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The Rutland Voodoos will be in a familiar position when they open the 2018 B.C. School Sports provincial quad-A boys basketball championship against the Semiahmoo Totems of Surrey on Wednesday.
They’ll go into the 16-team tournament as distinct underdogs.
In the draw released on Sunday, the Voodoos — upset winners over the Kelowna Owls in the Okanagan Valley championship tournament final a weekend earlier — are seeded 11th and will meet the No. 6 Totems in the opening game at the Langley Events Centre Arena Bowl beginning at 8:30 a.m.
“This is nothing new for us,” said Rutland’s head coach, Jeff Balkenhol, of the Voodoos’ meeting with one of the top teams in the first game of a tournament. “Anytime we go down to the Coast, we’re seeded pretty low and have to go up against a highly ranked team right out of the chute.
“But the boys are okay with that. The ball will be thrown up and we’ll see what happens.”
The Voodoos, never ranked among the top 10 — or top 20 for that matter — during the season, will be meeting a team that is considered a legitimate contender for this year’s provincial title despite the No. 6 ranking. Semiahmoo was ranked No. 2 in the province for a good part of the season
The Totems feature a dynamic duo in 6’8” Adam Paige and 6’4” Vlad Milaila, who averaged about 20 points and 15 rebounds and 25 points and eight rebounds respectively.
At the Kelowna Secondary School’s Western Canada tournament in early February, Semiahmoo defeated the Kelowna Owls 75-64 without Milaila in the lineup. Ario Katchooi picked up the slack and scored 27 points against KSS.
The Totems won two of three games at the Western Canada. After losing their opener against then honourable mention W.J. Mouat Hawks — again without Milaila — they defeated the then No. 9 Owls and No. 3 (AAA) South Kamloops.
But Balkenhol and the Voodoos are paying much more attention to their own game than their opponents' as they prepare for the trip to Langley.
“The whole year we’ve said ‘let’s get better at what we do,’” Balkenhol told KelownaNow’s Kent Molgat last week. “We focus on what we do and don’t really concentrate on what the other teams do.
“If we just focus on any weakness in our game, we’ll be ready to play anybody.”
Balkenhol said the Voodoos are “super excited and fired up” going into the provincial tournament, although it won’t be the first time for most of the Voodoos playing at the Langley Events Centre. They were there as Grade 10s at the provincial junior tournament and finished with a 3-2 record.
As a side note on the Voodoos’ surprising win over the Owls at the Valley championship tournament, it was widely reported that it was the first senior boys Okanagan title for Rutland since 1977.
A research by KelownaNow however, has revealed that the Owls defeated the Voodoos in the Valley final that year. Ironically it was considered an upset at the time.
Part of the confusion concerning the misinformation might be attributed to the fact that the Voodoos indeed had an exceptional team that year. Led by the likes of Ken Anderson, David Leadbetter and Bob Osborne, they had earlier won the Western Canada tournament in ’77 (Anderson was the MVP) and went on to play at the provincial tournament.
Because the Okanagan featured three of the top-10 teams in the province that season (Penticton was the other), the zone was awarded two berths at the B.C. championship. Rutland finished ahead of KSS at the provincial tournament.
Some have suggested that it might have been in 1976 that the Voodoos last won a Valley championship, but according to reports in the Western Canada tournament program and in newspaper reports that year, the Owls won the Valley in ’76 as well.
Official records seem not to exist and the refurbished Valley trophy doesn’t have the original plaques, so there is still the question out there as to whether this is the first time Rutland has won the Okanagan Valley senior boys pennant/trophy.
Can anyone enlighten us?