At the provincial double AA basketball championships for the first time since 1980, the Elphinstone Cougars senior boys finished with a 3-1 record and fifth place overall last week in Langley.
The fifth place showing was the highest for any Coast basketball team at a provincial championship.
Elphi started the tournament at the Langley Events Centre Wednesday night, March 5 with a 71-61 win over Southridge from Surrey.
That set up a second round match-up with the Valleyview Vikes from Kamloops on Thursday night. Despite battling back several times, Elphi couldn't come all the way back losing 63-54. That loss dropped the Cougars into the consolation side of the championship bracket.
Friday morning they upended Clarence Fulton from Vernon 57-46 and defeated South Okanagan from Oliver 44-38 Saturday afternoon in the fifth/sixth place game.
"It was a great week and a great experience for the guys," said head coach Mike Sopow. "The tournament was first class. Great facility, replay boards, on-court interviews - they made it really feel like a big time experience. I couldn't have asked anything more from our players. They represented our school, our community and Howe Sound basketball with a lot of heart, determination and class."
Elphi was ranked fifth heading into the tournament, but Sopow was confident the Cougars would win their first two games and play in the semifinal.
"The Valleyview game was a tough one to swallow," he said. "That was a winnable game for us, but our offence just stalled a bit. The guys fought hard, but we just had a bit of a bad game at the wrong time."
But despite that loss, Sopow said he was impressed by the way the team rebounded in its last two games.
"To finish strong and in fifth place is a great achievement," he said. "That last game on Saturday was emotional. We knew before we started that this was going to be the last game with this group of guys. For sure when the game ended there were a few tears shed.
"This was an experience that we will all remember. Life long memories are built here. You might not always remember all the plays on the court, but you will remember the times in the van, at the hotel - the things that brought you together as a team. This is like a second family and we have a real strong bond together."
Sopow said TJ Turenne was named player of the game against Southridge, while Nolan Lewarne was MVP in the Fulton and South Okanagan games. Austen Perry played a strong final game and fuelled the comeback win, while Wei Lau was strong defensively and solid running the point throughout the whole tournament.
Pender senior girls
The Pender Harbour senior girls had a great experience at the single 'A' provincials in Lumby.
Pender opened with a 64-49 loss to Kelowna Christian, who finished second overall.
"It was a good game, but they were a taller, stronger team," said head coach Earl Antilla.
Nadine Joy-Reid, who was the top scorer for Pender, went down with a knee injury in the fourth quarter.
"As she was being wheeled to the ambulance she told the girls to finish strong," recalled Antilla. "The girls went on a 14-point scoring spree to finish the game."
Game two was a 72-28 loss to Credo Christian from Langley.
Game three on Friday was a competitive game against host school Charles Bloom, who won 62-44.
"We matched them basket for basket until the third quarter when another one of our girls, Maribeth Haines went down with anankle injury," said Antilla. "So with the remaining seven players we did all we could, but they pulled ahead and we couldn't respond."
On Saturday Pender picked up its first win in its last game, a 67-52 decision over Glenlyon Norfolk from Victoria.
"It was a great experience for our girls. We got to see and meet a lot of basketball people, the games were amazing and Charles Bloom did an amazing job of everything," he said. "I would like to thank the parents and all of our supporters for a great year."
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