No matter how you frame it, March madness was the ultimate ride for the Burnaby South Rebels.
A team that rode a basketball rollercoaster over the previous three months, the Rebels overcame a lot of obstacles and tests to carry away the ultimate prize by beating the Semiahmoo Totems 80-72 in the final at the Langley Events Centre.
Burnaby South entered as the underdogs, having been seeded eighth at the start of the tourney after qualifying with the third-and last berth from the Lower Mainlands. But they held the hammer through the final, leading by 10 after one quarter and five at halftime. It was an 11-point advantage entering the final quarter, and while the Totems pressed to make it a closer contest, the Rebels maintained their edge right to the end.
It was the school’s third B.C. crown, and first since 1979.
“In the locker room, we knew not a lot of people expected us to win, but we were going to give our absolute best,” remarked South’s post player and tourney MVP Jusuf Sehic, on the team’s quarter-final upset of No. 1 Oak Bay. “We respected (Oak Bay), but we were not afraid of them at all. We knew they were No. 1 going in, but as quoted by one of our coaches (Dave Smith), ‘Why not us?’”
In the semifinal they downed Belmont 70-55.
Sasha Vujisic, a Grade 11 forward, earned a first all-star team spot, while fellow freshman guard Jiordano Khan was selected to the second team.
South did a masterful job of regrouping after their loss in the Burnaby-New West league final, 90-66 to arch nemesis and 3-A Byrne Creek.
Burnaby’s Josipa Kafadar was eager for a second chance.
Competing in her second world junior taekwondo championships, she had a good grip on what was in store – competitively, externally.
She showed her prep work down to the final, where she gave a valiant push before settling for silver on the world stage.
Kafadar, an Alpha Secondary student, finished second in the 49-kilogram division, losing 8-7 to Vietnam’s Thi Kim Ngan Ho.
“When you are in a different country it’s just, it puts a little more pressure, (and) you feel a little less comfortable. You feel more uncomfortable and a bit more pressure, but I got to overcome it in this tournament and I’m proud of that,” she said.
A year earlier, the Burnaby native was on home turf when the worlds were played out at the Bill Copeland Sports Complex.
A new coach at school and a new outlook helped pilot St. Thomas More wrestlers Gabriella Bellini and Amanda Silveri to provincial gold at the B.C. high school wrestling championships in March.
Bellini was inspired early after the program faced some upheaval, with Max Arcand taking over the coaching duties held by long-time coach Doug Corbett, who left to teach and coach at Terry Fox Secondary. Coming off a third-place result the previous year, Bellini entered the 64kg final against Cowichan’s Stepanie Mould with the typical butterflies.
“I used my head, really planned out my match while I was wrestling and defended what I knew was coming,” said Bellini.
Silveri, also in Grade 11, captured the 110kg division title by besting West Van’s Trinity Davies with a takedown at 2:04 of their final. The win earned her a second straight B.C. title.
Successful chemistry was what the Mountain United u15 girls soccer team proved to have, wrapping up their season in October by beating Lakeshore 2-1 to claim the Canada Soccer national title.
The team, which is made up of elite players from Burnaby and the North Shore, went 5-0 at the Quebec-hosted national tourney. The premier division team, which draws players from Burnaby and the North Shore, edged Lakeshore on a pair of goals from Syah Mangat.
“I’m still in a bit of shock,” head coach Lee Tregonning told the North Shore News. “It’s still setting in, to be honest. We’re only six years old as a club, with 240 kids maximum at the club, and then to go in and not just beat, but outplay clubs that are 12,000 kids large, it’s pretty spectacular. We played really good football. We call it the Mountain way – it wasn’t a kick-fest, it was outplay an opponent, outfight them, out battle team. It was just amazing.”
Hard work, determination and heartbreak wrapped up a memorable season for the Byrne Creek senior boys basketball team.
As the No. 1-ranked 3-A school entering the provincial championships, all eyes were on the Bulldogs. They delivered by marching all the way to the championship final, where South Kamloops prevailed 74-66.
The final was a showdown between the top-two rated programs, with the No. 2 Titans staking out a 26-10 lead but facing a furious Byrne Creek rally. The Burnaby squad tied it 59-59 early in the fourth quarter. But a 15-7 run by Kamloops over the final handful of minutes clinched it.
Martin Djunga proved 25 points, while Bithow Wan contributed 16 points and 13 rebounds in the final.
Byrne Creek showed that they could come from behind when they erased a five-point deficit in the semifinal en route to beating North Delta. Djunga and Wan were named to the first all-star team, while Majok Deng was voted the Best Defensive Player.
For a second straight year, Byrne Creek entered the provincials on a big bounce as the Lower Mainland champions.