Sports

BasketBlog: Live from the Snowball

Reggie Theus Jr. of the Fairfax Lions soars for a layup against a Burnaby South opponent during Snowball Classic quarter-final action on Thursday. - John Morrow photos
Reggie Theus Jr. of the Fairfax Lions soars for a layup against a Burnaby South opponent during Snowball Classic quarter-final action on Thursday.
— image credit: John Morrow photos

The 53rd annual Snowball Classic senior boys basketball tournament is running all day Thursday at Abbotsford Senior. Abbotsford News sports editor Dan Kinvig will be posting live updates to this page throughout the day. A full tournament schedule is at the bottom of the page.

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10:02 p.m. – So Friday's semifinal match-ups are set: It's going to be Yale vs. Kelowna at 6 p.m., followed by Fairfax vs. St. George's at 8 p.m.

Thirteen hours, 5,903 words and three cinnamon buns after action tipped off this morning, the BasketBlog is done for the night, and for the rest of the Snowball Classic. (Incidentally, the cinnamon bun consumption was two shy of my personal best, set at last year's tournament).

While we won't have blog-type coverage of the semifinals and finals this year, we will have post-game recaps at abbynews.com.

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9:56 p.m. – Final score: Fairfax 110, Burnaby South 43.

Six Lions players scored in double figures – Reggie Theus Jr. (18), Jonathan Brown (15), Foster Dixson (14), Chaunce Hill (12), Sage Woodruff (12) and Pierson Ro (11) – but no one hit the 20-point plateau.

Taylor Smith (18) was the lone Burnaby South player to score more than 10 points.

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9:45 p.m. – Century mark alert: Fairfax just hit triple digits on a layup by backup centre Olisaemeka Nwachie. It's 101-41 with 5:04 left in the fourth quarter.

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9:40 p.m. – Fairfax's bench is awfully solid. There's not a starter on the floor right now, and they're expanding the lead vs. Burnaby South. Currently it sits at 95-38 with 7:45 left in the fourth quarter.

Lions reserve forward Sage Woodruff just came up with an impressive defensive play, pinning a layup attempt by Rebels centre Dejan Posavljak against the glass. What more can you say? Wow.

Burnaby South guard Taylor Smith deserves a shout-out – he's been his team's best player tonight, and he just came up with a very nice block of his own to snuff a Fairfax fast break.

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9:24 p.m. – Highlight alert, times two.

Reggie Theus Jr. drove into the paint and launched a floater, but the ball bounced off the back rim. No matter – Chaunce Hill came flying in for a massive putback jam, electrifying the crowd.

On the next Burnaby South possession, Theus Jr. stepped into the passing lane for a steal, then took of for a pretty double-pump breakaway dunk.

That's the type of next-level athleticism we're all here to see. Just beautiful.

Fairfax leads 66-35 with 6:55 left in the third quarter.

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9:12 p.m. – Fairfax steadily pulled away in the second quarter, stretching the lead to 56-29 even as head coach Harvey Kitani made liberal use of his bench.

Chaunce Hill and Reggie Theus Jr., the Lions' senior stars, tied for team-high scoring honours with 10 points apiece. Theus Jr., whose father was an NBA all-star in the 1980s, is a very polished 6'6" swingman, equally proficient at knocking down three-pointers or driving to the rack.

For the Rebels, Taylor Smith (nine points) and Gino Pagbilao (seven) are the top scorers.

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8:51 p.m. – I said earlier today that Burnaby South point guard Gino Pagbilao might be my favourite player in this tournament, and he's done nothing to disappoint me in this game.

Pagbilao just sparked his team on a 7-2 run to end the first quarter, sandwiching a midrange jumper and a layup around an assist on teammate Taylor Smith's three-pointer. The kid is 5'6", but he's a baller.

Fairfax leads 28-18 after the first quarter, but to this point, it's not the instant blowout that it looked like it might be.

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8:40 p.m. – We're five minutes into this Fairfax-Burnaby South game, and we've already seen four dunks from the Lions. This is men vs. boys, and I don't mean that to be a criticism of Burnaby South – it's just that these Fairfax players are beasts.

