Photos courtesy of Vancouver Sports Pictures (1A, 3A and 4A) and Garrett James Langley Events Centre (2A)

There would be no heartbreak in 2023 for the Semiahmoo Thunderbirds.

Finalists 12 months ago, the Thunderbirds defeated the Fleetwood Park Dragons 73-40 on Saturday night in an all-Surrey final in front of a record-breaking sell-out crowd at Langley Events Centre at the BC School Sports 4A Boys Basketball Provincial Tournament.

The title is the first senior boys basketball championship in school history.

Thunderbirds head coach Les Brown said the team’s loss in the 2022 title game to the Burnaby South Rebels was a valuable learning lesson for his team, which returned almost the entire roster, many of whom enter Grade 12 next year.

“We watched the game against Burnaby South from last year and their defence was fantastic. They were hungry, they wanted the ball, and we used that as motivation all year, knowing that we had to be the tougher team, hungry for every possession, especially in a game like this: possession is gold, and you have to take care of the ball,” the coach said.

Saturday’s final between the South Fraser rivals started off tentatively, with neither team able to build much of an advantage as the score was tied on four occasions before Semiahmoo took a slim 16-13 lead. The Thunderbirds would find their bearing in the second quarter, surging late for a 36-22 advantage at the half and then dominating the third quarter 25-10.

Brown said once his team (the No. 1 seed) overcame their slow start, they were able to take advantage of their Surrey rivals in the second quarter.

“We just pushed the tempo a bit, and to be honest, Fleetwood looked like they were getting tired. They had two grueling games against Vancouver College and Oak Bay, that was tough coming out of that bracket. It helped us a little bit that they were looking tired in that second quarter,” the coach said, referencing the fact Fleetwood Park (the No. 6 seed) was coming off tough victories over the No. 3 Vancouver College Fighting Irish in the quarter-final round and then the No. 2 Oak Bay Bays in the semi-final.

Much of the Semiahmoo offence came courtesy of Cole Bekkering (26 points, 12 rebounds) and Torian Lee (18 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists). Bekkering was selected the Quinn Keast Foundation Player of the Game.

Fleetwood’s Inder Deol was the lone Dragon to reach double figures with 15 points.

Lee would win the Most Valuable Player award, while teammate Andre Juco was chosen the Best Defensive Player. Bekkering, Aaron Uppal (Fleetwood Park), Nash Semeniuk (Kelowna), Adam Olsen (Elgin Park) and Griffin Arnatt (Oak Bay) were chosen to First Team All-Stars.

The Second Team All-Stars consisted of Semiahmoo’s Juco and Marcus Flores, Izaec Oppal (Fleetwood Park), Hayden Sansalone (Abbotsford Senior) and Mikyle Malabuyoc (Vancouver College).

Kelowna’s Walker Sodaro was the recipient of the Braich Foundation Most Inspirational Player while the Kelowna Owls team won the Most Inspirational Team Award, the W.J. Mouat Hawks won the Wink Willox Most Sportsmanlike Team Award and Fleetwood Park won the School Spirit Award.

In the bronze-medal game, the Oak Bay Bays defeated the Kelowna Owls 71-66.