Kitsilano Blue Demons take Telus Classic; Handsworth captures girls title

Sunday, December 9, 2012 – Submitted by Elliott Pap, Vancouver Sun


(l-r) North Shore rival Argyle Pipers # Sophie Swant battle Handsworth Royals #14 Lianna Rushworth during second half 2012 title at the Telus Classic high school girls basketball tournament championships at UBC’s War Memorial Gym in Vancouver on Saturday, December 08, 2012.

Photograph by: Les Bazso , PNG

VANCOUVER – The Kitsilano Blue Demons left the Telus Classic the same way they entered it: as the No. 1 team in B.C. senior boys’ high school basketball.

Kitsilano was pushed hard Saturday night in the Telus final at UBC but finally subdued the White Rock Christian Academy Warriors 81-70 behind the sublime 27-point performance of 6-1 point guard Justin Sze. The slender Grade 12 student rained four treys on the Warriors in the first quarter alone and, when he wasn’t sticking daggers into them with his shooting, he was doing it with his passing.

The Blue Demons are 9-0 on the young season and they’ve already beaten No. 2 Yale and No. 3 WRCA. They won all four games in the Telus tourney by double digits. They’ll have a bull’s-eye on them now, but they don’t mind a bit.

“We’re really looking forward to it,” said Sze. “Every team in the province is going to try and beat us and we’re ready.”

What may scare every team in the province was a declaration from Kits coach Randy Coutts that the best is yet to come.

“We’re getting better and better as time progresses,” he said. “I was really impressed with our team play in this tournament. It’s not just one guy, it’s coming from five or six guys. I think that’s the beauty of our team this year. We’re getting contributions from everybody.

“We’ve had some success and teams are coming after us, right? We’ll just have to raise our game to the next level. But these kids here are a very special group. They play for each other and it’s really nice to see. It was an awesome job.”

In addition to Sze’s 27, the Blue Demons also received 18 points from Jonathan Kongbo and 12 from Noah Derappard-Yuswack. Luka (The Bazooka) Zaharijevic, Kitsilano’s imposing 6-8 post, was double- and triple-teamed most of the night and finished with just nine points.

“White Rock did a great job inside against us but our team is just so good at outside shooting and getting open on the cuts,” said The Bazooka. “Justin Sze was amazing. He was hot, especially in the first half, and he kept his composure the whole night. He was player of the game, in my mind.”

Like Sze, Zaharijevic is relishing the challenge of being challenged every night.

“Definitely all the underdogs will be chasing us now,” he said. “I look forward to it. I enjoy playing every team and battling with them.”

Tyus Allen led the Warriors with 20 points while Vartan Tanielian added 15. WRCA actually held a 58-57 advantage late in the third quarter before Kongbo netted five straight points to put the Demons ahead for keeps.

“Kitsilano played a great game tonight and their point guard shot very well,” said losing coach Dale Shury. “They’re ranked No. 1 in the province right now and I think they’ve earned it and deserve that privilege. It’s still early in the season and it’s who ends up No. 1 in March, but this tournament does help set the landscape. It’s an awesome experience for our guys to come out here, play to a big crowd under the bright lights and get ready for March.”

In the girls’ final, an all-North Shore affair, the Handsworth Royals prevailed over the Argyle Pipers 53-46. Elisa Homer sunk a game-high 25 points for the winners but it was backcourt partner Abby Dixon who drained two crucial treys in the final four minutes to pull Handsworth back from a 46-43 deficit. The Royals finished the game on a 10-0 run.

“It’s funny about Abby,” said victorious coach Scott Palmer. “We were saying her shot looked off most of the game. She wasn’t hitting her pull-up jumper and her legs were dead tired and then she hit those two huge threes. It was so special with the way the girls came through.

“There were times when it looked like we were going down the wrong path and then it looked like Argyle was going down the wrong path,” Palmer continued. “I thought we really sucked it up the last four minutes. We played some great defence, we got the huge threes and then our defence came through. Winning this tournament is a great way to start the season.”

The Handsworth and Argyle girls have played with and against each growing up so it was often friends against friend Saturday.

“We know each other really well, what our strengths are and what are weaknesses are,” Dixon said. “Every single time we play them, it’s a really good game and it’s a really fun game to play.”

Dixon finished with 11 points while Chelsea Dekleer and Claire Elliott, whose older brother Stefan plays pro hockey in the Colorado Avalanche system, had 13 points apiece for the Pipers.

Third-place on the boys’ side went to the Kelowna Owls, who defeated the Vancouver College Fighting Irish 82-70. The Owls were led by the 25-point performance of Grade 11 forward Buster (Buzz) Truss. Christian Mair had 21 for the Irish.

In the girls’ third- and fourth-place game, Langley’s Brookswood Bobcats defeated the Riverside Rapids of Port Coquitlam 79-67.