The Cowichan Secondary Thunderbirds finished third in their own Welcome Back Tournament last week, missing out on a higher finish only because of a 79-72 overtime loss to Claremont on Friday.
The T-Birds trailed Claremont 33-27 at halftime, but turned it on down the stretch.
“During the second half, Jeremy Perkins and Pablo de Garaizabal Rafiq did a great job of securing defensive rebounds, limiting second-chance opportunities, against the much bigger Claremont squad,” Cowichan coach Casey Parsons said.
Jaden Bhopal’s clutch three-point shooting in the fourth quarter, part of a 32-point outing, allowed Cowichan to force overtime, tying the score at 63-63 when regulation time elapsed.
Claremont’s Dylan Smallwood, the eventual tournament MVP, took over in overtime, scoring 12 of his 22 points as he led the Spartans to victory.
The T-Birds’ other two games at the tournament weren’t nearly as close as they opened with an 84-52 win over Mount Douglas on Thursday, then defeated Dover Bay 56-35 in the third-place game on Saturday.
Cowichan started slow against Mount Doug, trailing 22-18 after the first quarter, but the T-Birds settled in and took a 36-33 lead into halftime. Brandon Reymerink scored 17 of his 29 points to lead the way on offence as Cowichan dominated the second half 48-19. Bhopal finished the game with 14 points, while de Garaizabal Rafiq and Perkins had 11 apiece.
The third-place game against the Dover Bay Dolphins reminded Parsons of some of the matches he remembers from his own playing days.
“The game was reminiscent of some of the grind-’em-out, wear-’em-down, Cowichan-Dover Bay battles from years back,” he said. “We struggled shooting the ball but were stingy on the defensive end. All in all, any time you can hold a senior boys basketball team to under 40 points, you’ve got to pleased with the team’s effort.”
The T-Birds will host Nanaimo District next Tuesday (Dec. 19) at 7 p.m. in their last league game at home until February.