Sports

BasketBlog: Live from the Snowball Tournament

Dakotah Roussin and Stephen Jones of Winnipeg
Dakotah Roussin and Stephen Jones of Winnipeg's Kelvin Clippers put the clamps on a Burnaby South opponent during Snowball Tournament action on Thursday.
— image credit: John Morrow

The Snowball Classic senior boys basketball tournament is running all day Thursday at Abbotsford Collegiate. Abbotsford News sports editor Dan Kinvig will be updating this page with live updates throughout the day.

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9:58 p.m. – Twelve hours, seven games, five cinnamon buns (no joke) and 6,008 words later, the BasketBlog is closing up shop for the day.

Friday's Snowball semifinals at Abby Collegiate feature the Mouat Hawks vs. the Kelowna Owls (6 p.m.) and the St. Andrew's Saints vs. the St. George's Saints (8 p.m.). We'll have summaries of those games at abbynews.com, and we'll be back with the blog format for Saturday's championship game, which tips off at 8 p.m. Hope to see you here.

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9:50 p.m. – Kalusha Ndoumbe Ngollo punctuated a 106-46 St. Andrew's victory over Abby Collegiate with a two-handed tomahawk jam. The Saints move on to face the another Saints squad – St. George's of Vancouver – in the semifinals on Friday.

St. Andrew's guard Tom Garrick led all scorers with 23 points, despite not scoring a single point after halftime. Cedric Kuakamensah added 19 points for the victors, while Ndoumbe Ngollo, Edson Dascy and Bonzie Colson scored 13 apiece.

Matt Brar led the Panthers with 12 points – all on three-pointers – while Himat Dhaliwal scored 11.

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9:46 p.m. – Abby Collegiate's Se Hwan Yoo launched a three-pointer in such a way that the ball got stuck between the backboard and the rim. That's just the kind of game it's been for the Panthers. St. Andrew's leads 104-46 with less than two minutes remaining.

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9:34 p.m. – Late in the third quarter, the Abby Collegiate crowd starts chanting, "We want Dre! We want Dre!" That would be Andreas Tan, a Grade 12 forward with the Panthers who broke his leg playing football and hasn't seen the court yet during basketball season. He's been pushing his rehab to be ready for the Snowball, and he took pregame warm-up.

With 12.4 seconds left in the quarter, Panthers coach Prentice Lenz obliges, subbing in Tan much to the delight of the crowd. Then early in the fourth, Tan sends the home fans into hysterics when he drains a jumper from the top of the key. He's limping back around the court, but he's all smiles.

With 8:30 left in the fourth, St. Andrew's is up 88-38.

*****

9:28 p.m. – My favourite moment of the third quarter so far came during a St. Andrew's free throw, when an Abby Collegiate fan whinnied like a horse – at glass-shattering pitch and maximum volume, no less – in an attempt to distract him. It amused the crowd, but it didn't work – the ball bounced thrice on the rim before dropping through, not that the Saints really needed it.

With 2:28 left in the third quarter, St. Andrew's is up 82-34.

*****

9:08 p.m. – St. Andrew's was supposed to win this game by a big margin, but their 63-25 lead at halftime is still very impressive. There's not a lot this team can't do. They've got tons of size, but they also shoot the ball extremely well.

Saints guard Tom Garrick scored 21 points in the first quarter alone. That is not a typo. He counted five three-pointers among his offensive explosion, and he's at 23 points at halftime after sitting for most of the second quarter.

St. Andrew's centre Cedric Kuakamensah has 17 points, while Himat Dhaliwal, with nine, leads the Panthers.

*****

9:04 p.m. – The Panthers are in the process of absorbing a serious thumping, but T.J. Gill is still bringin' it. The Abby Collegiate point guard, on a two-on-one break, fooled St. Andrew's guard Henry Bolton by faking the pass, keeping the ball, and laying it in stylishly.

Mind you, it's still 60-23 for the visitors. But the capacity crowd loved Gill's cheeky little move, and let him know it. All in all, a pretty cool moment for a high school kid.