On a recent sequence, Rebels guard Martin Bogajev shook loose from the Lions' defensive pressure to drain a three-pointer. But three seconds later, Fairfax had pushed the ball down the floor and star 6'6" centre Chaunce Hill was throwing down a thunderous two-handed dunk. He's signed with an NCAA Div. 1 program, Cal State Fullerton.

Clearly, this Fairfax team is as advertised. They lead 19-8.

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8:12 p.m. – Kudos to the Panthers for a gritty comeback attempt, but it's going to be St. George's moving on to the semifinals tomorrow.

Abby Senior didn't quit hitting shots down the stretch, but the Saints just hit a couple of big ones in response to secure the 74-69 victory. The hero was – guess who? – Will Chamberlain, who nailed three-pointers on back-to-back possessions to seal the Panthers' fate. He's no Wilt Chamberlain, but he's a pretty sweet player nonetheless.

Drew Urquhart racked up a game-high 26 points for St. George's, while Chamberlain (18) and Deklan Chung (16) also scored in double figures.

For the host Panthers, Devin Brar poured in 21 points, and Grade 11 point guard Jamie Konrad notched 20. All of Matt Brar's 14 points came after halftime.

The last quarter-final of the day features the Fairfax Lions of Los Angeles taking on the Burnaby South Rebels. Fairfax is throwing down a few leisurely dunks in warm-ups, and the capacity crowd is already oohing and aahing. This should be fun.

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8:08 p.m. – These Panthers aren't going down without a fight. They've mounted an 11-0 rally of their own, consisting of a Devin Brar layup, two treys by Jamie Konrad, and a triple by Matt Brar. Boom!

Suddenly it's 66-63 St. George's with 1:20 to go.

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8:02 p.m. – The Panthers opened the fourth quarter on a 5-0 run to knot the score 52-52, but the Saints came up with a rather decisive response – a 14-0 run of their own.

Abby Senior is struggling to generate quality shots at the moment, and they're not finishing the few they do get. St. George's forward Joseph Lu deserves credit for doing a solid job defensively on Devin Brar, which in turn allows Drew Urquhart to take an easier defensive assignment.

It's 66-52 St. George's with 3:30 left.

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7:51 p.m. – The Saints are gradually starting to assert themselves, and they take a 52-47 lead into the fourth quarter.

The Panthers are having an awful time securing defensive rebounds right now, and Saints' 6'8" centre Drew Urquhart dominated during the third quarter. According to the write-up submitted by Saints coaches for the Snowball program, he's in Grade 11 and is being recruited by several NCAA Div. 1 schools. He's a very polished offensive player, no doubt about it.

Devin Brar is needs to have a monster fourth quarter if the Panthers are to win. He's got to lock down Urquhart, and start getting real aggressive offensively.

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7:39 p.m. – Matt Brar is back in the flow. After struggling in the first half, the Abby Senior forward just nailed triples on back-to-back possessions for his first points of the game.

The Saints are starting to get some traction in the paint, though, as the Panthers don't seem quite as devoted to grinding on defence at the moment. It's still anyone's game, tied 45-45 with three minutes left in the third quarter.

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7:19 p.m. – The Saints righted themselves at the end of the second quarter, scoring the last six points to cut the deficit to 29-25 at the break.

Devin Brar has been outstanding for the Panthers, leading all scorers with 12 points, while Sirban Gill and Jamie Konrad have seven apiece. Drew Urquhart and Deklan Chung, with seven points each, are setting the pace for St. George's.

What's really remarkable is that the Panthers are in front despite not getting a single point from Matt Brar, who scored a team-high 28 in yesterday's win over G.W. Graham. Brar sat for most of the second quarter after picking up his second foul early in the frame.

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7:14 p.m. – The Panthers are suddenly white-hot from beyond the arc. Back-to-back-to-back treys from Devin Brar, Sirban Gill and Jordan Fox staked the hosts to a seven-point lead, and then Brar put together an old-fashioned three-point play to make it 29-19.

