament – at any level.
But first-year Southridge head coach Ray Kwok – who took over the senior crew this year from longtime coach Steve Anderson – didn’t quite see it the same way, pointing out that the Coyotes didn’t exactly appear out of nowhere as a complete unknown.
George Elliot ended up as the 14th seed – and third out of the Okanagan – after an upset loss in their own regional tournament, Kwok noted.
“It was kind of one of those perfect-storm, worst-case-possible kind of scenarios. (George Elliot) is the team that made the finals and finished second last year, and they had five returning players,” Kwok said, adding that he watched six hours of YouTube video on his opponent, which further cemented his belief that the Okanagan squad would pose a tough test for his crew.
“Their starting lineup had one six-foot-three (player), and the rest are all six-five… and talented. It was very, very tough, and talking to some other coaches at the tournament, they all said, ‘Yeah, that’s actually a top-four team.’”
Graham Block led the Storm with 20 points.
The Storm weren’t the only Surrey team to stumble out of the gate at provincials. In quad-A, the Tamanawis Wildcats, Fleetwood Park Dragons, Holy Cross Crusaders and Frank Hurt Hornets all lost in the first round, while Surrey Christian lost in the first-round of the double-A tournament. In single-A, E’cole Gabrielle-Roy Phenix also lost.
Not wanting to end the season on a dour note, Southridge rebounded the next day, winning their final three games of the tournament, against Hugh Boyd Secondary, No. 7-seeded D.P. Todd Secondary from Prince George and No. 8 Princess Margaret from Penticton, who were the top-ranked Okanagan team at the tournament.
“The team showed a lot of resiliency, because (after the loss) we could’ve just come out and not really performed, but we took it as if we had something to prove,” Kwok said. “We were a high seed and we wanted to come out and end the season by playing our best basketball, and we did that with the three wins.”
This year’s team – which finished the year with a 30-3 win-loss record against Canadian competition and also won the South Fraser zone championship banner – was a Grade 12-laden group, and will return just three players to the team next year, including standout Rohan Sall, who starred this year as a Grade 10.
Despite the first-round loss, the experience was a positive one for the team, he added.
“For most of the players and also myself, this was our first time at provincials, experiencing it. And it’s a pretty big deal with 64 teams there from every tier. I call it ‘basketball heaven.’ It was a great experience… and we really enjoyed it,” he said.
“Now, we want to strive to get back there every year.”