HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: Tweedsmuir sets provincial standard

CLOVERDALE — The best way to gauge whether a program is working is judging how successful it is. If that’s the case, Lord Tweedsmuir is leading the way.

The Panthers sent a Fraser Valley-best six teams to the provincial basketall championships this season, including their senior boys, who haven’t qualified since 1953.

Mike Mitro, an athletic director at the Cloverdale school, said the success comes from strong coaching at all levels.

"I think there has been a lot of hard work being done, (and) we’ve kind of had more consistency from the bottom to top of our coaching. That’s helped the higher programs as we’re going through.

"We were after programs that developed starting in elementary school and push all the way through," he added. "Hopefully you’re just seeing that now and (it’s) going to continue."

One of the big changes the Panthers have made is running the same systems throughout the program, so when players get a new coach, nothing changes.

Mitro said this means the team doesn’t have to alter its playing style as it jumps from junior to senior or goes to new coaches.

The athletic director was in charge of the senior girls’ team this season and was one win away from making the provincials.

Drew Gallacher is the head coach of the Grade 8 boys’ team that took the Surrey and Fraser Valley banners before winning bronze at last weekend’s provincial championships.

The team was undefeated after getting players back from the provincial-champion football team, and has won the Surrey and the Fraser Valley championships.

Gallacher, who won a Grade 8 B.C. title at Tamanawis in 2004, said this team has no limit to how far they could go.

"There is no limit to this team because there’s a great balance between excellence and work ethic. When you have that, there’s no ceiling. Not only that, but they’re thirsty for knowledge," he said.

This group is a little extra special for the social studies teacher as his son, Jacob, and friend Bill Ruby. The latter, who was at the hospital the day Jacob was born, came out of retirement to coach alongside Gallacher for a second time.

"There’s nobody better than coach Ruby at individual skill development," Gallacher said. "He is the best I’ve ever been around, and I’m just very fortunate to have a man with that much wisdom and that much knowledge to be able to give time at his age to come back out of retirement. It shows you how special this group of boys is."

The coach added the unity this group of coaches has is part of the reason the entire program was successful this year.

"Because we speak the same language and play the same systems, we can go and knock on each other’s doors and ask, ‘What would you do in this situation?’" he said.

"It’s very easy for other coaches within the program to be able to help others. And not only are people willing to take help, which is a rarity, people also have the knowledge to give the help. It’s a good balance."

Mitro said the school has 35 teacher-coaches and a goal for next season is for every basketball team to qualify for provincials.

kyle.benning@gmail.com

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