Many of the plans have gone out the window, but the view still remains positive for the New West Hyacks.
The senior boys basketball team is still searching for consistency and a grasp on turnovers, but even with those uncomfortable truths head coach Ted Cusick remains optimistic heading into tonight’s contest against the No. 1-ranked team in B.C.
“That will be good for us. I’m looking forward to (playing Centennial), No. 1 ranked team in the province,” said Cusick. “If we get pounded, then we’ve got lots of work. If we stay with them, well that’s what I expect.”
The team has shown some steady progress in a hectic week of action. There have also been jaw-dropping results that left a lot of questions, too.
Tuesday’s 76-74 loss to the Burnaby North Vikings falls in the latter category, in the first league contest of the 2019/20 season. It was also the squad’s sixth game in seven days – a pace that the coach said likely did them no favours.
“I didn’t get any sleep (Tuesday). It was just unbelievable – once (North) got on their run it was like we couldn’t stop them,” said Cusick.
The Hyacks appeared to be in complete control and led by 27 points at halftime. So comfortable was the lead that Cusick didn’t have the team regroup in the change room, instead, just stayed on the bench as they waited for the second half to begin.
And before he knew it, behind a 30-2 North run, the roof caved in. The winning points came with just two seconds left, when a foul put the Vikings on the penalty stripe, moments after a Jay Esquivel three-pointer had tied the game. Esquivel stepped up to the line and dropped both free throws, giving the previously winless Burnaby North team something to celebrate. It was a very different feeling at the other bench.
“It’s the coach’s fault. I went to the bench too early and didn’t bring my starters back until too late. We only scored two points in the final quarter and were 9-0 on fouls,” said Cusick.
Kirk Bothwell led the offence with 23 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. Quentin Leberg accounted for 21 points, while Udhay Mangat chipped in 12 points and eight rebounds.
One of the issues, which has turned up in a handful of games so far, was the lack of an outside shooting presence. Although he projected the squad to be strong from the three-point arc, Cusick has been left scratching his head at the spotty record from long distance.
“We’re supposed to be a three-point shooting team, and that’s how I set things up at the start of the year, but it hasn’t been that way. … I expect to have three good (three-point) shooters but we’ve only gotten one at any one time,” said Cusick.
On Monday, they bested Sands 77-67 in an exhibition tilt, with Bothwell contributing 18 rebounds to go with 23 points. Leberg also was in double-double territory, with 12 points and 13 boards, while Luke Dixon counted 10 points, including a pair of treys.
Last Saturday, Dixon hit a trio of three-pointers in the team’s closing game at the Tsumura Invitational, a 90-79 loss to 3-A Sir Charles Tupper.
Minus Bothwell due to work commitments, the squad showed some spirit in keeping close with the No. 2 Tigers.
Mangat topped all New West shooters with 17 points, while Caleb Johnson and Leberg contributed 15 points apiece.
After opening the Tsumura with a hard-fought 58-54 loss to Heritage Woods, the Hyacks got by Fleetwood Park 77-72, led by Johnson’s 25 points and seven boards. Troy Kim cashed in 20 points, including four treys, while Bothwell scored 17 points.
They also suffered a tough 98-53 loss to A.R. MacNeill. The ranked Richmond school just stormed past the Hyacks in the first half, taking a 62-19 lead into the break.
“That’s probably the worst beating I’ve had in 20 years. It was just crazy,” said Cusick. “Everything we did went wrong. It was just one of those days.”
After tonight’s tilt, New West will gear up for next week’s Bob Gair Classic tournament at NWSS, where they’ll open up the proceedings against league rival Cariboo Hill (Dec. 18, 2 p.m.).