There will be plenty of action on the hardwood for the next three days at Ballenas Secondary School, as the Whalers senior boys basketball team hosts the AAA North Island tournament.
Nine teams will be in action, starting at 2 p.m. today (Feb. 18) as the Whalers take on Carihi (Campbell River), with the top five teams advancing to the Island tournament next weekend in Nanaimo.
There’s plenty of talent and good basketball to go along with it, as powerhouse schools NDSS and Wellington (both Nanaimo), along with the Whalers, will be in the mix.
Also in the mix will be the number two ranked team in B.C., Mark Isfeld (Courtenay), who have had a very strong season with very few losses to their name.
“Lot’s of good teams in the mix at this tournament,” Whalers head coach Kevin McMillen said. “Isfeld is the clear favourite at the top, but after that it’s wide open.”
“We’ve got five berths to the Island tournament, so teams have a good chance at getting there. We’ve just got to play a good team game, like I know these guys can, and we should be alright. They’ve got the talent to win games, it’s just a matter of using it the right way.”
The Whalers picked up a key 63-57 win over the Woodlands Eagles (Nanaimo) in their final league game, putting the finishing touches on a 4-4 league record and third place overall.
Bench play was significant in this game for the Whalers as they were without Darian Mant and Brenden Harstad due to injury.
Starters Aaron Paetkau and Liviano Canil were in foul trouble throughout the game, both fouling out in the fourth quarter. Senior Andy Reynolds stepped up and contributed for the Whalers, helping them close out the win.
“It was good to see the bench step up,” McMillen said.
“Having a few guys out of the lineup and then losing two starters in a game that fouled out, we needed the bench to come up big for us and they did,” coach McMillen said. “They’ve been getting better and better for us as the season goes along, which is exactly what any good team needs to win games.”
With injuries to a few senior players, the Whalers have picked up two junior players.
“The boys are confident heading into the tournament. Confidence is good, it’ll help them be ready for the opener today. Hopefully we’ll be able to get those guys back in the lineup that are hurt right now in time for the Islands at least. But we’ve got to make it there first. This team is capable of getting there, they’ve shown it at various times through the season, so I’m hoping they can put it all together and show what they’re capable of.”