Slap on the singlets and hold on to your high-tops.
It is time once again for warm-lit gyms on cool winter nights as high school basketball season has begun.
League play for boys began Tuesday night at the Reynolds gymnasium as the Oak Bay Bays, considered the class of the Island in triple-A, defeated the Roadrunners 91-40.
The Bays are led by provincial team players Matt Hampton - who had a game-high 23 points Tuesday night - at forward and Liam Horne at point guard.
They are also abetted by four members from the B.C. high school triple-A champion Oak Bay volleyball team - provincial MVP Lars Bornemann and first-team all-star Elion Wong, along with Dan Phillips and Noel Harris.
"We're a very athletic team," said Bays head coach Chris Franklin.
And a young one with only three Grade 12s, and Matt Gray and Atlas St.
Paul among the Grade 10s to watch for as they make their debuts in green and white.
In double-A, St. Michaels University School is ranked No. 1 in B.C. The Blue Jags proved worthy of the top ranking last weekend by winning the provincial Independent Schools title, defeating Collingwood in the quarter-finals; triple-A No. 7 St. George's 56-55 in the semifinals and the No. 5-ranked double-A team in B.C., Brentwood College, 51-49 before a packed gym in Mill Bay.
SMUS is led by a veteran Grade 12 backcourt of Mark Yorath, Dawit Workie and Georgios Ikonomou. On the front lines is 6-foot-7 post Mack Catto.
"We defend well and are gritty," said Ian Hyde-Lay, making his way back to the Jags bench as senior team head coach after five years with the SMUS lower-grade levels.
Supplementing SMUS and Blake Gage-coached Brentwood College in the Island double-A power hierarchy are several other provincially-ranked teams - Ed Somers' always-potent B.C. No. 8 Lambrick Park Lions, No. 11 Wellington Wildcats of Nanaimo and No. 12 Gulf Islands Scorpions. Mark Isfeld of Courtenay and Vito Paquale's Shawnigan Lake School Stags are also capable of being in the mix.
"Only three teams will make it off the Island [to the provincials in March], so a handful of very good teams well be left behind," said Hyde-Lay, who coached two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash at SMUS in the early 1990s.
Fans can get an early glimpse this weekend of several of the Island double-A powers when the Blue Jags host their annual jamboree tournament featuring themselves, Wellington, Lambrick Park, Brentwood College and Mark Isfeld from Friday at 4: 30 p.m. to Saturday at 6 p.m. in the SMUS gym.
The Blue Jags will finally play the Island triple-A heavyweight Bays during the Gary Taylor Classic at Oak Bay from Dec. 21-22.
Meanwhile, Bays coach Franklin said he sees a lot of parity on the Island in triple-A boys. Oak Bay is a B.C. honourable mention but should get a good run from the Cowichan Thunderbirds and their six-foot-seven provincial team post-player Jerod Dorby, an intriguing Claremont Spartans team coached by UVic Vikes player Brandon Dunlop and featuring 5-foot-9 dunking guard Mason Loewen, and the always hard-hustling Belmont Bulldogs.
Rounding out the Island top-10 rankings are the Vanier Towhees, Dover Bay Dolphins, Spectrum Thunder, Mount Douglas Rams, Reynolds and Alberni Armada.
"It's very even and it's going to be a dog-fight every night," said Franklin, who played CIS for the University of Regina Cougars.
Franklin added the teams that get off the Island in March will have earned it. firstname.lastname@example.org
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