Panthers' D shows its teeth in second half as Snowball hosts win opener
The Abbotsford Senior Panthers' 90-52 victory over the G.W. Graham Grizzlies to open the Snowball Classic on Wednesday was a fascinating performance on a couple of levels.
For starters, the host Panthers demonstrated an ability to pile up the points in a hurry. If this team loves anything more than getting out on the fast break, it's hoisting three-pointers, and they're efficient in both departments.
But it was equally clear that what's going to make or break their season is attention to detail on defence.
In the first half, Abby Senior put up 40 points on the Grizzlies without shooting the ball particularly well, but surrendered 34 points to their Chilliwack-based opponents.
The second half was a completely different story, as Abby Senior limited G.W. Graham to single-digit scoring in both the third and fourth quarters.
"We're going to be in games," Panthers coach Prentice Lenz said afterward, alluding to his team's scoring ability. "It'll just be a matter of whether we decide we're going to defend or not. If we can defend, we'll be okay. If we don't, we're very mediocre.
"I know that we can do it. It's a matter of the decision-making and the mental ability and toughness to be able to do it. If we can stretch ourselves mentally, then we'll be there. Sometimes we don't, though."
The Panthers broke the game open in the third, out-scoring the Grizzlies 30-9, which freed up the capacity crowd of Abby Senior students to chant "Start the bus" at the visitors throughout the fourth quarter.
Matt Brar paced the Panthers with 28 points, while Devin Brar (20) and Jamie Konrad (18) also chipped in offensively. Cody Wallis led the Grizzlies with 21 points.
This year's Abby Senior team loves to play uptempo basketball, and Lenz said it reminds him of his 2007-08 squad. That team, featuring perimeter sharpshooters Hardeep Braich, Justin Dhaliwal and Tyler Wiens, made it to the double-knockout stage of the AAA Fraser Valley tournament.
The 2012-13 edition of the Panthers is led by the Brars – Devin (6'5") and Matt (6'4"). They aren't related, but their games are similar. Neither are traditional back-to-the-basket big men; rather, they're versatile forwards with great shooting ability.
"We've got a bunch of kids who can really shoot the ball," Lenz noted. "We don't have a 6'7" kid who we can throw it in to for the post-up, so we're really relying on moving a lot and taking the open shots wherever they come. So far it's been okay."
The Panthers move on to face the AAA No. 7-ranked St. George's Saints of Vancouver in the Snowball quarter-finals at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday.
"We played them the first game of the year at St. George's," Lenz said. "We lost by 20, so I'm excited to see how it goes and how far we've come – or haven't come."
The Snowball gets going in earnest on Thursday, with games running all day. A full schedule is below.