If the adjustment to playing at a higher level this basketball season is having an adverse effect on the Southridge Storm’s senior boys hoops team this season, they’ve yet to show evidence of it.
The senior squad – which for years has played at the AA level – made the jump to AAA this season, and has wasted little time making its mark against new competition.
Last weekend, at the Tsumura Basketball Invitational, the Storm stunned the competition at the Langley Events Centre en route to a first-place finish. During their run to the title, they knocked off not only some of the province’s top AAA squads, but a few highly ranked quad-A teams, as well.
Southridge defeated quad-A No. 9-ranked Holy Cross 92-78 in the championship game, one day after a dramatic come-from-behind overtime win over Vancouver’s Winston Churchill, the No. 2 team in a quad-A rankings.
“It was a lot of fun to get to compete against some bigger schools. We looked at it as a challenge, and thankfully we were up for it,” said Storm coach Steve Anderson. “I’m glad we were able to hold our own. I think this win was big for our program, and our school.”
Against Holy Cross, Southridge trailed 20-6 midway through the first quarter but quickly changed course and went on a 13-5 run themselves to get back into the game.
From there, senior forward Hunter Hughes took over. The six-foot-eight forward finished the game with 42 points, 21 rebounds and four blocked shots en route to being named the tournament MVP.
Against Churchill in semifinals, he also had 42 points.
“He had some massive games,” Anderson said of his star forward.
Anderson also heaped praise upon Dominic Clayton and Matthew Andreou – who along with Hughes make up what Anderson called “our big three.
“Dom had a couple great games for us, and Matt was really big in the final,” Anderson said.
In recent years, Southridge has routinely been among the province’s top AA teams – they placed third in the province last season – and while the move to AAA has gone smoothly so far, Anderson said making the jump had less to do with seeking better competitive and more to do with logistics.
The AA divisions were re-aligned prior to the season, and staying put would have seen Southridge travel as far away as Chilliwack for league games, which is something Anderson said he’d rather avoid.
As well, the new league provides a challenge for a team the longtime coach calls “the deepest we’ve ever had.”
The adjustment has also been helped by the fact that the Storm have faced plenty of tough competition through the years, in tournament and exhibition contests.
“We’ve been pretty good for a number of years, and we’ve had the ability to develop our program slowly. Maybe we’re down one year, but then we’re back the next,” Anderson said.
“And this year, our team is very skilled, very athletic, very dedicated – they want to excel.”
Anderson expects to stay at the AAA longterm, no matter how AA divisions are aligned in the future.
“That’s the plan – to be here. We have a longterm plan to develop our players on our younger teams, so that we’re competitive every year,” he explained.
“That way you can see down the line; players are coming.”
The Storm will head south for San Diego after Christmas, for an eight-day trip that will see them play some of the top teams in Southern California. Once they return home, they – along with other senior boys teams from throughout the city – will prepare for the Surrey RCMP Classic.