The senior boys Sir Charles Tupper Tigers are headed to the provincial basketball championships next week as 2014 Lower Mainland Zone Tournament champs.
The AAA Tigers took first spot in the Lower Mainlands, for the first time in the school’s 55-year history, after a hotly contested battle with Burnaby’s St. Thomas More Collegiate (86-78) Feb. 28 in front of enthusiastic fans of both teams at the Richmond Olympic Oval.
The outsized Tigers, ranked third in the province, took it to the second ranked STM from the start with strong shooting.
At the buzzer at the end of the first period, guard Ron Ronquillo sunk a three-pointer to make it 20-9 for Tupper.
It was a ping-pong match of back and forth scoring, with Tupper always maintaining a lead and going up 39 to 32 at the half.
The 50 or so Tupper fans in the stands, some carrying “Go Tupper” placards and others banging empty water jugs, saw the lead narrowing and started to chant “East Side, East Side.”
At the end of the third quarter with the score 59 to 54 for Tupper, the fans, all on their feet in a frenzy, were warned to stay off the court.
The Knights saw the lead narrowing and put backboard pressure on the Tigers.
“We would block out like demons on the glass yet their length allowed them to simply reach right over top of us and get second chances and rebounds,” said Tupper coach Jeff Gourley after the game.
STM’s forward Reese Morris at six feet, three inches was almost unstoppable in the second half.
He had four points in the first half and racked up 32 in the second.
But the Tigers’ veteran Grade 12 guards were at their best and set about stopping Morris and maintaining Tupper’s lead.
Former 2009 Tupper captain Harpreet Manhas was in the stands to support his old team.
“I love the way they are playing,” Manhas said at the half. “It is typical Tupper style... running gun and shoot threes.”
Tupper’s Ronquillo had 29 points on the night and earned the tournament’s most valuable player.
Saurav Acharya hit for 19 and DJ Sugue added another 16 points and earned first team all star.
Guard Naveed Alam earned second team all star.
Tupper shot 69 per cent from distance overall.
“Sixty-nine per cent from beyond the arc for a high school team is unheard of,” said Gourley.
The coach noted the importance of the milestone win for his school and was quick to give props to past Tupper Tigers who paved the way for the current team.
He cited players such as East Vancouver legend Jack Ho and Carleton Raven Cameron Smythe, among others.
“Tonight’s win was in appreciation of what they and roughly 100 other young men had strived for but never reached over the last 10 years.
All those former Tupper Tigers who had dreamed the dream but it was never realized.
Tonight’s win was as equally for them as the players in uniform tonight,” he said.
“All these young men talk about that being on the team is like being in a family. Well tonight the family got some really nice family pictures to hang in the living room.”
Sugue said the team wasn’t celebrating much — yet.
“We are going for the [provincial] banner. Three banners in one year.”
The 2014 BC High School Boys Triple A Basketball Championships start March 11.
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