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Hoops giants Spectrum, Oak Bay on collision course at Island 4A boys championship

Gold-medal game goes Saturday night at CARSA gym
Owen Lewis and Oak Bay open the Island 4A championship tournament today against G.P. Vanier. (DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST)

The 2024 Island boys’ Quad-A high school basketball championship looks to be one for the annals. That is saying something since the 72 past tournaments have featured the likes of two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash, Olympians Gerald Kazanowski, Greg Wiltjer, Eric Hinrichsen, Billy Robinson, NBA-drafted Bob Burrows and future UVic or NCAA players such as Robbie Parris, Kelly Dukeshire, Craig Higgins, Greg Walters among numerous others.

The interest is so great in the 2024 Island tournament — featuring the respective B.C. No. 1- and No. 2-ranked Spectrum Thunder and Oak Bay Bays — that Saturday’s championship and third-place games have been moved to Ken and Kathy Shields Court in CARSA gym on the University of Victoria campus. The tournament begins today and continues Friday at the Oak Bay Gym. The top-two teams will advance to the B.C. championship tournament next month at the Langley Events Centre.

“The [five] times Oak Bay and Spectrum have met this season, people were turned away at the door, and not a few people, but a lot of people,” explained Bays head coach and tournament host Chris Franklin.

“We’re talking about the top-two ranked teams in the province.”

Provincial top-ranked Spectrum has not been known for much boys’ hoop success before this and is looking for the school’s first Island championship since 1990. The Thunder are led by six-foot-four swing-sensation Justin Hinrichsen, son of former University of Victoria Vikes national champion and 2000 Sydney Olympian Eric Hinrichsen, and six-foot-eight forward Tyler Felt and guard Jay Helman. The scary thing is they are all in Grade 11.

“Going in as the favourites has been rare for Spectrum,” admitted Thunder head coach Tyler Verde.

“But now we are the ones with the target on our backs. We feel confident and strong. It’s unreal to be 1-2 in the province with Oak Bay and to have that big-arena feel at CARSA on Saturday, if we get there. It’s going to be an exciting environment.”

The Bays answer with a more veteran team that has lived atop the Island tournament the past decade. Current UVic Vikes rookie star Griffin Arnatt is gone, but six-foot-seven forward Owen Lewis and guards Heath Taylor and Thomas Beames are back from the Oak Bay team that made it to the B.C. semifinals last year before being stopped by the Fleetwood Park Dragons. That experience could prove invaluable as they look to take those final few steps next month at the LEC.

“We hope to lean on that experience,” said Franklin.

But both heralded teams must be wary not to get ahead of themselves.

“We’ve got to take care of business first and are only focused right now on G.P. Vanier in our opening game at Islands [the Bays and Towhees from Courtenay play today at 2 p.m. in Oak Bay Gym],” said Franklin.

Vedre concurred for Spectrum: “We have Royal Bay to open [tonight at 8 in Oak Bay Gary Taylor Gym] and then will face either Claremont or Cowichan and all three are scrappy teams.”

“We’ve got to keep in the moment,” added Franklin.

Not to look ahead, as Franklin and Verde warn, but what it moment it promises to be on Saturday night at CARSA. The third-place game will be at 5 p.m. and the final at 7 p.m. Tickets will be $5 for students and $10 for adults.

The third-place finisher can challenge the second-place finisher for the second Island berth in the B.C. championships if those two teams have not previously met during the Island tournament.

Meanwhile, the Island Triple-A boys’ high school championships are today through Saturday at Wellington Secondary in Nanaimo with the Dover Bay Dolphins going in ranked No. 4 in B.C. and the Wellington Wildcats and Carihi Tyees both honourable mentions in the provincial top-10 poll.

The Island Double-A championships are today through Saturday at Brentwood College with the Lambrick Park Lions ranked No. 3 in B.C., Brentwood College No. 5 and the St. Michaels University School Blue Jags No. 6 and the John Barsby Bulldogs an honourable mention. The Single-A championships begin today and run through Saturday in Duncan.