Unrau, Khan guide Thunderbirds to Welcome Back win

Eston Unrau earned game MVP honours as the T-Birds won their own Welcome Back Tournament for the first time in six years.

Cowichan’s Andrew Derocher and Duncan Christian’s Matt Brandsma leap for a rebound early in the Welcome Back Tournament opener

Eston Unrau scored 35 points to earn game MVP honours, leading the Cowichan Secondary Thunderbirds to a 90-64 come-from-behind victory over the Dover Bay Dolphins as the T-Birds won their own Welcome Back Senior Boys Basketball Tournament for the first time in six years.

The T-Birds trailed the Dolphins 34-26 partway through the second quarter before turning things around and going on a 64-36 run for the remainder of the game.

“We had some nervous energy to start, and were a bit sluggish,” head coach Lucky Walia acknowledged. “We found our rhythm, though. Dover Bay is a good team — we will see them a few more times this year in league play, and play-offs. Hopefully, we keep improving from now to then.”

Cowichan hadn’t won the Welcome Back Tournament since 2009, with a particularly strong squad led by Steve McKinnon, Jordan Pendlebury, Daniel Hobden and Mitch Knippelberg.

The victory bodes well for the rest of the high school basketball season.

“Winning the tournament feels great,” Walia said. “it helps with our confidence, and gives us a nice jumping off place for the rest of our season. We played better each successive game, which is what you hope to see, especially early in the season.”

Cowichan started the tournament with a 69-56 win over Duncan Christian, then got by Lambrick Park 62-59 in the semifinals.

T-Birds guard Humza Khan was named tournament MVP, and teammate Noah Charles was named to the tournament all-star team. Rounding out the field behind Cowichan and Dover Bay were Lambrick Park, Nanaimo District, Wellington, Belmont, Claremont and Duncan Christian.

The T-Birds will play in Oak Bay’s tournament next weekend, and their first-round opponent will be Lambrick Park, who they beat by three points in the semifinals last weekend.

“They are a nice team, and will definitely be happy to get one back against us,” Walia said.

 

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