The MEI Eagles and Robert Bateman Timberwolves senior boys basketball teams have more than a few stylistic similarities, and both achieved similar results at home on the weekend.
The Eagles won their home tournament, going a perfect 3-0 in the round robin event with wins over Earl Marriott (83-44), Port Moody (91-71) and North Surrey (67-48).
The T-Wolves also emerged victorious at their home tourney, knocking off R.E. Mountain and Mission en route to the final, where they blew out Comox’s Highland Raiders 72-54.
Neither MEI nor Bateman boasts a great deal of height on the roster, but both used an uptempo blueprint to win gold – getting after teams defensively with a 2-2-1 zone press, and pushing the pace offensively as well.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence and momentum right now,” said MEI coach Jon Schmidt, whose team is on an eight-game win streak which includes a tourney title at Victoria’s Oak Bay and subsequent victories over Maple Ridge and Yale.
“The guys are sharing the ball and moving the ball well, and we like each other as a team. And that’s contagious.”
MEI got player of the game performances from sibling guards Josiah and Nate Allison and post player Joel Sinclair, while Greg Krahn (21 points) and Sinclair (13 points, 10 rebounds) led the way in the tourney-closing win over North Surrey.
Bateman coach Virinder Braich echoed Schmidt’s sentiments in speaking about his own team, which got double-digit scoring from Iqbal Grewal (16 points), Jake Thiel (14 points, eight rebounds) and Matt Keis (12 points) in the final to overcome a tremendous 28-point effort from Nick Tancon, Highland’s 6’7″ centre.
“We’ve been preaching selfless basketball – that it doesn’t matter what the individual stats are, it’s about winning as a team,” Braich said. “And they’ve bought in. It’s about making that extra pass and helping each other on defence. If we’re going to go far this year, that’s how we’re going to have to play.”
Grewal, Tanner Friesen and Parm Sidhu picked up players of the game awards for Bateman.
EAGLES GIRLS GO 1-2
MEI’s senior girls also co-hosted a 10-team tourney with Chilliwack Secondary, and the Eagles went 1-2 against a slate of elite opponents.
MEI, No. 9 in the B.C. AAA rankings, beat Maple Ridge 66-43 in their opener, before falling 72-63 to No. 6 South Kamloops and 95-93 to No. 4 Riverside.
The Riverside game was an epic offensive battle, with Riverside’s Vanessa Gee scoring the game-winning basket with 1.5 seconds left. Eagles forward Taylor Claggett exploded for 38 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field and 18-of-21 from the free throw line.
“I’ve never seen a girls game like this one,” Eagles coach Rick Thiessen marveled. “Both teams just busted out in the second half and couldn’t miss.”
Claggett, Tessa Ratzlaff and Grace Tadrous picked up player of the game nods for the Eagles.
No. 5-ranked W.J. Mouat also participated in the tourney, and went 2-1 with wins over Kelowna (72-42) and Pitt Meadows (95-22), and a loss to No. 1 Brookswood (61-55).
TWO DECADES FOR THIESSEN
Thiessen has coached girls basketball at MEI for 20 years, and the school is hosting an event to honour that milestone following Tuesday’s home game vs. Walnut Grove (6:15 p.m. start).
Thiessen, a vice-principal at MEI, began coaching the junior girls hoops squad in 1994, then took over the senior team in 2006.
When he got into teaching, his dream was to coach boys basketball, but he’s grown to really appreciate the girls game.
“I’ve coached boys many times in a variety of sports, including basketball, but I’ve learned I really enjoy coaching girls basketball,” he said. “There’s less ego involved, and I’d say girls are far more appreciative and responsive to coaching. They don’t all believe they’re going to the NBA.
“If they have success as an individual and as a team, there’s just a tremendous sense of accomplishment that we did this together.”
SNOWBALL THIS WEEK
The Snowball Classic, one of the biggest events on the local high school basketball calendar, tips off this week at Abby Senior.
The senior boys tourney begins on Wednesday, as the host Panthers take on Bateman at 12:45 p.m. The schedule ramps up on Thursday, featuring the Father Henry Carr Crusaders, Canada’s No. 4-ranked high school boys team, along with eight ranked B.C. squads.
A tourney preview, along with a complete schedule and a Henry Carr highlight video, is available here.