Teachers may be on strike, but that won't keep the G.W. Graham Grizzlies from taking to the court in their first game at the AA Provincial Boys Basketball Championships in Kamloops Wednesday.
"I've got a basketball team where 95 per cent of them are Grade 12s," said Graham coach Jake Mouritzen to the Times in September when his union's job action first began. "They started here in Grade 7. Their goal for six years has been to win the provincial championship this year. There's no way that I'm going to allow those boys to miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Mouritzen's vow, which earned him some heat from union colleagues, looks ready to be fulfilled despite the fact that teachers will be three days into a full-blown walkout when his team takes to the court.
B.C. School Sports decided to go ahead with winter season provincial championships in basketball, gymnastics and curling despite the strike for the sake of the 1,300 student-athletes set to compete-and because of the money that's already been invested.
"There's been a whole lot of money paid for all of these facilities and a lot of lead time and leg work that's gone into it, so they're going ahead as scheduled," said B.C. School Sports executive director Sue Keenan.
The B.C. Teachers' Federation has since given teacher-coaches the go-ahead to keeping coaching during the provincial championships despite the strike.
"We won't put aside a whole year's worth of work from a team," said Chilliwack Teachers' Association president Katharin Midzain. "We're allowing provincial basketball because [the strike] happens to coincide with the week that they are having the tournament. If it wasn't, if the tournament was in a week or two, we'd be saying please cancel your practices."
The Grizzlies tip off what should be an easy first round match up against Charles Hays from Prince Rupert at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Thompson Rivers University, but coach Mouritzen isn't taking any teams for granted.
"We can't take anyone lightly at the provincial championships," he said. "Every team is good there. We are planning for a first round battle."
Mouritzen predicts the Grizzlies will meet 10th-ranked Windsor from North Vancouver in the secondary round.
"They have one of the best players in the province and a very good back court," he said.
Provided Graham gets past their first two opponents, they would likely face either fourth-ranked St. Thomas More or sixthranked St. Michael's in the semi-final.
"Both of these teams are very good," he said. "This game will be a battle and if we can get to the semifinal, we will be ready to play either squad."
In a best-case scenario, the championship final on Saturday would see the Grizzlies exact revenge on the top-ranked Mission Roadrunners for beating them in the Fraser Valley final.
"We want nothing more than to get a second chance against Mission in the final," said Mouritzen. "We believe they were the best they can be in the Fraser Valley final. We believe we were 70 per cent in that same game. We want to show the province we can beat them. We believe we can and will if we are given this opportunity."