Paul Yates, Vancouver Sports Pictures
Even fighting a cold, it wasn’t hard to hear the excitement in Jon Acob’s voice.
With McMath Secondary’s junior boys’ basketball team set to face Vancouver College Fighting Irish in semifinal play tonight (Feb. 25) at 8 p.m. at the provincial championships in Langley, the veteran bench boss wasn’t at a loss for words.
“These are good times,” he said.
Indeed they are, after the Wildcats, seeded sixth entering the 32-team B.C. tournament, went on an unexpected run to reach the Final Four.
The run began with a 66-48 win over Sahali of Kamloops last Saturday morning, a game that reflects what the Wildcats are all about: team. Thirteen different players contributed to the scoring, led by player-of-the-game Rio Hutchful’s 17 points.
McMath then pulled off a 57-56 win over St. Georges Saints, a team that had spent much of the year ranked in the top five provincially. St. Georges got off to a quick 10-0 lead and held a four-point advantage with two minutes to play before a timely three-point shot from Michael Kitka found the range. A put-back basket from Miguel Vargas then propelled the Wildcats onto the quarter-finals, with Travis Hamberger pacing the Wildcats with 19 points.
McMath reached the semis with a 49-41 win over Fraser Valley champion Yale Lions.
Going into the tournament, McMath had only one top-eight finish in school history (fourth in 2011). They hope to become the first Richmond school to win a B.C. basketball title since Richmond High in 1998.
Regardless of the outcome, Acob says it’s already been both a memorable and rewarding season.
“I’m really proud of this team,” he says. “It’s very satisfying to see these guys rewarded.”