The Cowichan Thunderbirds won’t be returning to the provincial senior boys AAAA basketball tournament this year.
After finishing third at the Island championships at Belmont Secondary last weekend, the T-Birds had one more chance to qualifyfor provincials through a challenge game against Belmont on Tuesday.
The Belmont Bulldogs, who finished second at Islands, held on to their B.C. tournament berth by beating Cowichan 81-66.
“Our guys played hard, and kept making runs,” T-Birds head coach Lucky Walia said. “Belmont is a talented group that couldmake some noise in Langley.”
The Bulldogs led 41-28 at halftime, but the T-Birds refused to go away. Third-quarter pressure helped get Cowichan back withinnine points of Belmont. A boisterous pro-Cowichan crowd inspired the T-Birds to keep fighting.
“Our alumni, family and friends likely outnumbered the host crowd, which is pretty neat,” Walia said. “We have a specialbasketball community in Cowichan.”
Eston Unrau led Cowichan with 26 points in his final high school game. Fellow graduating senior Zach Waddington added 18 andBrandon Reymerink chipped in with 11.
At the Island tournament, the T-Birds lost to Oak Bay in the semifinal before Oak Bay topped Belmont in the final. Because bothteams lost to Oak Bay, Cowichan was able to challenge Belmont for the second Island berth. Reymerink, a Grade 11 player, wasnamed a first-team tournament all-star, and Waddington was named to the second team.
Along with Matthew Miller and David Catacutan, Unrau and Waddington have been picked to represent Cowichan in the annualIsland All-Star Classic in April. Unrau and Waddington were selected for the A game, and Miller and Catacutan will play in the Bgame.