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9:00 p.m. – With just over five minutes left in the second quarter, St. Andrew's has hit the 50 point plateau. On the bright side for the Panthers, they've found the range from beyond the arc – back-to-back treys from Anoka Athaya and Himat Dhaliwal have made it 50-21.

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8:52 p.m. – Dunk alert, part deux. St. Andrew's forward Kalusha Ndoumbe Ngollo (it took me two minutes just to type that and double-check the spelling) just weaved around a pair of Abby players on the fast break and threw down in a huge way. One fan behind me said, "He took two steps from centre!" That's only a slight exaggeration. At 6'8", the kid's strides are looooong.

Early in the second quarter, the Saints lead 36-11.

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8:45 p.m. – Okay, so I just watched one of the more amazing basketball plays I've ever seen in person. T.J. Gill, the Panthers' six-foot-tall point guard, thought he had an angle to attack the hoop, but he had his shot blocked by not one, but two St. Andrew's players – Cedric Kuakamensah and Bonzie Colson.

Somehow, the ref found a way to whistle a foul on St. Andrews on that play, but both those guys took a turn pinning that ball to the glass. Crazy to watch.

St. Andrew's is up 28-8 with less than two minutes left in the second quarter.

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8:42 p.m. – Dunk alert! St. Andrew's guard Tom Garrick, off a Panthers turnover, rose up and threw down a one-hander, much to the delight of the crowd. It's 25-7 for the Saints with 3:40 left in the first quarter.

*****

8:37 p.m. – The Saints are not only large, they can shoot the ball. When they're not pounding the ball inside, they're swishing jumpers from the perimeter.

The Rhode Islanders scored the first 12 points of the game, but the Panthers seem to have acclimatized to a certain extent. It's now 21-7 midway through the first quarter.

Despite the Panthers' deficit, the home crowd is absolutely losing their minds after every Abby Collegiate bucket. It's a pretty fun atmosphere.

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8:34 p.m. – Perhaps a bit of a culture shock-type moment for Abby's Hardeep Mann in the early going. He drove down the lane and prepared to unleash a floater, only to see Cedric Kuakamensah – St. Andrew's 6'8" centre – rise to block the shot. Mann actually managed to arc the ball over Kuakamensah's fingertips, but not with enough accuracy to do any more than clank it off the rim.

The Saints are rolling early, up 9-0 less than three minutes in.

*****

8:16 p.m. – Kelowna staved off a scrappy G.W. Graham squad by a score of 83-71, punching their ticket to the semifinals in the process. The Owls advance to face the Mouat Hawks at 6 p.m. on Friday. Should be a good one.

Lucas Mannes of the Grizzlies poured in a game-high 27 points, which if my memory serves, is also the high single-game point total of the tourney at this juncture. Kelowna's Braxston Bunce notched 10 of his team-high 24 points in the fourth quarter, while Mitch Goodwin scored 19 points in the win.

Up next we've got the host Abby Collegiate Panthers taking on St. Andrew's, who came all the way from Rhode Island to be here. The Saints are heavy favourites, but the crowd is already cranking up the volume in support of their Panthers.

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8:09 p.m. – It seems the Grizzlies' upset bid will not come to fruition, as Kelowna leads 80-69 with less than two minutes left.

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8:00 p.m. – Awesome moment just now. Braxston Bunce just picked up his fourth foul while battling G.W. Graham's Hank Derksen for a defensive rebound. Bunce, stunned at the call, was starting to give the ref some grief when Owls teammate Darrion Bunce – Braxston's younger brother, I presume – decided to usher him away from the official. During that process, Darrion shoved Braxston in the chest. Braxston didn't dig that one bit, and shoved him back. They both stared at each other for a second, then relaxed.

Ah, brotherly love. Classic.

Kelowna leads 73-63 with just under five minutes remaining.

*****

7:54 p.m. – A nice entry pass by Kelowna's Buster Truss leads to the moment everyone in the gym has been waiting for – a dunk by Braxston Bunce. The Owls giant threw down a two-hander – rather gently, mind you, but a dunk is a dunk. Kelowna leads G.W. Graham 65-56 with eight minutes remaining.

