Terry Fox Ravens’ boys basketball coach Brad Petersen is a firm believer that if he makes the going tough, the tough will be going to the provincial championships.
Whether that strategy of constructing for his senior AAAA team a schedule heavy with tournaments and exhibitions against top opponents pays off will be determined beginning Thursday, when the Ravens embark on the long road through league and Fraser Valley playoffs en route to the provincial tournament in Langley in March.
Terry Fox romped to first place in the Fraser Valley North with a perfect record of seven wins and no losses, punctuated by a 92-55 smackdown of the previously-undefeated Centennial Centaurs last Tuesday to ensure themselves of the division’s top seeding.
Petersen said that game was a good barometer of his team’s desire to succeed.
“I know our guys were hungry to finish first in round robin league play to put ourselves in the best position for the playoffs,” Petersen said.
The Ravens then closed out the regular season schedule with a convincing 103-50 win over the Gleneagle Talons. They’ll next play Thursday at 5 p.m., when they host the winner of the first quarterfinal between the Dr. Charles Best Blue Devils and the survivor of Tuesday’s playdown between Riverside and the Port Moody Blues. Centennial, which finished second in league standings, will play the second semi-final that day, at 6:45 p.m.
Petersen said, though, his team has to guard against thinking too far ahead.
“Our challenge is to make sure we are focused and prepared to play our game for 40 minutes every night,” he said. “Taking a half, a quarter, or even a possession off can be the difference between winning and losing a close game against a tough team.”
That’s why Petersen ensured plenty of tough tests for his charges along the way. In tournament and exhibition games, the Ravens faced every team ranked in the top ten of the province as of Jan. 31 except for the ninth-ranked Tamanawis Wildcats and the tenth-ranked Semiahmoo Totems, who are tied in that position with the W.J. Mouat Hawks.
Terry Fox, ranked second, registered a pair of wins against top-ranked Holy Cross Crusaders, as well as sixth-ranked Kitsilano and seventh-ranked Lord Tweedsmuir. They also beat fourth-ranked Vancouver College, along with Mouat, as well as Honourable Mentions Kelowna and Walnut Grove.
The Ravens also defeated the province’s top AA team, Prince Rupert’s Charles Hays Rainmakers, 84-80, in the final of the recent Emerald Tournament at Vancouver College.
They lost games to the defending provincial champions, Burnaby South Rebels, who are currently ranked third, fifth-ranked St. Georges — in overtime — and eighth-ranked Oak Bay.
Petersen said the challenges of those tough opposition have brought his team together.
“This team seems to love playing in tough, competitive games, and this is what we will need to do to win down the stretch,” he said, adding seniors like Jacob Mand and Grady Stanyer have taken their game to a new level at both ends of the court.
They’ve been supported by sophomore Cam Slaymaker, who’s the Ravens’ top scorer, Jaden DeLeon, the team’s senior startiing point guard with a nose for playing intense defence against opposing guards, the all-around contribution of senior guard David Chien and the bench strength led by junior guard Ko Takahashi.
It all adds up to some pretty formidable opposition for the team’s Fox will face in the post season.
“I love how this team is coming together,” Petersen said.