Pitt Meadows Marauders scraped their way into next week's B.C. senior boys Triple A basketball championships.
For that reason, it would be safe to call the Marauders - who qualified as the eighth and final seed in the Fraser Valley - a dark horse to make an impact at the prestigious tournament running March 12 to 16 at the Langley Events Centre.
The Marauders open play on Tuesday (March 12) against the Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs from Vancouver.
Tip off at the LEC is 2: 30 p.m.
To get into the provincials, the Marauders played clutch basketball with their season on the line.
On Feb. 28 at Fleetwood Park Secondary, the Pitt Meadows boys defeated the Tamanawis Wildcats 59-39 in an elimination game.
The loser was finished for the season.
The winner guaranteed itself a top-eight finish in the Fraser Valley and, subsequently, a spot in the provincial championships.
Going into the game, the Wildcats were ranked sixth in B.C. among Triple A teams. The Marauders were off the top 10 grid, sitting among the honourable mention teams. Veteran coach
Rich Goulet, who has served as the Marauders' bench boss for more than 30 years, was impressed by his players' resolve against a heavily favoured Wildcats team from Surrey.
"It was a huge win because we were up against a team that was ranked in the top four, five, six in the province all year, and we came out and played probably the best game of the year for us," Goulet said.
A B.C. berth secured, the Marauders suffered an emotional letdown, losing 5543 to Surrey's Enver Creek Cougars the very next day.
"We were up sky high one night and really didn't recover that well," Goulet said.
On Saturday, the Marauders played a stronger game in a 60-57 loss to the defending B.C. champion Terry Fox Ravens (from Port Coquitlam) in the match-up determining the seventh and eighth seeds in the Fraser Valley.
"Today we were okay," said Goulet, after he took in the championship final between the Walnut Grove Gators and White Rock Christian Academy Warriors (which the Gators won 73-64).
The Marauders won't be feeling the pressure of some of the more high-profile teams at the B.C. championships.
"I think, if you ask our guys, they're just happy to be in the provincials because we've gone through so many injuries in the last two weeks that were debilitating. getting some guys back to play allowed us to win that game [against Tamanawis] on Thursday night [Feb. 28]," Goulet said.
Goulet said "the big guy," 6'8" Grade 12 centre Jordan Rich will continue to be a key factor for the Marauders going forward. Goulet added that another of the team's Grade 12s, 6'3" point guard Sebastien Marshall, "has played very well, too."
For graduating Grade 12 Marauders Rich, Marshall, Dylan Roberts, Alejandro Canjura, Sho Nashimoto, and Zachary Wild, the provincials will be their final high school hoops tournament.
For the remaining six Grade 11s, they'll be looking to make a return trip to the LEC in 2014.
FOUL SHOTS: If the Marauders win their opener, they'll face the No. 1 ranked team in B.C., the Walnut Grove Gators next Wednesday (March 13) at the LEC.
The Fraser Valley champion Gators lost to Terry Fox in last year's B.C. final. If they lose, they'll play the loser of the Burnaby Mountain/Caledonia game, also on March 13.