*****

7:50 p.m. – The Grizzlies haven't been able to knot the score yet, but they're hanging close, down 59-54 through three quarters vs. Kelowna. If they were to win, it might be the biggest basketball upset since the climactic scene of the movie Hoosiers.

*****

7:35 p.m. – Regardless of who wins this game, the G.W. Graham Grizzlies are my favourite team of the day. They just rained down a hail of jump shots to carve a 12-point deficit down to two, at 47-45 midway through the third quarter. As I alluded to in my previous post, given the height disparity between Kelowna and Graham, this shouldn't be happening. But it is happening, and it's a joy to watch.

*****

7:30 p.m. – The Pit, the venerable gym at Abbotsford Collegiate, is starting to fill up in anticipation of tonight's main event – the quarter-final between the host Panthers and St. Andrew's of Rhode Island. If you're planning on attending that game, it might be worth getting an early start.

At the moment, Kelowna has a 44-32 lead on G.W. Graham early in the third quarter.

*****

7:16 p.m. – Credit G.W. Graham for staying within shouting distance of Kelowna. The Owls lead 37-27 at the break after Grizzlies guard Lucas Mannes caught fire at the end of the second quarter – he drained a trio of three-pointers in quick succession.

Owls behemoth Braxston Bunce didn't play a whole lot in the second quarter, but he didn't necessarily need to. G.W. Graham has a grand total of zero players who could tell you what the air is like at an elevation of six feet, five inches. Kelowna has four players 6'5" or taller, including Bunce at 6'11" and Neven Knezevic at 6'7".

Again, the Grizzlies have done well to stay close. They move the ball well, they're scrappy, and they're smart. But they're physically overmatched, to say the least.

*****

7:04 p.m. – Reasons to be a fan of Kelowna forward Buster Truss:

1) He has an exceedingly awesome name. Even though it might be an even better name for a contractor than a basketball player, cool is cool.

2) He wears his hair in what might be described as a mini-mullet.

3) On the basketball court, he's a hard-nosed defender and deadly in transition.

What's not to like? Truss's Owls lead G.W. Graham 30-16 with six minutes left in the second quarter.

*****

6:57 p.m. – Grizzlies forward Josiah Cockrill just came up with steals on consecutive possessions. On one of those, he pulled up and swished a three-pointer. Nice. Kelowna, though, still leads 22-15.

*****

6:48 p.m. – I can't give you much of a play-by-play on what's been happening on the court recently – I've simply been stunned at the sheer size of Kelowna centre Braxston Bunce. A 6'11" human being, viewed in person, almost defies description. He's an absolute monster. On one play, after catching the ball in the post, he literally shrugged off three Grizzlies defenders, and they scattered like bowling pins. He led with his elbow, though, and picked up an offensive foul.

G.W. Graham cut Kelowna's early lead to 8-7, but the Owls responded with eight straight points, including five from Bunce. They're up 16-7 with just over a minute left in the first quarter.

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6:38 p.m. – Not gonna lie, I'm pretty stoked for this Kelowna-G.W. Graham game. As impressive as the Grizzlies were against Yale earlier, they figure to be in tough against B.C.'s top-ranked AAA squad.

I haven't seen Kelowna play yet this year, and I'm extremely interested to watch Mitch Goodwin and Braxston Bunce. Goodwin is reputed to be one of B.C.'s top point guards, and Bunce might be the best player at any position in the province. The 6'11" centre is ticketed for Cornell University next fall.

Already, Kelowna is out to an early 8-2 lead.

*****

6:32 p.m. – Mouat moves on to the semifinals, where they'll face the winner of the game about to tip off – the Kelowna Owls vs. the G.W. Graham Grizzlies.

Coy led the Hawks with 20 points, while Cam Friesen (19 points) and Mack Thompson (12) also had big games in the win. Nick Irvine, with 16, paced the Rebels.

Friesen, recently returned from a long-term knee injury, played huge minutes for the Hawks and quietly put together a terrific game. He's not as explosive as he was before the injury, but the fitness will improve over time. It's just nice to see him back on the court.