Abby Senior coach Prentice Lenz no doubt loves what he's seeing offensively, but he's likely even more pleased that his team has come prepared to battle on defence. Brar is doing a tremendous job on Drew Urquhart, St. George's 6'7" centre.

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7:08 p.m. – Panthers star Devin Brar is getting zero respect from the officials at the moment.

Brar just got mugged on a defensive rebound, but managed to play through a ton of contact to tip the ball to a teammate. After picking himself up off the floor, he rejoined the play at the offensive end, took a pass on the run and drove into the paint. Three Saints players met him at the hoop, and though the call could have easily gone either way, the ref on the baseline opted to call Brar for a charge.

Neither team is sparkling offensively at the moment – Abby Senior leads 17-16 with 5:16 left in the second quarter.

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7:01 p.m. – The Panthers started to find their range towards the end of the first quarter, scoring the last four points of the frame to knot the score 13-13.

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6:53 p.m. – I've already found something to appreciate about this St. George's team – they have a starting guard named Will Chamberlain.

I'm pretty sure no one's going to mistake him for Wilt Chamberlain any time soon – he's 5'10", while the NBA legend stood 7'1". Regardless, it's a sweet name for a basketball player.

The Panthers got off to a nice start, scoring five of the first six points of the game, but St. George's responded with a 7-0 run, highlighted by a resounding off-the-glass block by Drew Urquhart on a layup attempt by Abby Senior guard Carter Williams.

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6:38 p.m. – JJ Pankratz and Jauquin Bennett-Boire were an unstoppable tandem for Yale, going for 33 and 32 points, respectively. JBB's output was all the more impressive considering all of his points came in the first three quarters, and he was named player of the game.

Junior Sesay (22 points) and Nathan Warburton (14) led the way for the Raiders.

Up next we've got the host Abby Senior Panthers taking on the No. 7-ranked St. George's Saints. The Panthers showcased their offensive firepower in a 90-52 win over G.W. Graham yesterday, and they'll have the support of a partisan crowd, but they lost to St. George's by 20 in early December. Panthers head coach Prentice Lenz said yesterday he's eager to see how much his team's improved since then.

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6:34 p.m. – Oak Park, after trailing by as many as 22 points, trimmed the deficit to 12 midway through the fourth. But Pankratz single-handedly snuffed any hope of a Raiders' rally, swishing back-to-back treys to get the lead back to 18 with just under three minutes left.

Yale went on to win 95-76. Stats coming in a moment.

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6:17 p.m. – I've got to say, I'm a fan of Yale senior forward Abraham Falls. On a team with some high-powered offensive weapons, he's the kind of blue-collar glue guy that every great team needs.

Falls just put his 6'5" frame on the line to draw a charge, and he's also upgraded his skill set since last season. You've got to respect that.

Yale leads Oak Park 79-60 with 6:24 left in the fourth.

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6:11 p.m. – The rout is officially on, as Yale leads 75-53 after three quarters. If it's not Bennett-Boire getting to the hoop at will, it's Pankratz knocking down three-pointers.

You've got to feel for the Raiders – they're a very good team, but trying to keep up to the Lions' pedal-to-the-metal pace after playing earlier today might be too much to ask. I'm tired just watching.

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5:57 p.m. – More of the same from Yale to open the third quarter, as they reel off a 10-1 run. Bennett-Boire is simply unstoppable on the break, but it was Jassi Gill highlighting the spurt with a deeeeeep trey – two giant steps back of the three-point line.

Yale leads 61-42, and this game is suddenly bordering on a blowout, if it's not already.

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5:44 p.m. – Strong finish to the second quarter by the Lions. They ended the frame on a 7-0 run, and Pankratz capped it off by swatting Brendan Alexander's three-point shot at the buzzer.

Yale leads 51-41 at the break. Man, can this team ever put up points in a hurry.

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5:38 p.m. – The one-man fast break known as Jauquin Bennett-Boire just struck again. With Warburton again trying to hang with him, the Yalean drove right-to-left across the key and scooped a right-handed shot around the torso and under the arm of the Raiders' big man. Crazy nice.

