The Ballenas Whalers senior boys basketball team started their season off on the right foot this past weekend in North Vancouver.
Seeing their first action of the season, the Whalers were at the Sutherland Sabres Holiday Classic where they came away with first place.
In the final, the Whalers beat a tough McMath (Richmond) 63-59. The McMath Wildcats were in the number 10 spot in the AAA pre-season rankings, while the Whalers weren’t even on the radar to start the season.
“That was a big win,” coach Kevin McMillen said. “McMath was a tough team but we were able to play some great, confident basketball in that final.”
“The boys played to their strengths, slowing the game down when we needed to and made sure that we took care of the ball. To see them playing that level of basketball this early in the season is pretty great,” McMillen said.
“I can’t remember the last time I started off a season 3-0 with a team, so they’re playing in a position that we weren’t expecting right away, but we’ll take it.”
Aaron Paetkau — who averaged close to 20 points a game and hauled in double digits in rebounds each game — took home tournament MVP honours for the Whalers.
Senior Darian Mant, averaging a double-double per game, and Grade 11 standout Liviano Canil also earned tournament all-star honours for their efforts throughout.
“We played such a different style of game than the other teams,” McMillen said. “Those teams we faced ran the floor at full speed and were putting up a lot of threes. We’re a bigger team compared to a lot of schools, so we play at a slower pace.”
“When we tried to run with those teams, we coughed up the ball for turnovers,” McMillen said. “But we were able to get what we wanted, we slowed the pace right down and took care of the ball real well, I was very impressed with how much we shared the ball on the floor.”
Brendan Harstaad led the Whalers in scoring with 19 points in the tournament opener, where they beat McNair (Richmond) by a score of 89-62.
In their second game, the Whalers beat Sir Charles Tupper (Vancouver) 79-36. Tupper was also an honourable mention to start off the season in the AAA rankings.
“You couldn’t ask for a better start to a season,” McMillen said. “Playing these games against some of the bigger schools on the Lower Mainland is always a good test to see where you’re at to start the year off.”
“To come in and play against two teams that are getting the attention they were getting in the pre-season, as far as rankings go, is pretty good for us.”
The Whalers will now shift their attention to their first home game, and league game, of the season tonight (Dec. 8) against the Barsby Bulldogs from Nanaimo.
It will be a busy December for the Whalers, who will also host the Wellington Wildcats and play their cross-town rivalry game against the Kwalikum Kondors on December 17.