Despite their relative youth, the Cowichan Secondary Thunderbirds weren’t fazed during their trip to the provincial 4A basketball championships last week. “Being fairly young, and that we hadn’t been to the tournament for a few years, I was impressed with the boys,” coach Sandeep Heer said. “They weren’t nervous; they were loose, upbeat, and it showed in their play.”
The T-Birds finished 11th, and Josh Charles averaged 29.5 points, the third-best total at the tournament.
Cowichan’s first game last Wednesday put them against Holy Cross, who would go on to lose the final by just three points. The T-Birds trailed just 16-12 after the first quarter but Holy Cross won 91-59. Charles had 22 points and 12 rebounds, while Travis McDonald added 14 points and five boards.
“One of the things with Holy Cross is that they weren’t only big like us, they were super athletic and really fast,” Heer said. “I don’t think there is another team like that in the province.”
Cowichan bounced back on Thursday with a 55-50 win over Pitt Meadows. Charles posted 29 points and 11 rebounds, and McDonald chipped in with 12.
“Pitt Meadows was ranked in the top 10 all year, so it was nice to get a win over them and show that we belong in the tournament,” Heer said.
Cowichan led Kelowna 56-52 after three quarters on Friday, but Kelowna caught fire late and beat Cowichan 79-67. Charles led the way with 36 points and 10 rebounds, McDonald had 12 points and eight rebounds, and Braydon Aumen had five points, 10 boards and nine assists.
The T-Birds ended the tournament on Saturday with a win, topping West Vancouver 66-59. Charles had 31 points and 16 rebounds, and McDonald had 17 points and 10 boards.
“We kind of got to play at our pace that game,” Heer said. “It was a nice way to finish the tournament off.”
Only three players are graduating from the team: Aumen, Sean Barrett and Gurjyot Grewal. The squad will return several key players, while adding players from the junior T-Birds team that also went to provincials.
“It bodes well for us next year, playing in the Island final this year and going to B.C.’s,” Heer said. “I think next year’s team, if they keep focused, have the opportunity to do very well.”