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5:31 p.m. – It's hard to believe Yale's Jauquin Bennett-Boire is just in Grade 10. On the fast break just now, he used his shoulder to shield the ball from Nathan Warburton, Oak Park's 6'7" centre, then hung in the air, turned his body and banked in a tough shot off glass.

That basket kicked off a string of three consecutive possessions where Bennett-Boire scored – he followed up by draining a long two-point jumper, then came up with an offensive rebound and put it back in. He's not a monster at 6'1", but he's got the strength, explosiveness and body control of a more mature player. Very impressive.

Yale leads 33-31 with six minutes left in the second quarter.

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5:20 p.m. – The best thing about this game so far is the match-up between Oak Park's Junior Sesay and Yale's JJ Pankratz. Mind you, Pankratz isn't guarding Sesay, but Sesay is guarding him at the other end.

It's a fascinating battle – Sesay, at 6'3", is explosive and strong enough to give the 6'5" Pankratz a run for his money. But the SFU-bound Lion is a lethal scorer, and he'll get his points. He just swished a three-pointer after Sesay left him to help on another player.

Yale, after trailing by six points early, is up 23-22 late in the first quarter.

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5:03 p.m. – Kelowna-Mouat stats: Buster Truss (17 points) picked up the player of the game award, while Joel Burma (16) and Malcolm Hlady (14) also scored in double figures.

Mouat's Tristan Etienne racked up a game-high 28 points, with all but six of them coming in the second half. Hauck chipped in with 14.

Up next we've got two teams ranked No. 2 in their respective provinces – Abbotsford's own Yale Lions and the Oak Park Raiders of Winnipeg. Should be a beauty.

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4:53 p.m. – Kelowna moves on to the semifinals in the wake of an awfully entertaining 67-66 OT win.

With the score tied 66-66 and roughly 15 seconds remaining, Mouat was inbounding on the baseline at the offensive end. Corey Hauck tried lobbing the ball out to backcourt mate Amrit Dubb beyond the three-point arc, but Kelowna's Cooper Simson went up high to pick it off.

The Owls went flying the other way on the fast break, and Mouat's Mitch Howden fouled Malcolm Hlady. Hlady hit the first free throw but missed the second, and the Hawks collected the rebound with 12.3 seconds left.

Hauck worked his way to the elbow for a potential game-winning jumper, but the ball hit the junction between the rim and the backboard and rolled out.

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4:45 p.m. – Buster Truss has got it going on in OT. After absorbing a hard foul on his way to the hoop and crashing down on his back – everyone seated around me was joking that his mullet cushioned his fall – he hit one of two free throws.

Kelowna got the offensive rebound after he missed the second, and Truss capped the possession by hitting a ridiculously high-arcing shot over the outstretched arms of both Mouat behemoths, Etienne and Muermann. Sick, sick shot.

Kelowna leads 66-64 with just over a minute left.

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4:37 p.m. – We're going to overtime. Kelowna's Joel Burma had a shot to win it, but he missed a jump shot from just inside the three-point line over the outstretched arms of Tristan Etienne.

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4:36 p.m. – Drama time. Tristan Etienne just went 1-for-2 from the foul line to tie the game 61-61, and Kelowna is getting the ball back with 21.6 seconds left after a timeout.

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4:27 p.m. – This game looks like it'll go down to the wire. The Owls lead 59-56 with three minutes left, and they're getting some big shots from their role players. Cooper Simson converted a tough drive into traffic, and Joel Burma knocked down a key jumper.

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4:16 p.m. – Wowwwwww, we've officially found the highlight of the tournament to this point. With his team trailing 46-44 and the clock ticking down in the third quarter, Mouat point guard Corey Hauck took an outlet pass and launched a shot from just outside his own three-point line. The heave found nothing but net, dropping through to give the Hawks a 47-46 lead heading to the fourth.

Plays like that can transform the momentum of a game. We should be in for an excellent finish.

