There are 90 AA boys basketball teams in BC.
L.V. Rogers coach Ross Naka reminds himself that when assessing his team’s 1-and-3 record and 15th place finish at the provincials in Kamloops last week.
Although they were second last, they still achieved more than 75 other teams.
“I’m not the kind of guy to say ‘We’re just happy to be here,’ but to win a game there and finish 15th in the province is a tremendous accomplishment,” Naka says. “That gets lost in the shuffle sometimes.”
He admits the field was tougher than he expected, with greater parity than in most years. LVR, which entered as the last seed, had two other handicaps: it was the youngest team by far, and wasn’t at the tournament last year. Entering the big gym at Thompson Rivers University was also “daunting” for those who had never played there.
Naka, still raspy-voiced on Monday, said he set no specific goal for his team except to compete hard and not get outworked.
“Let’s be able to look in the mirror at the end and say we competed our asses off. I’m more than happy with that every time,” he says.
LVR opened Wednesday with a 63-38 loss to top seed and eventual champion Mission, whom Naka describes as “amazingly good,” then fell the following day 88-55 to South Okanagan — a team they beat earlier in the year.
“Oliver was the No. 9 seed, which blew my mind,” Naka says. “I thought they were much better than that, but when you start to see all the teams, they were right where they should be.”
Game three on Friday was a 72-56 loss to host Sa-Hali, and then Saturday saw LVR salvage the tournament by defeating Charles Hays of Prince Rupert 73-67.
“That was a tough win. You just think you’re going to get at least one cakewalk, and that’s not how it was this year,” Naka says.
Although reluctant to single out individuals, he praised Adam Grace and John Zak, his only Grade 12 students.
“They took turns leading us on the court and off,” he says. “Not the most outspoken guys, but lead-by-example guys. When everyone’s losing their minds — myself included — they’re calm, cool, and collected. I can’t say how much I appreciate what they did for us.”
Overall, Naka says the real value in the tournament was the experienced gained, setting the stage for next year: “I have guys who want to start practicing again next week.”
Mission defeated St. Thomas More of Burnaby 70-56 in the final.
DeVries connects with alma mater
Nelson basketball legend Greg DeVries was an assistant coach with G.W. Graham of Chilliwack, which finished third at the tournament.
DeVries doesn’t teach there but is involved because his son is expected to attend the school.
“On the second night he took some time out and had some words with our squad, which was just awesome,” Naka says. “It was great to have 15-20 minutes with him. He came to our last game that we won.”
DeVries, who played for LVR in the early ‘90s, still owns every individual scoring at the tournament. He went on to a stellar career at the University of Alberta.