A familiar family features as Island teams head into March Madness, boys’ B.C. high school basketball championships style beginning today at the Langley Events Centre.
Milan Pasquale is only in Grade 10 and already an Island first-team all-star for Brentwood College, which is ranked No. 3 in the province for the 2A tournament. Pasquale is the son of former University of Victoria Vikes guard Vito Pasquale and nephew of the legendary late two-time Olympian and five-time UVic national champion point-guard Eli Pasquale.
With the Lambrick Park Lions ranked No. 2 and on the same side of the draw, it appears Brentwood College and Lambrick Park are headed for a showdown in the B.C. semifinals after the Lions edged Brentwood in the Island final two weeks ago.
“It’s a fantastic rivalry, with both teams operating at a high standard, and ready to do the Island proud,” said Brentwood College coach Blake Gage.
But first you have to get to the latter stages. Brentwood College opens today against No. 14 Hugh Boyd of Richmond and Lambrick Park against No. 15 South Okanagan.
“It all comes down to the day in single-loss elimination tournaments,” said Gage.
“You can’t get too high or too low. You have stay focused and in the moment.”
Both teams have had success in the past with veteran Lambrick Park coach Ed Somers leading the Lions to six provincial titles and Gage coaching Brentwood College to the 2018 title and third place in 2020.
This season’s editions feature a taller Lions team, led by six-foot-eight forward Alex Moch, and a smaller but water-bug quick Brentwood College team led by the guard play of Pasquale, Grade 11 guard Dylan Gage and also guard Nathan Onasanya.
Meanwhile, the Island 4A second-seed and provincial No. 12 Claremont Spartans have a difficult opening-game assignment by being drawn against the Burnaby South Rebels, who were No. 1 all season before an upset loss in the North Valley semifinals due to a key injury. Despite the Rebels’ drop to No. 5 because of those issues, many pundits still consider Burnaby South the best team in the province.
“We’re excited and looking forward to the challenge,” said Claremont coach Brandon Dunlop.
“If we play to our abilities, we can beat anybody. We don’t care what anybody is saying. The only guys who have to believe we can do it, are the guys in our room.”
And they certainly do believe after having knocked off No. 2 Centennial and No. 3 Vancouver College this season. Giving Burnaby South even more to think about is the versatile six-foot-three Claremont star guard and UVic Vikes-recruit Izzy Helman, one of the best players in the province.
The Oak Bay Bays, who defeated the Spartans in a highly-competitive Island final, go in as the top Island seed and open today at No. 10 against No. 7 Semiahmoo. The Bays are led by Island tournament MVP Griffin Arnatt, who can play the entire court.
“I see progress within our group every time we step on the floor,” said Oak Bay coach Chris Franklin.
“This time of year, especially in single-game knockout situations, the message to the players is it’s always the next play that matters most. We just have to play our game and be calm and steady.”
The Island-champion Mark Isfeld Ice of Courtenay, runner-up St. Michaels University School Blue Jags and Island No. 3 Timberline Wolves of Campbell River are repping the region in the 3A provincial tournament at the LEC.
The Island-champion Glenlyon-Norfolk Gryphons are ranked in the top-four in 1A and serious contenders at the LEC. Brookes Westshore and Nanaimo Christian are also representing the Island.
“What’s really awesome is that we can host large events again and that’s exciting, considering where we were just five weeks ago,” said Franklin.