High school hoop action back again in a big way

Cowichan’s Shoya Yamaguchi flies through the air but is up against a challenge from Duncan Christian’s Josh Klassen.  - Andrew Leong
Cowichan’s Shoya Yamaguchi flies through the air but is up against a challenge from Duncan Christian’s Josh Klassen.
— image credit: Andrew Leong

The Welcome Back basketball tournament at Cowichan Secondary School is a great gauge of where teams stand in the early stages of the senior boys’ high school season.

Twelve teams from the A to AAA levels competed in the event, including the host T-Birds who finished fourth and the upstart Duncan Christian School Chargers who came sixth.

The Claremont Spartans swept through the tournament undefeated to win the championship. They beat Gulf Islands 74-45, Lambrick Park 76-68 and Belmont 71-64 in the final.

DCS decided to give the higher-calibre tournament a shot because the senior boys’ team is deemed to be one of the best the school has ever produced.

It proved to be a worthwhile endeavour, as the Chargers won two of their four games and were competitive in all but one against the T-Birds.

“The Cow High game was a bit of a rough one for us,’’ said returning coach Heidi Padjen. “But we only had three practices.’’

Most of the team members were just coming off the volleyball season and only starting to get into the swing of basketball again.

“I’m happy with the way they played,’’ said Padjen. “It’s a good start to the season for us.’’

DCS trounced Ladysmith 78-52 in its opening game Wednesday. Eight teams played preliminary games while four others received byes and awaited the winners in the next round.

Josh Klassen led the way for DCS with 23 points, five assists and nine rebounds. Doug Groenendijk contributed 18 points and 17 rebounds and Nick Kapteyn still put up 13 points despite getting into foul trouble that reduced his minutes.

The two local teams battled in an afternoon game Thursday, with Cowichan winning 57-23 over DCS. Andrew Larson scored 26 points to lead the Cowichan scoring.

DCS did well on defence to limit Jerod Dorby to six points but couldn’t generate any offense.

DCS went on to play North Surrey and lost a heartbreaker 69-66.

Klassen’s 23 points, 14 rebounds, seven steals and eight assists topped the charts for DCS while Groenendijk added 17 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.

“That game we played North Surrey, we were up by 20 at one point,’’ said Padjen. “North Surrey hit a couple of threes. The boys started getting frantic, lots of turnovers.

“It was a good learning experience.’’

Cowichan faced Belmont in the semifinals and lost 61-46. Larson’s 17 points and seven rebounds, Dorby’s eight points and 12 rebounds and a tough defensive game with strong drives to the basket by Shoya (Air Japan) Yamaguchi were the Cowichan highlights.

The T-Birds also played an exhibition game against W.J. Mouat Saturday and lost 64-63. The Hawks hit two deep three-pointers in the last 20 seconds to win.

Larson led the Cowichan scoring again with 17 points, six rebounds and three assists; Dorby contributed 16 points and 17 rebounds and Braydon Aumen managed 11 points.

DCS closed out the tournament with a solid 65-32 win over Woodlands behind Klassen’s 29 points and 10 steals. Groenendijk managed 12 points and 14 rebounds while Kapteyn got into the act with 10 points and 13 rebounds.

Padjen has more bench strength compared to last year, with only two players not returning and extra reinforcements who’ve joined the team.

“We’re having players last year who weren’t really scorers, this tournament they’ve showed me they can step up,’’ she said.

Jon Climie is a prime example. He’s improved immensely from last season.

Cowichan lost 53-49 in the third-place game to Lambrick Park.

Larson put another 23 points on the board while Dorby had 22 points and 13 rebounds.

“I thought we played pretty well compared to the competition out there,’’ said Aumen, a Grade 11 player who’s made the jump from the junior ranks to the senior T-Birds this season.

“I thought it went well for our team.’’

Of course, there’s always more for Aumen individually and the team as a whole to learn.

Coach Sandeep Heer used the tournament to try and reach a consensus on his starting five for the season and who will filter into the No. 6, 7 and 8 man roles off the bench.

“We’ve got lots to work on and we should be good by the end of the year,’’ said Aumen.

He said it will be a ‘defence first’ mentality.

“That’s the base. If we have good defence, the offense will come.

“It’s a really good mix, guys that are coming up from the junior team and seniors that have been there for a year. They know what to expect.’’

The T-Birds head back into tournament action Thursday through Saturday at Oak Bay.

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