*****

6:18 p.m. – High drama down the stretch, as a couple of huge calls went Mouat's way. Inbounding the ball, Burnaby South was called for an illegal screen. Ball back to the Hawks.

On the ensuing possession, Mouat's Jesse Coy picked up his dribble along the baseline, but drew a pushing foul. Since Burnaby South was in the bonus, he went to the free throw line, where he hit one of two with 23 seconds left.

Mouat was not in the bonus, and after giving a series of fouls in the waning seconds, Burnaby South inbounded near halfcourt with 3.4 seconds left. Quentin Nguyen launched a deep three-pointer that looked like it had a chance, but it clanked off the iron. Mouat escaped with a 62-61 victory.

Wow. What a barn-burner.

*****

6:14 p.m. – Uh-oh. Burnaby South went to a trapping zone press, and Mouat turned the ball over on consecutive possessions. Those turnovers yielded five points for Nick Garcha – a layup and a three-pointer – and then Nick Irvine knotted the score 61-61 with a trey of his own. There's 43 seconds left in the fourth quarter, and Burnaby South has the ball, inbounding at midcourt after a timeout.

*****

6:09 p.m. – The smallest player on the floor, Burnaby South point guard Gino Pagbilao, just came up with a sweet play, slicing through the Mouat defence and finishing with a left-handed layup under duress. Pagbilao is listed at 5'8", but if he's that tall, I'm 6'10".

The Hawks, though, still hold a comfortable lead, up 61-53 with 3:44 left.

*****

6:04 p.m. – The Hawks settle down and reel off a 14-4 run of their own, capped by a three-point play from senior swingman Mack Thompson. Thompson's all fired up – he gave a huge fist-pump after finishing a driving layup through contact from a Burnaby South defender. Mouat leads 56-47 with six minutes remaining.

*****

5:54 p.m. – Wow. After trailing by as many as eight, Burnaby South has rallied in a hurry. Nick Garcha capped a Rebels run by rattling home a three-pointer, and Burnaby South now leads Mouat 43-42 late in the third quarter.

*****

5:47 p.m. – Great start to the second half for the Hawks, as they open on an 11-3 run.

Seven of those points were courtesy of senior shooting guard Jesse Coy – all on driving layups, one of which was accompanied by a foul and became an old-fashioned three-point play. Coy, to me, has a lot of potential to play at the next level – he's a good long-range shooter, he's got great length at 6'4", and he uses that length effectively on defence to be disruptive in the passing lanes.

*****

5:30 p.m. – Mouat and Burnaby South are tied 26-26 at the half. Hawks guard Jesse Coy leads all scorers with nine points, while Nick Irvine has seven points for the Rebels.

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5:22 p.m. – Mouat led by as many as five points, but Burnaby South has put together a mini-rally to take a 22-21 lead with four minutes left in the second quarter. The Rebels are getting a lot of production out of their post players.

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5:04 p.m. – On a more positive note, another Mouat player who's been out long-term is back in the lineup. Senior power forward Cam Friesen, a former provincial team player, tore ligaments in his right knee over a year ago, and his comeback has hit a couple of snags this fall. But he's been back for the past five games, and he started for Mouat this afternoon.

The Hawks lead Burnaby South 13-11 late in the first quarter.

*****

4:56 p.m. – I had a quick chat with Mouat coach Rich Ralston before tip-off, and he relayed some harrowing news. Tristan Etienne, the Hawks' 6'9" Grade 10 centre, is out for the year after undergoing heart surgery yesterday.

Etienne, considered one of Canada's best players in his age class, had been held out of some games earlier this season due to concerns about the health of his heart. He'd been cleared to return to action, and was named the top defensive player at the prestigious Legal Beagle tournament last weekend.

But after a recent practice, his heart was racing, and his mom took him to the hospital for further tests. Doctors discovered a hole in his heart, and he underwent surgery to fix the problem. Ralston said the surgery was a success, and Etienne should be back playing basketball by the summer.

