Parksville’s Whalers set for AAA hoops playoffs

Ballenas Seconday School’s senior boys basketball team made the most of its final two home games this week.

James Smith knocks down a fadeaway jumper against the Armada on Wednesday.

James Smith knocks down a fadeaway jumper against the Armada on Wednesday.

Ballenas Seconday School’s senior boys basketball team made the most of its final two home games this week, as the blue and white blasted the Armada 91-43 Wednesday evening, and then carved up the Thunderbirds 83-51 Thursday morning.

The bleachers were full and the cheering loud for both games.

On Wednesday, the smile that crept across the face of BJ Bouchard when he dropped in a long-range bucket seconds before the first half buzzer said it all, and the special bond of high school athletics punctuated by his teammates swarming him in front of their bench, tussling his hair and slapping him on the back.

“It was nice to see,” Whalers’ coach Bob Dean said after the game. “They’re starting to play for each other like we talked about last week. Everybody (all 13 players) scored … they’re having fun out there.”

Against Alberni, Ballenas scored the games’ first two baskets and never looked back, leading 25-18 after the first, 44-18 at the half, and 71-31 after three. The Whalers’ longest run of the game was a 15 point romp in the end of the third and start of the fourth.

Matt Yochim led the way with 15 points and lots of steals. Bouchard and Dustin Rodriguez both came in at 13, and Darcy MacKenzie was good for 10. Colton Reelie contributed off the bench with nine points.

“I was very pleased with the teamwork, with the passing and ball movement,” said Dean. “I think we’ve shown improvement in our defensive play, and we’re going the right direction. We still have some work to do, but we’re doing okay.”

The Whalers were aggressive on D and created a number of turnovers.

“Matt, Nigel, Alex, Jordan Shorthouse; they all contributed a lot on defence. It was a good team effort, but we’re going to be in tough against Vanier Thursday night. We’ll be working hard to get ready for that game,” said Dean.

On Thursday, the Whalers picked up where they left off and beat Brooks from Powell River handily.

“We had an unbelievable game out of Alex Dunbar — he had four three pointers,” coach Dean chuckled shortly after, pointing out the senior forward led the charge with a career high 27 points.

James Smith chipped in with 17 points and Yochim dialled up a dozen.

“It was another good effort. We started off sloppy in the second and let Brooks work their way back in the game (they closed it to 24-18 midway through the second) but we got it together and pulled away.”

The back-to-back wins lifts Ballenas to 4-1 in league play. The squad travelled to GP Vanier in Courtenay Thursday night to take on the undefeated 5-0 Towhees in their final regular season game (score unavailable at press time).

All this, in preparation for the AAA Sr. Boys North Island Championships slated for Wellington (Nanaimo) Feb. 24-26. The top four from the eight team tourney automatically advance to the Islands in Victoria with the fifth on the bubble in a wildcard game.

As for the Whalers’ back to back blowouts, “I’m really happy for them,” said Dean. “I’m glad they played like that in front of their fans. It was cool.”