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Chase for Island triple-A boys basketball title ‘wide open’

Tournament begins Thursday at Mount Douglas

The Oak Bay Bays will be in search of their 20th senior boys basketball Island championship beginning today at Mount Douglas Secondary.

That’s an amazing 31 per cent success rate heading into the 63rd annual event.

“There have been a lot of great players that have come through Oak Bay. A very good tradition and dedication by the kids that have come through,” Bays coach Chris Franklin said of the history.

“It’s a tough one to win. As you saw last week, Claremont handled us pretty well,” he said of a 62-50 loss in the South Islands triple-A final on Saturday. “They have a very good team and Belmont is right there.

“They were really close to knocking off Claremont in the semifinals. Cowichan, up north, has had some very strong outings as well.”

Oak Bay, anchored by Times Colonist city all-stars Liam Horne, Mat Hampton and Jake Miller, faces Vanier in the late 8:15 game tonight. The tournament kicks off with Belmont taking on Dover Bay at 3 p.m., followed by Claremont against Spectrum at 4:45. The host Mount Doug Rams play Cowichan, the top seed in the North, at 6:30 p.m.

"We’re OK,” said Rams coach Skip Cronk, whose club will count heavily on city all-star Harrison Mar. “You never know with kids what you’re going to end up with when they walk out on the floor.”

Particularly in this tournament.

“As you know, when you get into a tournament everything is brand new,” said Cronk. “League play goes out the door. Look at us last year, we were supposed to be No. 1 and we came out No. 3.

“Injuries also have an effect on it and you never know what happens.”

Claremont, Oak Bay and Belmont (the top three South seeds respectively) have had strong seasons and on any given day, can beat each other, as witnessed the last few weeks.

“It always is a wide-open tournament,” said Franklin, who has been busy preparing. “You always work on different things at this time of year. But I think we’re taking what we do and polishing it up or making it better. If you’re dancing too much this time of year, you’re probably grasping at straws.”

Quarter-final winners advance to semifinals on Friday at 6:30 and 8:15 p.m., and the championship game is set for 8 p.m. on Saturday. Those two finalists will advance to the B.C. triple-A championship tournament set for March 12-16 in Langley. Third place can challenge second if they have not played.

Admission at Mount Doug is $5 for adults and $3 for students for Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening play. Tickets drop to $3 for adults and $1 for students on Saturday morning consolation play. Children 12 and under are free all tournament.

mannicchiarico@timescolonist.com

Twitter.com/tc_vicsports

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