A second-place finish at the Island AAAA senior boys basketball championships has the Cowichan Secondary Thunderbirds heading to next week’s provincial tournament in Langley.
"The boys had a goal to make provincials, and they elevated their game after last weekend," head coach Sandeep Heer said. "It was great to see. Even when we won North Islands, we knew we were going to have to play at a higher level to go to provincials.
"Obviously, it would have been nice to win the Island championship, but we battled and played well all weekend."
The Island final came down to Cowichan and Claremont, with the Spartans winning 66-57.
Claremont jumped out to an early lead and held a 12-point edge at halftime.
"Things weren’t going our way," Heer said. "They were desperate. They knew if they lost they would have the challenge game."
The T-Birds got back within a single point, and hung around there for a few minutes, but weren’t able to close the gap, and Claremont got their big lead back.
Josh Charles scored 30 points, while Brayden Aumen added 10 and Tyler Hudson had six.
"The boys put it all on the line," Heer said. "I was very proud of them."
Cowichan opened the tournament with a 75-53 win over Belmont, jumping out to an early 16-4 lead and never looking back. Charles scored 20, Travis McDonald had 19, Hudson had 16 and Jordy Frost added 10.
In the Island semifinal, the TBirds topped Mt. Douglas 61-49 on 20 points from Charles, 14 from Aumen and 11 from McDonald.
"We knew going in it would be a tough game," Heer said. "It was close all game, but we didn’t really trail. Our defence was really good. We shut Mt. Doug down."
Charles was named a first-team all-star, while Hudson and Aumen were named to the second team.
"Josh has elevated his game the last two weekends," Heer said. "I know he really wanted to do well and help the team accomplish its goals. He has always led us offensively, but he has picked it up defensively.
"Tyler has been playing well since he’s been starting late in the season. Even last week he put up good numbers offensively. Brayden is solid every game. He plays his butt off; he puts his body on the line. He defends really hard."
The T-Birds will head to Langley next week, where they begin the provincial tourney on Wednesday.
"We’ll take it one game at a time," Heer said. "We have a very tough first-round game [against Holy Cross]. Anything can happen at these tournaments. We’ll play with confidence and try to get a win."