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4:05 p.m. – After missing a dunk earlier, Tristan Etienne has made amends by adding to his highlight reel. With Buster Truss swooping into the paint for a layup, Etienne materialized to emphatically swat it off the glass, much to the delight of the crowd.

Kelowna still leads, though, 46-42 with 2:24 left in the third.

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4:00 p.m. – Buster Truss is heating up. Kelowna's marvellously mulleted forward swished mid-range jumpers on back-to-back possessions – including one over the outstretched arm of Mouat's 6'11" Sebastian Muermann – to help his team carve out a 41-37 lead with four minutes left in the third quarter.

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3:41 p.m. – The highlight that wasn't: On the fast break, Hauck hit a streaking Etienne with a bounce pass, and the 6'9" forward rose for a dunk. But under duress, he put the ball off the back rim and it bounced out as the crowd groaned.

Kelowna ended the second quarter on an 8-2 run to level the score 28-28 at halftime. The Owls' Malcolm Hlady and Joel Burma are tied for game-high scoring honours with eight points, while Hauck and Etienne are the top Hawks with six points apiece.

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3:28 p.m. – We just went through a four-minute stretch where both teams went utterly cold from the field. The score was stuck at 26-20 in favour of Mouat for a series of consecutive possessions, until Kelowna's Liam McGoran finally broke the stalemate with a baseline jumper.

With so many enormous gentlemen on the floor – Mouat's Sebastian Muermann (6'11") and Tristan Etienne (6'9") and Kelowna's Darrion Bunce (6'6") – it's somewhat understandable that baskets are tough to come by. But it's more of a situation where players are missing easy shots, and it wouldn't hurt to see a little more offence.

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3:18 p.m. – The Owls find themselves in an unfamiliar spot this week. According to Howard Tsumura of The Province, star guard John Katerberg has been declared ineligible because it was just discovered that he'd already exhausted his five years of high school sports eligibility. I'm not entirely certain, but this might be Kelowna's first game since that decision came down.

Without Katerberg, the No. 6-ranked Owls are hanging tough with the Hawks, but it's Mouat with a 21-16 lead after the first quarter. Hawks point guard Corey Hauck has maintained his momentum after a strong performance vs. Semiahmoo this morning, and Kelowna's Malcolm Hlady is off to a hot shooting start.

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3 p.m. – Awe-inspiring, resplendent, spectacular. None of these terms even begin to capture the brilliance of the mullet worn by Kelowna Owls forward Buster Truss.

I wrote about Truss's tresses in last year's Snowball blog, and the man's 'do has only gotten better. It might have touched his shoulders last year; right now, it's cascading over them like a waterfall. Only this mullet, in all its 1980s-hair-band glory, dwarfs the natural beauty of every waterfall on the planet combined.

OK, maybe I'm overhyping it a little – no, I'm definitely overhyping it. But Truss's mullet is legit, and so is the 6'4" forward's game.

Mouat and Kelowna tip off in mere moments. Should be a good one.

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2:33 p.m. – If I didn't emphasize it adequately already, this MEI-Burnaby South game was insanely fun to watch.

The Eagles play a very entertaining brand of basketball – since they're so small, they have no choice but to push the ball and shoot a ton of threes. Talking to MEI head coach Jon Schmidt afterward, he'd like to see his team play better defence, and understandably so. But this young group has a lot of potential.

Burnaby South is a fun team to watch in its own right. Aside from the two free throws William He hit in the waning seconds, the rest of their 88 points came from four players – Djordje Obradovic (26), Martin Bogajev (24), Nick Garcha (20) and Gino Pagbilao (16). Pagbilao might be my favourite player of the tournament so far – at 5'6", he's got a ton of heart, not to mention a deadly pull-up jumper. He was named player of the game.

Tony Hao and Jordan Schmidt scored 20 points apiece for MEI, while Josiah Allison had 18.

Up next, the W.J. Mouat Hawks play their second game of the day, taking on the Kelowna Owls in the first quarter-final.

