The Dockers are off to the big dance.
Esquimalt high school’s junior boy’s basketball team clawed out of a deep hole at the Vancouver Island provincial championships, and earned a berth to the provincial title tourney for their effort.
Esquimalt, entering the Islands as Victoria’s third-best squad, started off on a sour note, as they lost to Cowichan in their opening match.
Facing a series of do-or-die games to follow, the squad downed three potent opponents: Claremont, Ladysmith and Dover to earn third place on the Island.
Coach Dave Burden wasn’t entirely surprised by the opening loss to Cowichan.
“They are ranked 12th in BC and they played us very well. They are a very good team.”
“We always do it the hard way,” he added.
Key to the team’s success has been the return of Tino Sutton. Sutton, who suffered a knee injury early in the season, may not be at full health, but still offers a valuable extra level of skill, Burden said.
“He’s still got a scoring touch, and gives us more of a threat for a perimeter, and that opens up the post a little bit,” he said.
Sutton makes lethal darting set-up man A. J. Liggayu more effective, and also takes some pressure off the team’s bench depth.
“It’s nice to have him contributing,”
Burden hasn’t had a chance to look at the draws for the provincial tournament, which starts tomorrow in Coquitlam.
“We’ll probably be a pretty low seed,” he said.
“We’ll be playing one of the top teams in B.C., so it’s going to be a very tough first-round matchup – but we’ll see what we can do.”
The journey so far through the city championships and Island tournament will be a valuable contribution to the team’s next few years.
“They’re all very excited to be going this is one of the season goals we met,” Burden said.
Given that the junior boys provincials do not segregate schools by population, Esquimalt, an AA school, will certainly run into a clutch of tough AAA squads.
“It gives us invaluable experience about playing in the post-season,” Burden said. “This season has been a success: next year, the expectations are raised a little more.”