Hyacks ready for 'press and play' at Beagle

If it wasn’t hot before, the New Westminster Hyacks are heading into the fire this weekend.

After a rough reception during a three-day trip to Seattle after Christmas, where the club lost four games but got a good indoctrination in intense basketball, the senior boys squad heads to Port Coquitlam for one of the biggest tournaments of the season.

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The 4-A Hyacks enter this week’s Terry Fox Legal Beagle Invitational as an underdog, but head coach Ted Cusick says that’s OK by him.

“That’s an understatement,” he said of other team’s high rankings, including their first game today against Vancouver College (Thursday, 3:15 p.m.). “We’ll make the most of it, hopefully.”

Getting Van College, who were listed as No. 6 in B.C. in this week’s ratings, is a perfect match-up, as the two have already played.

In their previous meeting at the Cariboo Hill tourney a month ago, Cusick chose to play his bench for the whole game, but the Vancouver squad went with its starters. It was a 99-83 loss for the New West crew, but a result the team is using as motivation.

Other teams at the Fox tourney include No. 1 Lord Tweedsmuir, No. 2 Fox, No. 4 Holy Cross, No. 7 Tamanawis, No. 8 Oak Bay, No. 9 Kelowna and No. 10 W.J. Mouat.

In preparation for the Beagle, the Hyacks bested Eric Hamber 82-60 on Monday, getting 25 points and 13 rebounds from Grade 11 Ethan Rivas. Chipping in with 11 points and six assists was Mo Al-Ghreibawi, while A.J. Chol netted nine points.

“We were a little rough around the edges,” said Cusick, noting that his usual top shooters didn’t have their best games.

In their Seattle tournament two weeks ago, New West lost four times, with the closest game a 75-63 decision to Newport on the final day. Luke Burton counted 19 points in the loss.

It proved to be an eye-opening experience, but one Cusick feels could pay dividends down the road.

“They just killed us,” he said of the hosts Franklin, in a 97-66 loss in the opener. “We went down there to learn, and boy, did we. Just the intensity of it all was at another level.”

Rivas paced the Hyacks with 21 points in the loss, while Simon Cruz contributed 19. Against Foster, Burton cashed in a team-high 15 points in a 98-58 setback. They also fell 93-54 to Stadium.

The American opponents pressed constantly, which is a defensive setup that created problems for the lanky but not overly quick Hyacks.

“Every team just pressed us out of the gym. (Vancouver College) likes to press, too, and I think we’ll be able to use what we learned.”

New West, which shares first place in league play with Burnaby North and Byrne Creek at 2-0, will face last year’s 4-A provincial champion Burnaby South on Monday at home.

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