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2:15 p.m. – Awesome finish to this game, as MEI clawed their way back into it with a couple of great defensive plays.

With the Rebels up 84-80 with a minute to play, Jordan Schmidt drew a charge on Gino Pagbilao, fouling out the Burnaby South point guard in the process. On the ensuing possession, Tony Hao hit a putback layup to draw the Eagles to within a basket at 84-82.

MEI's Mike Peters stole the ball from Djordje Obradovic, and at the other end, Schmidt was fouled under the basket with a chance to knot the score with a pair of free throws with 9.9 seconds left. He made one of two.

The Eagles fouled William He immediately, and it seemed he was the right player to send to the line – he was only in the game because Pagbilao had fouled out. But He knocked down both free throws.

MEI still had 6.1 seconds to hoist a potential game-tying trey, but Burnaby South's Taylor Smith alertly fouled Schmidt before he could get into his shooting motion. That meant he'd only get two foul shots instead of three – a smart piece of coaching by Rebels bench boss David Smith.

Schmidt made the first free throw and accidentally made the second – he had been trying to miss to generate an offensive rebound – and Obradovic finished the game off with two foul shots of his own to provide the final margin of victory, 88-85.

The Rebels' reward? They get to face the Fairfax Lions of Los Angeles in tonight's showcase game at 8:15 p.m.

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1:51 p.m. – Burnaby South is simply wearing out the Eagles with their offensive efficiency right now.

If it's not Obradovic drawing fouls in the paint, it's Bogajev, Pagbilao or Nick Garcha knocking down jump shots. The Rebels aren't missing much, and MEI has gone cold at the other end. They're trailing 81-73 with 3:29 left, and they're going to have to really dig in defensively down the stretch.

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1:37 p.m. – Interesting exchange just now. MEI's Harman Gill (6'2") has done a heck of a job battling Burnaby South big man Djordje Obradovic all game long despite giving up two inches in height, but he just just picked up his fourth foul. Obradovic knew exactly how many fouls Gill had, pumped his fist, and waved goodbye to the Eagles forward as he headed to the bench for a substitution. Wow.

Burnaby South put together a great third quarter – Martin Bogajev's three-point shooting got their mini-comeback started, and Obradovic's play in the paint finished it off. They lead the Eagles 67-65 heading to the fourth.

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1:26 p.m. – Brutal start to the second half for MEI – they lost track of Bogajev, Burnaby South's best shooter, and he knocked down a couple treys as the Rebels opened the third quarter on an 11-2 run. The Eagles' lead is down to 46-44.

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1:17 p.m. – These Eagles can really shoot the rock from beyond the arc, and that's primarily why they find themselves up 44-33 at halftime.

After making just one trey in the first quarter, MEI swished six in the second en route to 30 points in the frame. Hao came off the bench to score all 12 of his points in the second quarter, and he's tied with Allison for team-high scoring honours. Schmidt has 10.

Bogajev and Obradovic lead Burnaby South with 10 points apiece.

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1:11 p.m. – This game is morphing into a three-point shooting contest. MEI's Tony Hao got it started, knocking down his second triple of the quarter, and Burnaby South's Martin Bogajev and MEI's Josiah Allison hit treys on the next two possessions. At this rate, they're going to wear out the mesh by halftime.

After a slow start, MEI is suddenly rolling, and Allison is right in the middle of it. The Eagles' leading scorer couldn't hit anything early, but he's heating up in a hurry.

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1:05 p.m. – MEI trailed by as many as 10 points in the first quarter, but they've mounted a comeback and now lead 28-27 with four minutes left in the half. Tony Hao, the Eagles' lanky Grade 11 sharpshooter, just knocked down a trey.

The Rebels are working hard to get to ball inside to their centre, Djordje Obradovic, which is a wise choice given MEI's lack of size.

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12:48 p.m. – MEI is getting to the rim a lot in the first quarter, but they're having a ton of trouble finishing once they get there.

Regardless, I'm enjoying this year's edition of the Eagles so far. They're small, but they play with a ton of pace and grit, and nine of their 13 players are in Grade 11.