It's sad when health issues rob a player of the ability to play. But the fact that the hole was detected early, rather than causing major problems later, is a blessing.

"That's far more important than a season of basketball," Ralston noted.

Indeed.

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4:52 p.m. – Stat attack – in addition to MacFayden's 21 points, St. George's got 17 points from Milan Mitrovic. The Saints' 6'7" forward struggled to finish at the rim in the first half, but he scored 13 of his points after the break, including a pair of really tough driving layups in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.

Luka Zaharijevic led Kitsilano with 20 points.

The second quarter-final of the day, featuring Abbotsford's W.J. Mouat Hawks taking on Burnaby South, is about to tip off.

On another topic, I'm pretty sure I'm addicted to the cinnamon buns at the hospitality table. So good.

*****

4:42 p.m. – Massive comeback for St. George's, who erase a 16-point deficit in the second half en route to a 68-58 victory over Kitsilano. They move on to the semifinals, where they'll face the St. Andrew's-Abby Collegiate winner at 8 p.m. on Friday.

The win over Kits is all the more impressive considering it was the Saints' second game of the day. They really locked it down on defence down the stretch, and they got particularly great mileage out of their 1-2-2 zone press. Lucas MacFayden, who was absolutely terrific at the top of the press, picked up player of the game honours with 21 points.

*****

4:35 p.m. – With 2:02 left in the fourth quarter, St. George's has edged ahead, 61-57.

*****

4:20 p.m. – It's all about Lucas MacFayden right now. The St. George's swingman just scored six straight points – including two layups off defensive steals – to draw his team even with Kitsilano at 47-47. With eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, we're headed for a furious finish.

*****

4:12 p.m. – Just when it looked like Kitsilano was going to run away with this one, St. George's found some traction. After trailing by as many as 16 points, the Saints have trimmed the deficit to six, now behind 47-41 late in the third quarter. They've really dug in defensively, and Lucas MacFayden is supplying the offence – he swished a pair of three-pointers during the Saints' surge.

*****

4:02 p.m. – Kitsilano swingman David Burton must have taken a knock to the head – I didn't see the play, though – because he just re-entered the game with white tape wrapped conspicuously around his cranium. The officials sent him back to the bench, though, because blood was still seeping out and running down his scalp. Tough kid. Kits leads St. George's 40-29 midway through the third quarter.

*****

3:44 p.m. – Kitsilano takes a 33-23 lead into halftime, with Luka Zaharijevic and Justin Sze leading the way. Zaharijevic, the Blue Demons' nimble centre, leads all scorers with 12 points, while Sze, a slender-but-speedy point guard, has 10 points. Lucas MacFayden leads St. George's with eight points.

In the earlier game between G.W. Graham and Yale, Lucas Mannes led the Grizzlies' attack with 21 points. Jauquin Bennett-Boire paced the Lions with 22 points, while Trevor Berge chipped in with 12. Watching Bennett-Boire, it's hard to comprehend he's only in Grade 9 – he's such an explosive athlete, he can get anywhere he wants to on the floor. He's going to be scary-good by the time he's in Grade 12.

*****

3:31 p.m. – Kitsilano guard Justin Sze is lighting up the Saints right now. He's scored eight points in the second quarter alone, sandwiching a pair of three-pointers around a floater in the lane. The Blue Demons lead St. George's 26-19 with four minutes left in the second quarter.

*****

3:15 p.m. – Kitsilano has mounted a mini-rally – late in the first quarter, they now lead St. George's 13-10. Luka Zaharijevic, the Blue Demons' beefy 6'6" centre, is having his way in the post, showcasing soft hands and nice footwork. For a big man, he's uncommonly light on his feet.

FYI, the other quarter-final match-ups today feature W.J. Mouat vs. Burnaby South (4:45 p.m.), Kelowna vs. G.W. Graham (6:30 p.m.) and St. Andrew's vs. Abbotsford Collegiate (8:15 p.m.). The late game, in particular, should be a lot of fun, with what will undoubtedly be a huge crowd cheering on the host team against the favourites from Rhode Island.

