High school boys basketball teams often come completely equipped with confidence.
Sometimes, they back it up, too.
The New Westminster Hyacks proved their mettle to start the 4A season, launching 2019/20 at the Big Ticket senior boys basketball tournament with a pair of victories before taking their first loss.
"We've got some good competition in, so that's good," remarked New West coach Ted Cusick. "I wasn't unhappy with the effort, just disappointed."
That disappointment centred around Wednesday's setback at the hands of 3A-honourable mention St. Patrick's in an 85-67 decision that decided who advanced to the tourney semifinals.
Ahead by six in the third quarter, the Hyacks' Kirk Bothwell was tagged with his fifth foul, followed by another foul that put St. Pat's shooter to the line for four straight shots. He nailed them, then got the ball back to score again to erase New West's advantage, taking the wind from their sails in the process.
Bothwell, who drew three fouls in the first quarter, had sat all of the second as the locals carved out a slim lead.
It was one occasion where the New West coach felt his team was hard-done by.
"It was just not a good called game. ... They called it to the letter of the law, without any feel for the game," he said. "But what can you do? It's like arguing with a police officer."
Bradie Traverse paced New West with 19 points and four assists, while Quentin Leberg and Russell Moir each netted 10 points.
By beating Earl Marriott 68-52 on Monday and Pinetree 77-63 on Tuesday, the Hyacks advanced to the final eight of the 32-team, four-site event.
Tuesday’s win saw Caleb Johnson lead the way with 18 points, while Leberg hit for 13 points and 11 rebounds. Setting the tempo on the boards was Uday Mangat, who tallied a team-high 12, while chipping in with six points.
Cusick said following Monday’s victory that although not perfect, it was a good indication of what they can do.
"They’re smart kids but it’s a lot of pressure, senior ball. Plus it’s the first game. Everyone’s pumped for the home game, the fans are there," said Cusick.
New West was in control and up 33-14 before Marriott went on a seven-point run to close the first half.
In the third quarter, Kevin Guillermo cashed in seven points, part of a game-high 15, as the team began to pile up the points. They led 62-33 early in the fourth quarter, but the Mariners closed the gap to make it look respectable.
“We didn’t really know much about (Marriott) coming in, so we just wanted to run our sets, run our plays and honestly hope it works. We’re trying to build chemistry right now and get the ball to where it needs to be,” remarked Bothwell.
Although they had played in the alumni tournament a few days earlier, the Big Ticket offered a real opportunity to take some measurements as to their potential and progress.
"This is a lot more serious and we’re playing better competition and help bringing our team together and show us what the competitions like. It’s how we have to play to face that," added Bothwell.
Cusick noted that while the team isn't ranked, he sees a lot of potential, with different players stepping up during each game.
"I’m not so worried about fouls, you can correct those," the veteran coach said. "We’re a good shooting team but they haven’t shown it as much yet. I’m more worried about the defence right now. They let a lot of stuff go that shouldn’t have happened. Guys go down the middle and nobody does anything. They’re learning."
Next week they head to Langley for the Tsumura Invitational, opening up Wednesday against Heritage Woods.