Condors come home with provincial silver

The storyline was 40 years in the making.

It was 40 years ago the Duchess Park Condors stunned the provincial high school basketball world as the first team from outside the Lower Mainland ever to win the higher-tier B.C. crown.  Reunited for the 75th anniversary of the B.C. High School Boys Basketball Association, that 1980 team paid a visit to the Duchess Park locker-room at Langley Events Centre Friday. Their show of support came right after the current squad of Condors beat  Sir Charles Tupper Tigers in the triple-A boys semifinal to book their ticket into the Saturday’s championship game.

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The Condors carried the weight as the top-ranked triple-A team in B.C. ever since January, when they beat the G.W. Graham Grizzlies by 20 points in the final of  the St. Thomas More Chancellor Invitational in Burnaby. They just had to beat the Grizzlies one more time to bring the provincial banner back to Prince George.

Easier said than done. Frustrated by the Grizzlies twin towers in Saturday’s championship game, the Condors lost 79-67 and came home with the silver medal.

“They played their best game at the right time and unfortunately we didn’t have our best game, but I’m so proud of the boys, they fought to the very end,” said Condors head coach Jordan Yu. “I feel blessed to be working with this group.”

Leading 34-27 at the half, the Chilliwack-based Grizzlies stunned the Condors with a 12-0 surge to start the second half, holding Duchess Park off the scoreboard for the first five minutes of the third quarter and they never recovered. Down by as much as 25, the Condors reduced the gap to eight with three minutes left, but that’s a close as they got.

Matthias Klim, at six-foot-10, and his six-foot-nine twin brother Zach, cast large shadows over the Condors in the final. Together they shot 11-for-17 from the field, with 24 combined points and 25 rebounds. Matthias hit for 14 points and was voted the tournament’s top defensive player.

“We played them in January and had an unbelievable game when we beat them, we scored 108 points and shot 20 threes and that’s a key to beating a team like that,” said Yu. “You need to be able to shoot the ball well from the outside just to stress them out and pull their bigs out. The minute you let them set that 2-3 zone, it’s really tough to get an inside basket against them. That’s an NBA-sized front line and the boys struggled to score inside. They had three solid guard and they shot unbelievably well.”

Tournament MVP Clay Kurtz led the Grizzlies with 24 points and 12 rebounds.

First-team all-stars Caleb Lyons, with 25 points, and Jackson Kuc, who finished 24, led the Condor cause. Tony Zejnulahovic picked  up 12 rebounds and his twin brother Emir, part of the second all-star team with teammate Connor Lewis, collected 11 points in the final.

Last year in the provincial tournament, Duchess defeated Graham 72-64 in the quarterfinal, before losing a one-point game to North Delta in the semifinals.

Duchess Park last won a provincial championship in 2006 when they were a double-A team. Yu said his team was inspired by the visit with the 1980 squad.

“That was amazing experience, just to have them down there,” said Yu. “They did a big special on Global TV and that 1980 team got to speak to all the guys to tell them about their experiences and what they’re doing now. We just hoped to get it done for them while they were down there but it just didn’t go our way.”

The Condors will lose six Grade 12s and three starters from this season – Lewis, Kuc and Emir Zejnulahovic – but have a solid core of returnees good enough to make them contenders for the provincial crown next year.

“We do have some great Grade 11s coming back, Caleb (Lyons) and Tanner (Cruz) and we’re getting bigger and more athletic with our posts next year (Aidan Lewis and Aedan Aksenchuk), and with (Grade 10s) Cole Laing and  Aidan Lewis  coming up, they’re hungry to get back at it,” said Yu.

In other provincial results in Langley, the Cedars Christian Eagles finished seventh, ending their season with a 92-83 win over Glenlyon-Norfolk. Evan Staves was the big gun in the Eagles’ backcourt, sinking 32 points, while Mitchell Crosina had a 22-point, five-assist game.

The D.P. Todd Trojans ended up with an 89-59 loss to Clarence Fulton in the consolation round. Cameron Sale, a graduating senior point guard, shot a game-high 28 points in his final high school game. Sale was selected a second-team all-star.

The Prince George Polars were defeated 83-76 by Mount Baker in their final game on the consolation side. Jordan Foster picked up 20 points in that game for PGSS. The Polars won the most sportsmanlike team trophy.


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