The Ballenas Whalers senior boys basketball team shook off whatever rust was remaining from the Christmas break at the 61st annual Totem Tournament in Port Alberni.
Coming off a loss to a tough, provincially-ranked NDSS Islander (Nanaimo) team last Thursday (66-37), the Whalers headed over the hump to take part in the tournament last weekend.
After looking rather rusty against the Islanders last Thursday night, the Whalers showed no signs of rust throughout the Totem Tournament, coming up just short in the final against the Isfeld Ice (Comox) 58-40.
“Our numbers just caught up with us,” head coach Kevin McMillen said. “We did a lot of great things over the weekend. We played some really good basketball after that game against NDSS but we just ran out of steam.”
“Having eight players at a tournament will do that to a team, it doesn’t matter who it is. When you’ve got a short bench, it makes things that much tougher. But I’m happy with the way the team came together. They played some great team basketball through the weekend.”
Kicking off the tournament against Edward Milne (Sooke), the Whalers were in a tight battle, being down 29-26 at the half. The Whalers would bear down and come away with a 64-44 win.
Aaron Paetkau led the way on the score sheet in the first game, putting up 18 points. Brendan Harstad had 17 points while Darian Mant chipped in with 12 points, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter.
“We were up 10-1 early in the first,” McMillen said. “Edward Milne stormed back and had us at the half. But we hung in there and kept playing good team basketball. It was close to start the fourth and then Darian hit two threes in a row and that really put the distance between us needed to get the win.”
Their second game against the Woodlands Eagles was a shootout. The Whalers had a 40-38 lead at halftime and would blow it wide open in the second half against the Eagles, winning by a score of 92-64. Paetkau scored 32 points for the Whalers, Mant had 17 and Liviano Canil scored 15 points.
“That was a wild game,” McMillen said. “Woodlands had one player who scored three-quarters of their points, so we’re lucky that’s the way it went. I thought we spread the ball well and guys were getting good looks all game. We were just able to capitalize on our chances a little better than their team was.”
After seeing the Eagles at the Totem Tournament, McMillen knows things aren’t going to be as easy the second time around when the teams meet on Tuesday evening (tonight, 7 p.m. in the Ballenas Secondary School gym on Pym Street).
“We’ve got some things to work on,” McMillen said. “We’ve got to get better at being consistent with the way we play our game. If we can put it together like the first two games of the Totem tournament, we’ll beat teams like Woodlands that we need to beat in order to get in a good spot in the standings.”