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Hopes still high for Tri-Cities high school boys basketball teams

With league play hitting full stride in January, teams are still optimistic about their chances to reach provincials in March
Heritage Woods Kodiaks Aiden Lloyd looks for a shot against a Belmont defender in the first half of their opening round game at the annual Kokiak Klassic senior boys basketball tournament earlier this month.

After a month of tournament play and exhibition games, hope springs eternal for the winter high school boys basketball season.

Hope that this year’s crop of juniors and seniors are ready to step into roles vacated by graduated players.

Hope that injuries won’t derail preseason promise.

And hope that all those X’s and O’s mapped on whiteboards during practices and time-outs will lead to a berth in the provincial championship tournament at the Langley Events Centre (LEC) in March — where anything can happen.

Centennial Centaurs

The Centaurs will look differently this season with the loss of 6’10” K.C. Ibekwe, who led the team to an eighth-place finish at last year’s provincials and is now playing at Oregon State University.

That may lower expectations others have for the team, but not their own, said head coach Lucian Sauciuc.

“Nobody around the province expects them to compete this season,” he said. “Our goal… is to play with a chip on our shoulder and not be an easy out for any opposing team we face.”

To make that happen, Sauciuc said he’ll look for leadership from a core group of seniors that includes Matthew Lee, Trey McLenan and Anthony Lopez, who performed capably supporting Ibekwe as juniors.

“The team is very united,” Sauciuc said, adding the competitive nature of Fraser North leaves little margin for subpar effort.

Dr. Charles Best Blue Devils

Blue Devils head coach Daniel Depelteau said his group is feeling a little overlooked.

They want to change that.

With eight players returning from last year’s team that just missed qualifying for provincials when it lost a do-or-die showdown to Burnaby Mountain, Depelteau said the Blue Devils are hungry to show they belong at the LEC.

A key to finding the success the team seeks will be the ability of Grade 12 guards Evan Sohi and Thomas Suson to step into the sizeable shoes vacated by Lucas Adams who drove Best’s transition offence during his graduating season.

Grade 12 forward Jalen Harrison brings energy on defence, but he also has a knack for hitting the big shot and Grade 11 combo guard Jalen Aldaba has already shown in exhibition action that he can be counted on for scoring as well.

But, added Depelteau, it may be injuries that are the decisive determinant of the Blue Devils’ fate.

Seniors Anthony Depelteau and Aleks Kriznik are almost ready to go after major injuries.

Depelteau is coming off a hip injury he suffered last August. He brings his basketball IQ to both ends of the court as a great passer and responsible defender.

Kriznik averaged 27 points and six rebounds before he was felled by a torn ACL in last spring’s playoffs.

“He’s been working really hard to pick up where he left off,” Daniel Depelteau said.

Also rejoining the team after a year away will be 6’8” forward Cairo Wells who brings athleticism and the ability to play inside and out.

“We love to get up and down the court and play a fast brand of basketball,” Depelteau said. “We’re just looking to spoil the party a bit.”

Gleneagle Talons

Talons’ head coach Roberto Arciaga doesn’t underestimate the challenge ahead for his charges after the team graduated eight seniors from last year’s side, including captains Javie SyQuia and Sharif Hebrahim.

That’s put the spotlight on shooting guard Bailey Truong and guard/forward Max Parnell to raise their games.

Arciaga said Bailey plays “smart” with his defensive prowess while Parnell will “do whatever is needed to win games.”

They’re supported by Jacob Goroza, Paul Dume and Tyson Chin.

Arciaga said what his starters may lack in size, they’ll more than be able to make up with chemistry as most have been playing together for years.

“They just need to keep working hard to get better and gain confidence,” he said.

Heritage Woods Kodiaks

Kodiaks coach Andrew Lloyd is counting on his senior-laden team to play with consistency. Results will follow.

“Offensively, we want to play with pace,” Lloyd said. “Defensively, we want to play connected as a unit.”

Making that happen will be up to the team’s leadership group of seniors Aidan Lloyd, Yen Teng, Kai Rawnsley, Cole Marr and Liam Twa, all of whom have the physical tools and mental fortitude to drive the Kodiaks’ offence while taking care of business in the back court.

Also up-and-coming is Grade 11 forward Aidan Wilkie.

“The challenge is always the ability to close out defensive possessions,” Lloyd said.

Pinetree Timberwolves

The Timberwolves are still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions that depleted the competitive zeal of prospective players, said head coach Christopher Davies.

As a result many of his players are still learning the game.

But with a multi-national roster of names from as far away as Italy, Mexico, China and the United Arab Emirates, they’re embracing the early-morning practices and growing sense of camaraderie as they go through the learning curve together.

Leading the effort are the only two returnees from last season, Justin Son and Vince Alteza, who Davies will lean on in tight games.

Contributing to the Timberwolves’ up-tempo pace and fast-break style will be Ahmad Askarian and promising sophomore Jeffrey Coghill.

“We are hoping to compete every game and stay positive,” Davies said. “Whether we win or lose, we will take away some great memories from the season.”

Riverside Rapids

Rapids coach Clement Yen is counting on heart to carry his team.

“I do not expect to win every game,” he said. “I do expect them to give it their all and to out-run every opposing team.”

With last year’s offensive catalyst Ben Reed graduated to Capilano University, the Rapids are looking at a more balanced approach to basketball this season, playing with pace in the offensive zone while bringing intensity to the defensive end of the court.

Grade 12 point guard Tony Oravec has the tools to lead that effort, Yen said. He has the defensive aggression and offensive instinct.

Junior Rees Yamaguchi ability to shoot “the lights out in every gym” will spark the offence with support from shifty ball handler Shawn Yang. The cool demeanour of senior Jayden Kumar will ensure all the elements come together, said Yen.

“What you will see from us will be a well-conditioned team with the ability to play at both ends of the courts.”

Terry Fox Ravens

The Ravens are “a work in progress,” says coach Rich Chambers.

With a dynamic blend of seniors and juniors, Terry Fox has the potential to be competitive and maybe even improve upon the single win the team achieved at last year’s provincials.

But to have success the Ravens will have to be more consistent in the back court and winning rebounds in the offensive end, Chambers said.

Grade 12 guard Lukas Bulin is the Ravens’ defensive leader, while senior guard Parker Kennedy battles the offensive boards from his guard/forward position. They get support from Grade 12 forwards Sukhria Garcha and Christian Moore. Junior guard Matteo Frost is showing great promise with his shooting ability and he’s making strides in his rebounding game.

“We’d like to play a fast-paced game trying to generate offensive flow,” Chambers said, adding the team’s measure of success will be its ability to play up to its potential when it matters.

Port Moody Blues

The Blues did not respond.