Starting Wednesday, Abbotsford’s best basketballers will be competing for glory, honour, and a city tournament championship. Here are eight players from the eight secondary schools represented.
Robert Bateman Timberwolves (AAA)
Archrival: Hansen and Abby Senior
Matt Keis and the Timberwolves have already broken a record this season: achieving an honourable mention in the 2014 Triple-A rankings for the first time in Bateman’s history.
It’s a prestigious start for a team that has never attended the B.C. provincial tournament, but that’s also something that Keis and co-captain Iqbal Grewal are looking to change this season.
Keis believes that the Timberwolves have at least 10 players that could start in any game, and that the team has the size and strength to bring the heat.
“This team this year has a lot of chemistry compared to years before,” says Keis, despite having only a handful of Grade 12s.
The Timberwolves are preparing for the city tournament by spending the weekend playing in another competition in Las Vegas, making them, for now, the envy of all their opponents.
Abby Christian Knights (AA)
Archrival: GW Graham
The Knights have a reputation for being very, very tall, but according to senior Mariah Dykman, this year’s squad is less lofty than usual. That isn’t to say the Knights won’t have a tower down low, just that they’re also going to be a faster squad with better ball movement as well.
Dykman, who has good memories of two trips to provincials in the last two years, is looking to extend that streak to three through her dual roles as point guard and veteran senior.
“Being in grade 12 I want to step up and lead the team,” she says. “That’s my goal for this year.”
Dykman hopes to model key traits through her attitude and her determination to “play for God”, and believes the Knights will rise to the challenge.
Rick Hansen Hurricanes
Hansen coach Jasvir Gill has risen through the ranks with the current senior girls team, and Shubhreet Sandhu has been his point guard since Grade 7 when she played for his Grade 8 roster. He says she’s always been the “core leader” of the Hurricanes, both on the court and on the sideline.
That’s no surprise considering Sandhu’s powerful vision of leadership. The Hurricanes are a passionate team, and Sandhu is all about keeping the emotional compass on course while bringing “positive energy” to the court.
Last year during an important game in the provincial tournament, then-junior Sandhu was the one who talked a teammate back into the game after she became too upset to continue. The Hurricanes eventually won that game, fighting to their best finish in decades at ninth overall.
The Hurricanes, who have been training all summer, believe they can do even better this year. The core of the team is incredibly close, according to Sandhu, and their city tournament dreams swing on avenging a 2012 finals loss to Mouat.
W.J. Mouat Hawks (AAAA)
There’s a fierceness to Litt as he admits that his team has a lot to prove this season.
“Everybody thinks that we’re sleepers and nobody thinks we’re good,” he says. “We’re always the underdog.”
It’s true that the Hawks graduated an extraordinary senior class in 2014, and that Litt is the only starting senior on the squad. But it doesn’t take a veteran hoopster to know not to count Mouat out, especially with a team as young and hungry as the current one.
Litt and Co. have learned from the mistakes as well as the triumphs of last year’s Hawks, and Litt himself is determined to lead his team in a positive direction. After a tournament defeat early in the year, the Hawks analyzed the game tape and wrote down their personal strengths and weaknesses in the performance. Litt decided that he needed to work on exploiting opportunities and speeding up the game.
“This is a whole new team,” says Litt, and it sounds like a threat.
Abby Traditional Titans (AA)
Jagpal is a rare breed, a junior starting point guard on a senior squad. But the challenge is a thrill to the Titans standout, who spent the last two years quarterbacking the court for the junior squad.
What the Titans lack in height this season they make up for in speed. Jagpal has spent the last year working with UFV assistant coach Sean Bosko as part of the Junior Cascades program, and the resulting boost in confidence has improved her game. She and the rest of the Titans are ready to push the tempo this year, using their athleticism to run opponents into the ground.
“We’re all really smart on the court, and we know not to make silly mistakes,” says Jagpal, who hopes to surpass last season’s Fraser Valley playoff exit in her first year as senior point guard.
Abby Senior Panthers (AAA)
There’s no rest for the weary in the case of Jordan Fox. Just a few short weeks after the end of an impressive season as star quarterback of Abby’s football team, the senior will now be quarterbacking its provincially second-ranked basketball team. Fox says he loves both sports equally, but its time for him to do battle on the hardwood.
Abby coach Prentice Lenz says Fox’s work and dedication are a “great reflection” of this year’s Panthers, who enjoy genuine support from the Abby Senior student body. It’s hard not to like Fox, especially when he begins thanking Panther alumni Devin Brar and Sirban Gill for their mentorship.
This year Fox is paying it forward by taking his leadership role seriously, knowing that without as many offensive weapons this season the Panthers will need to be close-knit and devoted to defence. Last season’s semifinal loss in the B.C. provincials weighs on the Panthers, and Fox is ready to play for redemption.
“We’re a lot like a family,” Fox says. “Last year we became a brotherhood, and we developed a really special relationship with each other.”
Yale Lions (AAAA)
Jauquin Bennett-Boire has the distinction of playing in B.C. provincial tournaments with both the 2013 Yale Lions and the 2014 Holy Cross Crusaders, but this year he’s back leading the Lions as one of the most explosive guards in the Valley.
The Lions are are already fast, fierce, and deadly in transition, and the veteran presence of Bennett-Boire will help offset the youth of the team. Most impressively, the point guard claims his team will be playing full-court defence “all game” this season.
“I think it’s going to be a challenge, but a good challenge,” said Bennett-Boire, who scored 21 points for Holy Cross in last year’s provincial final.
The Lions are an honourable mention in this year’s Quadruple-A B.C. rankings.
MEI Eagles (AAA)
The Eagles were last year’s City tournament champions, and Taylor Claggett was an essential part of that victory.
Clagget remembers how her team came back from a 14-point third-quarter deficit to beat Mouat in the final game, and the grit it took to keep playing when the game seemed out of reach.
Now a senior, Claggett recently signed with the UFV Cascades. She works on her game all the time, and is planning to be a vocal leader for MEI this season.
“Basketball is my passion,” says Claggett, who describes the Eagles as being “very gritty” with “high basketball IQs.” In her opinion, MEI can only improve on last season’s fifth-place finish at the B.C provincials.
The Abbotsford Police City Basketball Tournament runs
Dec. 10-13 at six different schools around the city.
From Wednesday through Friday, games will run at the following gyms:
• Abbotsford Senior – senior boys and girls
• Rick Hansen – junior boys
• W.J. Mouat – junior girls
• Abbotsford Christian – Grade 8 boys
• MEI – Grade 8 girls
The finals run all day Saturday at the Columbia Bible College gym.
• Grade 8 girls – 10:30 a.m.
• Grade 8 boys – 12 p.m.
• Junior girls – 2:00 p.m.
• Junior boys – 3:45 p.m.
• Senior girls – 5:30 p.m.
• Senior boys – 7:30 p.m.