T-Birds roll to North Island AAAA hoops title

Having already gone undefeated against their fellow North Island AAAA senior boys basketball teams, the Cowichan Thunderbirds took their game to another level last weekend as they claimed the North Island championship.

Cowichan topped G.P. Vanier 71-63 in the title contest, jumping out to a lead early in the game and hanging on.

“We got off to a good start,” head coach Sandeep Heer said. “We held them to 23 in the first half. Our defence was really good.”

Vanier made a run in the third quarter, something the T-Birds expected from the host team, and managed to get within five points, but Cowichan didn’t back down.

“It was good to hold onto the lead and pull out the win,” Heer said. “We need close games like that. Going forward, we need that adversity to see if we can make it. I was happy with the way our players took it one possession at a time and never gave up.”

The T-Birds opened with a 78-44 win over Alberni District, taking control in the second quarter after the teams emerged from the first tied at 12-12.

“They came ready to play, and we might have taken them a bit lightly,” Heer said.

In the second quarter, the T-Birds settled down and got their transition game going, opened up a double-digit lead, then continued that trend in the second half. Josh Charles scored 26 points against Alberni.

At the Island tournament, beginning this Thursday in Port Alberni, the T-Birds will be gunning for one of two berths in the provincial championships.

“We’ve got an opportunity to get into the final,” Heer said. “Playing the fourth seed down there [Belmont], that’s a winnable game. Once we get into the semifinal, we’ve got to beat a stronger team.”

In the semis, the T-Birds would face either Dover Bay, who they have already defeated this year, or Mount Douglas, who they haven’t played but are confident they can beat.

“We need to come out with a good start and keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Heer said. “Our defence has been really good, so we need to keep doing that.”