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3:07 p.m. – St. George's is playing their second game of the day, while Kitsilano received a first-round bye. You might expect the Saints to be winded, but they've gotten off to a great start, leading 5-0 early in the first quarter.

An undisciplined moment by Kitsilano's Stewan Annan contributed to the early surge. The Blue Demons point guard had the ball stolen by St. George's Saahil Siddoo, and Annan compounded that mistake by shoving Siddoo and picking up a technical foul.

Both AAA teams are provincially ranked – Kitsilano at No. 7, and St. George's at No. 8. But Kits is coming in on a bit of a slump, having lost all three games at the Legal Beagle tournament in Port Coquitlam last week. St. George's, as mentioned earlier, is coming off an impressive second-place finish at the Bedford Road Invitational Tournament in Saskatoon.

*****

2:48 p.m. – 65-58 is the final, G.W. Graham over Yale. The Lions deserve huge props for rallying from an early 13-point deficit – they were tied at 50-50 early in the fourth quarter, but the Grizzlies pulled away down the stretch.

The key sequence came with just over three minutes left, as Grizzlies forward Cody Hansen made a tough shot, plus the foul, over a pair of Yale players. He finished off the three-point play with a free throw to expand a four-point lead to seven. The next Graham possession, Lucas Mannes hit a ridiculously difficult shot while spinning away from a defender, and that was the game.

Up next, we've got an all-Vancouver quarter-final match-up – Kitsilano representing the public schools, and St. George's representing the private schools.

*****

2:35 p.m. – The Grizzlies have the lead back up to six, at 56-50, with just over six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Lucas Mannes is the most gifted of the Grizzlies, but there's a great deal of basketball IQ sprinkled throughout the roster – players like Austin Neetz, Fran Armengual and Hank Derksen really seem to understand the game. Armengual, a scrappy point guard generously listed at 5'8", is a particular joy to watch.

*****

2:28 p.m. – Yale's Trevor Berge opened the fourth quarter with fast-break layups on back-to-back possessions, forcing G.W. Graham to call a timeout just 1:03 into the frame. The Grizzlies led by as many as 13 points early, but they're now up just one, at 50-49.

*****

2:25 p.m. – Yale struggled with turnovers early in the third quarter, allowing G.W. Graham to expand the lead to 10 points. But the Lions calmed down, and Brodie De St. Remy's putback at the buzzer has Yale within 48-43 heading into the fourth quarter.

*****

1:58 p.m. – The halftime score is 30-28, G.W. Graham leading Yale. The Lions have shown a lot of heart battling back from the early 15-2 deficit, but they'll need to do a better job defending in transition in the second half.

It's a feather in G.W. Graham's cap that they're able to play a solid AAA team like Yale so tough. They don't have anyone over 6'4" on the roster – not that Yale's that big, either – but they succeed thanks to a lightning-quick fast break. Guard Lucas Mannes is the guy who really makes the Grizzlies go. He's shown the ability to both knock down the trey and finish at the rim.

The second half should be fun.

*****

1:53 p.m. – It was just one play in the grand scheme of this game, but G.W. Graham's Fran Armengual and Hank Derksen just ran a pick-and-roll so flawless that it would put a smile on the face of even the most curmudgeonly basketball purist. It yielded a layup for Derksen, with Armengual supplying a lovely pass. The Grizzlies lead Yale 30-28 late in the second quarter.

*****

1:38 p.m. – The Grizzlies and Lions are mirror images of each other, in that they're both smallish squads who push the ball relentlessly on offence. Predictably, this game is being played at an absolute breakneck pace. In spite of that, not a ton of points on the board – G.W. Graham leads 18-13 with 7:11 left in the second quarter.

*****

1:30 p.m. – The Grizzlies came roaring out of the gate, scoring 15 of the game's first 17 points, but the Lions responded with a 7-0 run to end the first quarter. Yale's Grade 9 phenom Jacquin Bennett-Boire ignited the spurt, scoring a layup off an offensive rebound before knocking down a pull-up jumper on the ensuing possession.

