Surrey’s Holy Cross boys basketball team after winning the Legal Beagle tournament in Port Coquitlam on Saturday (Jan. 12). (Photo: Twitter.com/TFSAthletics)

BASKETBALL: Holy Cross boys head into BC Catholics on a tourney-winning high

Home-court advantage for Fleetwood-area school teams this week

With some home cooking on the menu this week, the Holy Cross boys basketball team is on a hot streak.

The team sizzled on Saturday night (Jan. 12) in winning the high-profile Jonathan Taylor Legal Beagle Invitational Tournament in Port Coquitlam, where they fried Oak Bay 73-58 in the final at Terry Fox Secondary.

This week, the Fleetwood-area school plays host to the long-running BC Catholics Basketball Championships, which involves 18 boys and girls teams, starting Wednesday (Jan. 16).

Holy Cross head coach Anthony Pezzente said that while his team is gelling right now, it’s still too early for his boys to be playing “peak basketball,” with playoffs on the horizon.

“I think we’re well on our way to understanding what our peak basketball can be and what that looks like,” Pezzente said Tuesday.

“We see that in spurts right now but it’s just not consistent enough for four quarters,” he added. “We haven’t really played at that really high level for a full game yet, and to be honest I’m glad we’re not doing that yet, because if we’re doing that right now, there’s no way to improve and get better. We still have close to a month of playoffs. We’re on our way there, just not there yet, but that’s a good thing for mid-January.”

At the Legal Beagle tourney, Holy Cross’ Michael Risi earned Player of the Game honours in the championship game, and was also named Top Defensive Player for the tournament and a first-team all-star. The tourney’s Most Valuable Player was Uyi Ologhola, and fellow Crusader Brent Padilla earned second-team all-star recognition.

Last fall, at the start of the high school basketball season, some Holy Cross players were still playing football with the Crusaders, in Subway Bowl playoffs at BC Place Stadium.

“We had four guys playing football and they made it to the second last weekend of the season, in the provincial finals, so we entered our (basketball) season with really only having two full practices as a team, so there were some initial struggles early,” Pezzente explained.

“The first month was a lot of learning for us, and we had a lot to improve upon and we weren’t as good as we thought we were, and some other people thought we were, but it turned out to be really beneficial for us because the guys kind of bought in and worked hard, and we improved a lot of things.

“I still think we have a lot to improve upon, and we’re still not there yet, in terms of how good we can be and want to be, but we’re coming along nicely and we’re at a good point right now.”

• RELATED STORY: Surrey’s Holy Cross boys take BC Catholics championship for third year in a row, from January 2018.

At the 30th annual BC Catholics last January, Holy Cross won the tourney title for a third year in a row after defeating Vancouver College 61-52 in the final. The two teams have faced each other in the championship game three years running, with the Crusaders victorious every time.

In the 2018 girls final, St. Thomas Aquinas beat St. Thomas More by a score of 49-37.

“We’ve been hosting it (the BC Catholics) forever,” Pezzente said. “It’s a fun tournament, because it’s not just about basketball, and there’s so much emotion in this tournament, especially for our kids because it’s in our gym. The stands are packed and there’s a lot of energy in the games.

“It’s a marathon for the players,” he added, “and by the end of it they’re exhausted, emotionally drained as well, you know. It’s nerve-wracking playing in front of 800 of your friends and fellow students. But that pressure is good because come February and the playoffs, that kind of pressure will be there for us.”

On the web, look for BC Catholics scores and schedules at holycross.bc.ca/catholics2019, and tourney updates at twitter.com/BC_Catholics.

Because of the timing of the BC Catholics tournament, Holy Cross won’t compete in this week’s Surrey RCMP Classic, which kicked off Sunday (Jan. 13). The all-Surrey boys basketball tournament involves close to 650 student athletes, at school gyms across the city.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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