Jordan Schmidt, one of the handful of seniors on the squad, is a former provincial teamer who surprisingly decided not to play basketball during his Grade 11 year. But he's back this season, and has looked good early in this game. He's an explosive athlete.

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12:44 p.m. – Not a lot of height in this game – Burnaby South's Djordje Obradovic, at 6'4", is the biggest player on the floor. Four of MEI's starters are 6'2", and the fifth is 5'10" point guard Mitch Krahn.

Rebels guard Gino Pagbilao just got the crowd involved, drawing oohs and aahs after crossing over Krahn and then finishing with an acrobatic layup at the rim.

Burnaby South has an early 10-9 lead.

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12:25 p.m. – The Kermodes made a nice rally in the fourth quarter, trimming a 20-point deficit down to 10, but they weren't able to really make the Raiders sweat down the stretch and fell 80-68 to the Winnipeggers.

Oak Park's Junior Sesay picked up player of the game honours after leading all scorers with 21 points, while Brendan Alexander counted four three-pointers among his 20 points.

Marcus MacKay (20 points) was Caledonia's top scorer, while Patrick Kurek (17 points, five three-pointers) and Reegin Maki (17 points) also chipped in.

Up next we've got Abbotsford's MEI Eagles taking on the Burnaby South Rebels. I haven't seen MEI play yet this year, so I'm particularly interested in this one.

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12:14 p.m. – Random side note: After listening to the announcer call out the name of Oak Park guard Brendan Alexander several times, I now have the Feist song "Brandy Alexander" stuck in my head.

Alexander's Raiders are up 70-55 with just under six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

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12:03 p.m. – Oak Park is rolling, leading 63-43 through three quarters, but the Kermodes are still scrapping. Their 6'2" swingman Reegin Maki, playing the bottom left corner of the 2-3 zone on defence, just rose up and hammered a Raiders shot out of bounds. Sweet play.

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11:41 a.m. – The Raiders are in full control at halftime, boasting a 45-27 edge on Caledonia. Reimer is leading the charge with 12 points, while Sesay has nine.

Kermodes guard Marcus MacKay got off to a hot start, and he's got a game-high 13 points. His teammate Reegin Maki has scored 10.

On another note, I've just consumed my first cinnamon bun of the day from the hospitality table. They are absurdly delicious – whoever bakes them deserves some sort of award. I nearly overdosed on them last year.

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11:31 a.m. – Oak Park is dominating the second quarter, now leading Caledonia 43-26 with less than four minutes remaining in the half.

I'm enjoying the work of a couple of the Raiders' perimeter players, Junior Sesay and Colson Reimer. Sesay, a 6'3" swingman, does a lot of the little things well – he's aggressive on D, and his smart outlet passing has jump-started Oak Park's fast break on several occasions. Reimer just knows how to get to the hoop and finish.

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11:14 a.m. – If Oak Park wins this game, they would move on to play B.C.'s No. 2-ranked team, the Yale Lions, at 4:45 p.m.

The Lions have a crazy amount of talent on the perimeter, but they're undersized, and Nathan Warburton, Oak Park's 6'7" centre, is exactly the type of player who could cause them problems. Warburton had a nice sequence in the first quarter, knocking down a 15-foot jump shot on the offensive end and then sprinting down to block a layup attempt on defence.

The Raiders finished the first quarter strong, expanding their lead over Caledonia to 26-17. Colson Reimer capped the quarter with a fast-break layup to beat the buzzer.

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11:05 a.m. – Oak Park has won two of the past three Manitoba AAAA provincial titles, but Caledonia is hanging tough in the early going.

The Kermodes, who made a long trip of their own from Terrace in northwest B.C., don't have a player on the roster taller than 6'4", but they're scrappy and move the ball smartly on offence. With four minutes left in the first quarter, they're within striking distance, trailing 15-13.

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10:46 a.m. – The Hawks managed to pace themselves nicely while getting the win they needed to move on. With their bench players on the court for well over half the game, Mouat cruised to a 67-55 win over the Semiahmoo Totems.