It's 15-9 for G.W. Graham after 10 minutes.

*****

1:24 p.m. – Some good sportmanship from Yale coach Al Friesen just now. With his team trailing 13-2 in the first quarter, an extra basket was mistakenly put on the scoreboard for the Lions. G.W. Graham coach Jake Mouritzen pointed it out to the official, who checked it with the scorer's table, but they had incorrect info on the scoresheet.

When the official checked with Friesen, he confirmed that according to his stats, the Lions only had two points. "They had it wrong at the scorer's table, but you, me and Al had it right," the official told Mouritzen. There's probably no way the ref could have fixed the score without Friesen's input. That kind of honesty is nice to see.

*****

1:14 p.m. – Yale vs. G.W. Graham is a neat match-up. The Lions have been one of B.C.'s best AAA programs in recent years, having won provincial titles in 2008 and 2010. They've got some elite athletes this year, but not a lot of size.

The Grizzlies aren't a tall team either, but they're ranked No. 3 among AA teams in B.C., and it'll be interesting to see how they stack up against a AAA opponent. So far, so good – Graham leads 7-2 in the early going.

*****

1:05 p.m. – Catching up on some stats, St. George's Bradyn Smith was the top scorer in the early game vs. MEI with 18 points, while Caleb Favor (14 points) and Wes Evans (12) led the Eagles' offence.

Irvine racked up 26 points for Burnaby South, which represents the top scoring performance of the tournament to this point. Quentin Nguyen chipped in with 11 points for the Rebels, while Stephen Jones led the Clippers with 12 points.

*****

12:54 p.m. – Burnaby South's Nick Irvine took over the game down the stretch. He scored four points – on a pair of free throws and a layup – to give his team a seven-point cushion, and hauled down a series of key defensive rebounds as the Rebels won 63-54.

At 6'7", Irvine has a really nice touch on his hook shot, and he's not afraid to get physical on the defensive glass. He looks like a bona fide prospect to play CIS ball, which is probably why University of the Fraser Valley bench boss Barnaby Craddock was in the stands watching this game.

As for the Clippers, they really struggled against Burnaby South's 2-3 zone. With Irvine patrolling the paint, they weren't able to get much going towards the hoop, and their outside shots weren't falling, either. Not a good combination.

Up next, we've got the hometown Yale Lions taking on the G.W. Graham Grizzlies of Chilliwack.

*****

12:43 p.m. – Kelvin had trailed by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, but they're back to within three at 54-51 with three minutes left.

*****

12:29 – I'm enjoying Don Lamont, the Kelvin coach – he seems like a genial chap. As Burnaby South's Nick Irvine hoisted a fadeaway at the third quarter buzzer, Lamont blurted, "Don't go in!" It did not, but the Clippers have some work to do in the final frame – they trail 45-39.

*****

12:19 p.m. – The Clippers put a smile on their coach's face, as they finally get a couple of outside shots to fall. Kalvin Ramos knocks down a pair of three-pointers in quick succession to draw his team to within  37-34 of Burnaby South with five minutes left in third quarter.

*****

12:06 p.m. – I'm seated near the Kelvin bench as I type this, and I just leaned over to ask my buddy Matt if the Clippers had made many threes in the first half. Kelvin coach Don Lamont overheard me and answered. "No! That's usually our specialty, but we're not hitting anything." Straight from the horse's mouth, folks. Burnaby South leads 30-24 at halftime.

*****

1:58 a.m. – We've got a pretty good battle in the post brewing here between Kelvin's Stephen Jones (6'5") and Burnaby South's Nick Irvine (6'7"). The Winnipeggers have handled the Burnaby South's press pretty well for the most part, but they're struggling to execute in the halfcourt against the Rebels' 2-3 zone. Burnaby South leads 30-24 late in the second quarter.

*****

11:41 a.m. – The Kelvin Clippers of Winnipeg and Burnaby South just tipped off, and it's the Manitobans with an early 12-11 lead.

