In the spring of 2015, the Semiahmoo Totems’ senior boys basketball team qualified for B.C. Seniors Boys 4A Basketball Championships, ending a streak of nearly 40 years without a provincial appearance.
Now, two years later, the team has loftier goals.
“We have provincial hopes, and hopes of winning a championship,” said Totems coach Ed Lefurgy, who has entered his fifth year at the helm of the hoops program.
“The best our school has ever done is in 1961, we finished second, and we want to do better than that.”
Semiahmoo’s senior squad has undergone something of a revival under Lefurgy, and head into this season ranked inside the top-10 in provincial preseason rankings.
“That’s the first time we’ve been ranked that high, in the preseason, since I’ve been here, so we’re pretty happy about that,” he said.
In fact, it’s been much longer than five years – decades, likely – since the Totems found themselves a preseason favourite and among the province’s elite hardcourt squads.
That said, they insist they aren’t feeling any extra pressure beyond what they’re already putting upon themselves.
“The bar is set a little higher for our team this year, and we have higher expectations,” said six-foot-four Grade 11 Vlad Mihaila.
“Every practice, every day we just bring our best and work really hard, and I think when the time comes, we’ll be ready.”
The Totems will open the season Wednesday on their home court with a tilt against one of the province’s top team – the Kitsilano Blue Demons, who Lefurgy said are likely one of the three best teams in B.C.
The game – one of a handful for that day, beginning with a Grade 8 battle between the schools – is one of many challenging ones on the Totems’ docket this upcoming season.
The tough strength-of-schedule – which Lefurgy calls “really good” – is by design, as the team aims to test itself against high-level teams so they’re playing as well as they came come playoffs in early spring.
“We’re going to be battle-tested, for sure.”
Aside from the Kitsilano game, the Totems will compete at the Legal Beagle Tournament, which annually features the province’s best squads, while they’ll also hone their skills against U.S. competition. The team has exhibition games on the schedule against teams from throughout Washington and Oregon, in addition to a San Diego trip over the Christmas break.
Even without matchups against such tough competition, Semiahmoo isn’t lacking in big-game experience. A number of key Grade 11s – including Adam Paige and Mihaila – were members of the senior team as Grade 10s, and Grade 12 Brian Wallack is entering his third year on the team, having been a member of the team that qualified for provincials two seasons back.
“I was the backup point guard then, and I got injured in provincials, too,” he explained. “But because I got to experience it, I’ve got extra motivation to get there again. This last summer, I’ve worked really hard and put in the hours to try and make this season as good as possible.”
The incoming Grade 11s also come with a pedigree, having been part of the Totems junior team last year that won the Surrey RCMP Classic. Jordan Chen – MVP of that tournament – is on the senior team this year, as are RCMP all-stars Jas Johal and Cole McAvoy.
“We’ve got a good group of guys, and we have a good balance of ages and skills,” Lefurgy said. “We’ve got some pretty good size. We have a little bit of everything – some size, some athleticism, quickness, some guys who can handle the ball.
“I think we’re a team… that can put up a lot of points, and hopefully in time we’ll be able to defend at a high level as well. We just need to get some games under our belt and get better as the season goes on, as all teams need to.”
The senior boys tip-off Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. against Kitsilano, but the first game of the day, between the school’s Grade 8 boys squads, will begin at 2 p.m.
“We’ll have a lot of stuff going on – we want to fill our gym,” Lefurgy said.