Katerberg, Owls lace ‘em up, prepare for another battle on the road to LEC

Thursday, December 6, 2012 – Submitted by Howard Tsumura, The Province


Kelowna’s John Katerberg (left) keeps a step ahead of St. George’s Mitchell Tang during Telus Basketball Classic quarterfinals Thursday at Sir Charles Tupper in Vancouver. (Gerry Kahrmann, PNG)

VANCOUVER — John Katerberg swears he’s not trying to make it a habit, but the Kelowna Owls starting point guard is fast becoming legendary for forgetting to pack his basketball sneakers for big games.

It happened again Thursday as the Telus Basketball Classic reached the quarterfinal round at East Vancouver’s Sir Charles Tupper Secondary School.

“Coach kind of got mad,” relayed Katerberg after making the discovery in the pre-game shootaround prior to the Owls’ matchup with Vancouver’s No. 7-ranked St. George’s Saints. “(Teammate) Liam Duncan gave me his for the warm-up.”

A Kelowna assistant coach made a mad dash back to the team’s hotel and delivered the shoes to Katerberg about three minutes before tip-off, but it wasn’t until the second half that the senior really found his stride.

Over a span of just 2:16 to open the third quarter, Katerberg ripped the mesh on three straight three-point buckets, finishing with 13 in the quarter and a game-high 26 on the game as the Owls beat the Saints 76-72 to grab a berth in today’s semifinal against the No. 1-ranked Kitsilano Blue Demons. Kits beat Burnaby South 88-76 in its quarterfinal round matchup.

“Last year I forgot my shoes and that was for an entire tournament,” continued Katerberg, of having to buy a new pair while his team played at last January’s Legal Beagle Invite at PoCo’s Terry Fox Secondary. “We won that tournament. Maybe it’s a good-luck charm.”

Perhaps. But the Owls aren’t relying on luck to carry them back to their final destination.

Last season, they opened the campaign at No. 1 in The Province’s Big 10 rankings, dropped some early games while two of its top players were still playing volleyball, then dominated the rest of the way before coming up short 78-76 to Vancouver College in the B.C. Elite 8 last March at the Langley Events Centre.

Both post Braxston Bunce and point guard Mitch Goodwin, the team’s top two players from 2011-12, have moved on to university careers. But a huge part of the team is back, and against a talented but young St. George’s team on Thursday, that experience shone through.

The guard triumvirate of Katerberg, Malcolm Hlady and Joel Burma were all a big part of the rotation last season, and having won the Telus Invite last season, and having performed in so many high pressure games, they had just enough to carry them to a win.

With frontcourt returnees Buzz Truss (19 points) and Darrion Bunce (13 points) also seeing huge minutes last year, the Owls are among the province’s more experienced units.

“They’ve experienced every type of game, from blowouts to really close ones,” said Owls’ head coach Harry Parmar. “Those five kids played between 15 and 35 minutes-a-game last season. They have played in big games. Last year they deferred a bit to Mitch and Braxston, but now it’s their turn.”

So step up they did.

The 6-foot-6, Grade 11 Truss was a huge force early for Kelowna.

After the Saints built a 15-9 lead, Truss keyed a 15-3 Kelowna run as he anchored a defence that not only generated multiple Saints’ turnovers, but completely changed the momentum of the contest. Truss scored 10 of those points, his pony-tail flapping in the wind as he made steals, drove to the hoop and stepped up to the free throw line.

It was a surge later matched by Katerberg’s three-point wizardry. In between, the rest of the veteran group stepped up big, including the guy who only scored four points but was clearly the most passionately-committed defensive player in the building.

“He’s the emotional leader of our team,” Parmar said of guard Malcolm Hlady. “He gets almost gets too excited sometimes. The defensive pressure he puts on the ball is awesome.”

The Saints?

Injuries and illness have crippled their prep time, and although they are extremely talented, long and athletic, they are not where they will be at the end of the season.

“It kills me to lose like that,” Saints’ head coach Bill Disbrow explained of the turnover-filled first-half. “We’ve never gone against a zone press in practice. These are things we can’t do yet. But I think in March we’re a different team.”
It will be interesting to note the progress the Saints make in coping with pressure and hitting big shots as the season rolls on.

On Thursday, 6-foot-7 Grade 11 forward Drew Urquhart showed just how dominant he will be with more reps at the senior varsity level. He shoots it with range, can drive, and in the paint is an instinctive leaper both on the glass and as a shot blocker.

“I think he is going to be one of the great players,” Disbrow said after Urquhart finished with a team-high 19 points. Tylon Barker and Ethan Scott each scored 14 points in the loss while point guard Deklan Chung added 12.

White Rock Christian 64 Sardis 38
Kitsilano 88 Burnaby South 76
Kelowna 76 St. George’s 72
Vancouver College 83 Sir Winston Churchill 78
Handsworth 75 York House 34
Brooskwood 86 Burnaby South 60
Argyle 69 Fleetwood Park 51
Riverside 76 St. Thomas Aquinas 67
(all games at Vancouver-Sir Winston Churchill)
2:15 p.m. — Handsworth vs. Riverside
4 p.m. — Argyle vs. Brookswood
5:45 p.m. — White Rock Christian vs. Vancouver College
7:15 p.m. — Kelowna vs. Kitsilano
(at UBC-War Memorial Gym)
5:30 p.m. — Girls final
7:15 p.m. — Boys final