Sports

Crusaders opt to move up

Henry Maduabueke (6) of the Holy Cross Crusaders scored 21 points against the Handsworth Royals.  - FILE PHOTO
Henry Maduabueke (6) of the Holy Cross Crusaders scored 21 points against the Handsworth Royals.
— image credit: FILE PHOTO

In a season of change in B.C. boys high school basketball, the Holy Cross Crusaders have made one of the biggest moves.

The small Surrey school has bumped its senior boys team into the highest level of competition, the new Senior AAAA category, and early in the season are proving to be very competitive.

The Crusaders lived up to their number-six ranking in the provincial polls, placing third at the 16-team Telus Classic last week. Holy Cross, a team which placed third in the Senior AA provincial tournament in Kamloops last March, knocked off Surrey rival Panorama Ridge Thunder 72-33 Wednesday then topped the Abbotsford Panthers 88-80 on Thursday. Both games were in Abbotsford.

At Sir Winston Churchill in Vancouver Friday, they lost 57-45 to the host Churchill Bulldogs. They finished the tournament with an 82-68 victory over the Handsworth Royals Saturday night at the University of British Columbia.

“We should have been in the final,” said Crusaders head coach Matt Lechasseur. “We lost a game Friday we could have won.”

In Saturday’s game, Jonathon Kongbo scored 31 points, and was named a tournament all-star. Henry Maduabueke netted 21 points, and received a $1,000 HSBC scholarship. Bright Dododza and Taylor Browne were also standouts for the Crusaders.

“Making the jump from double-A to quad-A, we’re still feeling our way a bit,” said Lechasseur. “But we’ve been working to build up our program. This isn’t for a year or two, we’re planning to stay there. We feel we’re competitive at this level. It seems to be working well so far.”

The Senior AAAA division is new to high school basketball in the province, and was created to address the growing numbers in the highest category. Schools are placed in competitive categories based on student population in Grade 11-12. The larger schools were in Senior AAA, by far the largest category.

“The old triple-A division was 105 teams,” said Kerry Taylor, a teacher at Fleetwood Park Secondary and president of the B.C. Boys Basketball Association. “In Surrey, it grew to the point where a whole new division (league) was added.

“With the new (Senior AAAA) division, we’re back to having 64-68 teams in each group.”

Each group will have its own provincial championship, but unlike in previous years where each would be staged at different venues throughout the province, all four championship tournaments will be 16-team events held at the Langley Events Centre.

“It offers the same championship experience in all four levels of competition,” said Taylor. “With the LEC coming on board, they want to host as many championships as possible. And the kids can play at any level and have the same championship experience.”

While a Senior AA school by population, the Crusaders made the decision to move up to the new Senior AAAA level, considered to be the highest level of competition. But under the new rules, moving back down isn’t as easy. Teams moving up must stay at the higher level for a minimum of two seasons.

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