B.C. is best when it comes to U14 club basketball in the west and now a pair of Lower Mainland teams will see how they stack up against the rest of Canada.
VK (girls) and BC United (boys) were both victorious in their respective matches against Calgary’s Genesis Basketball on Saturday afternoon as Langley Events Centre hosted the Jr. NBA Canada West Regional final in a matchup of the respective B.C. and Alberta representatives.
The victories – 83-28 for VK and 83-59 for BC United – earn both squads berths to the upcoming Jr. NBA Global Canada Regional Finals. That competitions runs June 13 to 16 and features regional champions from the Atlantic (Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island), East (New Brunswick, Quebec), Prairies (Manitoba, Saskatchewan) and Host (Ontario).
At stake will be the coveted opportunity to represent Canada at the Jr. NBA Global Championship August 6 to 11 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Fla. That competition will contain a field of eight U.S. regional representatives and eight international regions (Africa, Asia Pacific, Canada, China, Europe and Middle East, Latin America and Mexico) for both the boys’ field and the girls’ field.
And for one member of the VK girls team, she is more than willing to share just what is at stake in less than two weeks time when both squads arrive in Toronto.
Another VK squad also qualified to represent B.C. last year and that team featured Richmond’s Marina Radocaj who was the lone 13-year-old on the team of 14-year-olds.
And while the rest of that team’s roster graduated to the next age group, Radocaj was eligible for one more crack at earning a ticket to Florida.
The team wound up one game short, losing in the Canadian final to their Ontario counterparts.
“Every single time I practised with this team, I told them, I want to get back and I don’t want to lose again, I want to go to Orlando,” she said following Saturday’s victory. “This was the only thing I focused on since the start of the (club) season.”
Despite losing in the final (and being a year younger than most of the players) Radocaj showed so well she earned most valuable player honours.
And the scary thing for the competition could be the fact VK boasts a deep and talented roster. That was on display in Saturday’s final as VK rattled off the first dozen points and led 27-1 after one quarter. Genesis did not reach double digits until they hit a pair of free throws to open the second half.
Caitlin Kippan led the way with 18 points while Avery Sussex had a dozen points and Caleigh Reimer and Maggy Curtis had 11 apiece, giving the team four double-digit scorers.
“They are talented kids and it is pretty easy for us as coaches when you have that much talent to work with,” said VK’s Paul Langford, who coaches the team alongside his brother Bruce. “All these kids come from really good basketball programs, a lot of them have played in VK for the last few of years, they have had good coaching.”
In the boys’ game, BC United jumped out to a 19-6 lead after one quarter before Genesis cut the gap down to as low as five points early in the second quarter. The score was 35-26 at the half but BC United opened the third quarter on a 15-2 run and never looked back, winning 83-58.
“We have been training for this,” said Rupinder Dahia, who coaches the squad alongside Karlo Villanueva. “The boys are primed, they are hungry, the want to compete.”
Mikyle Malabuyo led the BC United offence with 22 points, Oseghale Ehizode had 18 and Brady Lau added 14.
The team is made up entirely of 14-year-olds and their strength comes from battling hard in practice each day. The roster is made up of players from the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley.
“We got to war in practice every day, we go five-on-five against each other and just leave it all out on the court,” Dahia said.
Prior to this season, they were scattered among a trio of basketball clubs (AthElite Basketball, 3D Basketball and Vancouver Sports Academy) before the coaches decided to merge the three into one for a better shot at advancing in the Canadian regionals.
“They all battled each other a couple of months ago at provincials. We decided to form a team to give ourselves a better opportunity to compete and show (the rest of Canada) what we can do,” Dahia said.
Last year, the first year of the Jr. NBA program, AthElite represented the West but came up short when it came time for the Canadian regionals.
The VK roster consists of Grace Bradshaw (Langley), Natalie Curley (Mission), Maggy Curtis (Abbotsford), Alexis Hart (Coquitlam), Caitlin Kippan (Richmond), Malia Lenz (Abbotsford), Marina Radocaj (Richmond), Caleigh Reimer (Abbotsford), Tia Rowell (Langley) and Avery Sussex (Coquitlam).
The BC United roster features Tarrence Booker (New Westminster), Andy Chen (Burnaby), Declan Cutler (North Vancouver), Oseghale Ehizode (Surrey), Marcus Flores Besseling (White Rock), Brady Lau (Burnaby), Mikyle Malabuyoc (Vancouver), Arpan Sidhu (Vancouver), Gurshan Sran (Surrey) and Zachary Zapanta (Richmond).