T-Birds go out on a winning note

The Thunderbirds won their last two games of the season to finish on a high note at the provincial AAAA boys basketball championships.

The Cowichan Secondary School Thunderbirds won their last two games of the season last week to finish on a high note at the provincial AAAA boys basketball championships in Langley.

After losses in their first two games, the T-Birds regrouped to beat North Peace 75-69 in the third round, then top Terry Fox 67-50 in the game for 13th place.

“On the whole, we played some of our best ball of the year over the course of the provincial tournament,” head coach Lucky Walia said. “Different opponents played different styles, and our guys rolled with it. We had different players playing more in some situations, and they responded well in a challenging environment.”

The T-Birds led North Peace essentially for the entire game, and were up by as much as 18 points. Noah Charles scored 26 points, Humza Khan added 13, and Eston Unrau had 12 to go with 10 assists. Travis  McDonald grabbed 10 rebounds.

Again against Terry Fox, the T-Birds were on top from start to finish, and went up by as much as 27 in the second half.

“Terry Fox had been a top-10 team for most of the year,” Walia noted. “It was a nice way to wrap up our season.”

Charles led the team with 27 points, while Nirmal Hayer hit five three-pointers on his way to 17 points. Hayer was so electrifying that the Terry Fox fans started to cheer him on.

Other players had strong outings that didn’t necessarily translate to statistics.

“Andy Derocher, as he always does, worked really hard switching between guarding bigger players and then flying around chasing guards off screens,” Walia said. “Humza Khan played one of his best games of the season, controlling the pace and getting the ball to people in good positions to score.”

The T-Birds opened the tournament with a 90-83 loss to W.J. Mouat, although they had been within four points with a minute and a half left to play. Charles led the way with 28 points and 21 rebounds, Unrau had 22 points, seven assists and six rebounds, and Zach Waddington was all over the scoresheet with five points, eight boards, three assists, two blocks and two steals.

“We played well,” Walia said. “W.J. Mouat was one point basket away from being in the tournament final.”

The T-Birds again made things interesting in their second game of the tournament, holding the lead for nearly 17 minutes and getting within five points in the fourth quarter before settling for an 81-65 loss to Sir Winston Churchill, the second-ranked team in B.C. all season.

Unrau finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, and Charles had 19 points and nine boards.

Walia was impressed with the two players who led his team in scoring for most of the season.

“Noah averaged 25 points for the tournament, on top of multiple 30-plus-point games in league play and playoffs,” the coach noted. “He really stepped his game up as we hit the most crucial part of our season. Eston demonstrated he could compete and impact a game with the best in the province, going for basically 20, seven and seven in our first two games against two of the five best teams in B.C.”