This is an interesting match-up. Kelvin is the No. 2-ranked AAAA squad in Manitoba, while Burnaby South is ranked No. 10 in among B.C. AAA teams, so this essentially amounts to a referendum on the strength of the Manitoba basketball scene. It's worth noting that the last time a Manitoba team attended the Snowball – if my memory serves, it was Sturgeon Heights, another Winnipeg school, back in 2008 – they were eliminated in the first round. We'll see if Kelvin can put in a better performance this time.

*****

11:30 a.m. – Just had a nice chat with Jon Schmidt, MEI's first-year head coach. Schmidt is a former Eagle who went on to star at Columbia Bible College and Trinity Western University, and it's great to see alumni giving back to their schools in such a practical way. His assistant coach is another former MEI/TWU player, Jon Loewen.

Schimdt, who finished up his classes at TWU in August, is substitute teaching and running a basketball training business called Impact Hoops in his spare time. He took over the reins of the Eagles from Dave Martens, who now runs the men's basketball program at Columbia Bible College.

Schmidt said his goal is to restore the culture of basketball that MEI has been traditionally known for.

"We have a young team, and we're still learning to play with consistent effort and focus for 40 minutes," said Schmidt, reflecting on the St. George's defeat. "We're not there yet, and it's a daily progression."

*****

11:06 a.m. – It just dawned on me that it's a little ironic to call this tournament the Snowball, when the Abbotsford area gets virtually no snow. I'm pretty sure I haven't seen so much as a snowflake this winter, but then again, I spend a lot of time indoors watching basketball. Still, the Snowball is a pretty cool and original name for a tourney.

The MEI-St. George's game got ugly in a hurry – the Saints won 89-40, and were full value for that lopsided score. From the second quarter on, they simply brought a higher level of intensity than did the Eagles.

Up next, we've got Burnaby South taking on the Kelvin Clippers of Winnipeg.

*****

10:55 a.m. – MEI trails 70-40 with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, as St. George's is getting into the paint far too easily. On the bright side, Eagles guard Josh Pankratz is showcasing a terrific shooting stroke – he just drained a loooooong three-pointer.

*****

10:48 a.m. – An extremely sweet spin move in the post by Saints forward Sajan Gill just gave St. George's a 58-34 lead over MEI. St. George's isn't necessarily a team laden with superstars, but they're deep, balanced and well-coached. And they defend well – MEI is having a really tough time on offence.

*****

10:34 a.m. – I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the basketball trivia contest that that's going on during stoppages in play might be the easiest ever. The first question was something to to effect of, "Who was the most famous NBA player to wear No. 23?" I'm fairly certain that even my two-month-old daughter knows that's Michael Jordan.

It's all good fun, though. The announcer asks a question, and fans run over to the scorer's table and give the answer in exchange for a chocolate bar. He's going to have to start asking tougher questions, though, or we'll all be on a sugar high before the first game is over.

*****

10:22 a.m. – St. George's takes that 38-25 lead into halftime, as their trapping zone press really did some damage in the second quarter. MEI's best player has been senior point guard Caleb Favor, who knocked down a couple threes and made some savvy defensive plays. Tough kid.

****

10:11 a.m. – The first game of the day features Abbotsford's own MEI Eagles and the St. George's Saints of Vancouver. On paper, this is supposed to be a mismatch. St. George's is ranked No. 8 among AAA teams B.C., and they're coming off an impressive second-place finish at the prestigious Bedford Road Invitational Tournament (better known as the BRIT) in Saskatoon.

MEI is one of B.C.'s traditional basketball powerhouses, but they're a rebuilding squad this year.

The Eagles, however, got off to a terrific start to this game – they led 17-16 late in the first quarter. But the Saints found some traction and reeled off a 14-3 run. They now lead 38-25 late in the second quarter.

*****

10 a.m. – Between the high calibre of play and the passion of the fans, the Abbotsford Collegiate Snowball Classic is quite possibly my favourite annual local sporting event.

The Snowball officially tipped off yesterday with just one game – the host Abby Collegiate Panthers beat Chilliwack 51-44. Coverage of that game can be found here. The 12-team tournament gets going in earnest today, and it's going to be a blast.

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