Brentwood’s defending champs off to a good start

Top-ranked AA team has success at early-season tournaments

Ranked first among AA senior boys basketball teams in B.C., the defending provincial champions from Brentwood College School have had a good run so far in the 2017/18 season.

“We’ve had a good start,” head coach Blake Gage admitted. “We’ve been maybe a bit flat the last week or two, but it’s hard not to be happy with how things have gone so far. We’ve been in some tough tournaments, and the guys have responded well.”

Brentwood had few seniors last year, a rare occurrence for a provincial champion, and returned nine players for this year, something that helped them gel right away.

“Most of the guys play other sports in the first term, but they’ve played together for a few years, so they sort of know what they’re doing,” Gage said. “They understand the systems.”

That helped the team come together early on, and Brentwood won its first tournament of the year, the Heritage Woods Kodiak Klassic in Port Moody in early December.

“That was a bit of a surprise,” Gage said.

Brentwood defeated Lord Tweedsmuir 89-68 in their tournament opener, then beat W.J. Mouat 81-58 and Semiahmoo 77-68 to reach the final against Calgary’s Bishop O’Byrne High School. Brentwood got past the Bobcats, one of Alberta’s highest-ranked 4A schools, 71-70.

“We played well until the last three or four minutes when we made some turnovers, but we held on,” Gage recalled. “It was exciting.”

In late December, Brentwood went a perfect 3-0 at the UVic Alumni Can-Am Invitational, which was supposed to feature top teams from B.C. and Washington state. The Canadian teams trounced the American visitors — Brentwood beat North Kitsap 90-55 and Seattle Academy 104-50 — so organizers switched things up on the final day, arranging for Brentwood to face Oak Bay, the top-ranked AAAA team at the time.

“They thought there would be some local interest and a little bit of excitement,” Gage said.

Brentwood topped Oak Bay 89-85.

“It was a close game, back and forth. We were a little bit lucky. We made some big stops down the stretch and got some buckets. Either team could have won. It was just a question of when the final buzzer went.”

The calibre of play from the American teams surprised Gage and some of the other Canadian coaches.

“We were certainly hoping for better quality teams,” he said. “One of the teams was a little younger. North Kitsap was fairly highly touted. I think they were 8-1 and they were supposed to be pretty good, but they struggled over the weekend. When they played against us, it was the same day they travelled, so their legs just weren’t there.”

To start 2018, Brentwood played a couple of games at the Claremont Spartan Invitational, more of a series of exhibition games than a tournament as it had no regular structure and some teams played three games while others played two. Brentwood won both, beating John Barsby 80-42 and Claremont 82-60.

Brentwood was ranked first in the province most of 2016-17 as well, and went on to capture the B.C. banner. As with last year, though, Gage isn’t paying much attention to the rankings.

“I don’t think too much about it,” he said. “Where our ranking is in the second week of March will be fairly significant. It’s not going to impact whether or not we go to provincials. We’ve got to get the job done. The only thing it really does is put a target on our back. Which is probably good for us.

“I hope we can continue to get better and make sure we’re playing our best basketball in March, and not December.”

Brentwood will host Shawnigan Lake School — currently ranked eighth among AA teams in B.C., this Friday at 7:30 p.m.

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