Manvir Dhillon was a key player off the bench for Mouat, and he picked up player of the game honours after scoring eight points. Corey Hauck was tops on the Hawks with 16 points, while the Totems' Skylar Sheehan led all scorers with 18.

Up next, we've got the No. 2-ranked AAAA team out of Manitoba, the Oak Park Raiders of Winnipeg, taking on the Caledonia Kermodes.

**********

10:26 a.m. – Mouat is in cruise control at this point, leading 56-42 after the third quarter.

I'd be remiss not to mention that The Pit, Abby Senior's historic old gym, is probably my favourite basketball venue in this town. How great is it? Well, when they rebuilt the school last year, they tore down everything else and built around this gym (and their newer gym as well).

If you haven't seen the new Abby Senior, the Snowball is a great excuse to stop by. Of course, the basketball itself is reason enough to attend.

**********

10:16 a.m. – Five minutes into the second half, the Hawks are back in control with their starters in the game, leading 46-38. Corey Hauck is having one of the better games I've seen him play – he's getting a ton of steals to ignite the fast break.

**********

10:03 a.m. – Mouat and Semiahmoo are about to start the second half, but in the meantime, here are the provincial AAA senior boys basketball rankings for your perusal. Teams attending the Snowball are in bold.

1. Kitsilano Blue Demons

2. Yale Lions

3. Walnut Grove Gators

4. White Rock Christian Academy Warriors

5. Tamanawis Wildcats

6. Kelowna Owls

7. St. George’s Saints

8. Oak Bay Bays

9. Sardis Falcons

T10. Enver Creek Cougars

T10. Vancouver College Fighting Irish

HM W.J. Mouat Hawks

HM Handsworth Royals

**********

9:55 a.m. – Semiahmoo has been taking full advantage against Mouat's reserves – they've rallied for a 33-31 lead at halftime. I have a sneaking suspicion that it might be a different story in the second half once the Hawks' starters get back into the game.

Corey Hauck, Mouat's starting point guard, leads his team in scoring with nine points, which is remarkable considering he played just four minutes in the first quarter. Semi's Skylar Sheehan (how's that for alliteration?) leads all scorer's with 11 points, while Will Xie has eight.

**********

9:40 a.m. – After racing out to that early 11-0 advantage, Hawks coach Rich Ralston parked his starters on the bench four minutes in. It's sound strategy – if Mouat wins, they would play the No. 6-ranked AAA team in the province, the Kelowna Owls, in the quarter-finals at 3 p.m. today. There's good reason to ensure the starters don't get burned out.

Semiahmoo, though, has rallied against the Hawks' reserves – Mouat is clinging to a 20-19 lead early in the second quarter.

**********

9:15 a.m. – I had a blast-from-the-past moment at the start of this Mouat-Semiahmoo game, as I noticed Ed Lefurgy on the Totems' sideline.

Ed was a three-point bomber with the UFV Cascades during my first couple years as sports editor at the Abby News (starting in 2005). I had a quick chat with him before tip-off, and he said he's been teaching at Semiahmoo and coaching the basketball team for the past five years.

It's always nice to catch up with familiar folks, and it's nice to see athletes I used to cover giving back to the community as coaches. But at the same time it makes me feel kind of old.

Lefurgy's got his hands full in this one – Mouat, an honourable mention in the AAA provincial rankings, opened the game on an 11-0 run.

**********

9:05 a.m. – Interesting start to the day, to say the least. I walked up to Abby Senior to see two fire trucks parked out front and all the students lined up in fire-drill formation outside.

As much as I want to say one of the players at the Snowball Classic heated up like in the old NBA Jam video game, where the ball literally lights on fire when you hit a few shots in a row, that was sadly not the case. Apparently one of the new fire alarms in the recently rebuilt school had gone off for reasons unknown, but it turned out to be a false alarm.

At any rate, we're running about 15 minutes late on the schedule, but the W.J. Mouat Hawks and Semiahmoo Totems are about to tip off.

It's going to be a great day.

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