Updated: Mar 7
The word ‘special’ is overused a lot, especially in basketball, but it just might be the perfect word to describe this season’s iteration of the Charles Tupper Tigers.
The Tigers, who didn’t play a game with a full roster until January 27th, have lost only twice in the new year. One loss was to California’s Rolling Hills Prep at the Snowball tournament in Abbotsford, and the other was in the semi-finals of the Robert Bateman tournament to the number-two ranked AAA team in British Columbia, the Vernon Panthers.
The Tigers rolled through the Sea-To-Sky playoffs to get to the provincials, with big wins over Sentinel and Magee in the quarterfinals and semifinals before topping the explosive St. Patrick’s Celtics in the finals, 70-58. The Tigers athletic 6’3’ point guard DJ Laconsay won the MVP award.
At the AAA provincials on Wednesday, the fourth-seeded Tupper was given a big scare by the thirteen-seed A.R. MacNeill Ravens. With a little over four minutes left in the game, the Tigers trailed the Ravens 40-39 when senior forward Derek Le hit a clutch corner three to put the Tigers ahead. Tupper took the lead and didn’t look back. Their defence produced stop after stop, and the Tigers won by a final score of 56-47.
On Thursday in the quarterfinals, it was a rematch of the Sea-To-Sky finals with Tupper pitted against the fifth-seeded St. Patrick’s. The Tigers got off to a 12-2 start and held on to their lead for the rest of the game, although at one point in the fourth quarter the Celtics got it down to a one-point game.
Heckled by a rowdy group of Celtics fans the entire game, the Tigers never wavered. Seniors Laconsay and Le both hit clutch threes down the stretch to give Tupper a 64-60 victory.
The Celtics, led by lightning-quick guards Daniel Marcelo, Justin Macatangay, and Jose Malabanan, are a tough bunch. Tigers head coach Jeff Gourley was impressed with his team’s composure despite the immense pressure from the Celtics and their loud group of fans.
“They were really calm," said Tupper's longtime head coach Jeff Gourley. "It was unbelievable. We went to the free-throw line, and we hit a couple of shots that we really really needed.”
Gourley also spoke highly of a Celtics team that went down with one heck of a battle.
“Their speed is very tough to handle. When they get hot, they can really shoot the ball. And they hit a couple of big threes against us, so we’re just happy we got the win. The score doesn’t matter as long as we get the win.”
6'6' grade-eleven forward Luke Tobias was named Player of the Game as he double-doubled with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Senior guard Noah Basas contributed 11 points and 6'7' senior centre Matthew Dunkerley had six points and an impressive 15 rebounds to round out Tupper's top performers against the Celtics.
Next up for the Tigers in the semifinals are the number one ranked team in the AAA division, the Duchess Park Condors. The Tigers have played the Condors just one time this season, which was back on November 30th at UBC. The Tigers won that matchup 88-74.
“I think [Duchess Park] is a real good matchup for us compared to Vernon and G.W. Graham,” said Gourley. “They’re not as big as us. But they’re incredibly well coached, they run their stuff so well, they’re a spectacular team. There’s a reason they're number one.”
Written by: Aly Dhanani