The Delta Pacers weren't where they wanted to be on Saturday afternoon but at least had an opportunity to scout a pair of potential playoff opponents in their very own barn.
The host team routed the Sentinel Spartans 79-56 in the third place game at the annual Pacer Classic senior boys basketball tournament, then watched the Yale Lions outlast the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers 86-83 in an all-Fraser Valley final.
One day earlier, the Panthers had ended the Pacers title hopes with a narrow 81-76 semi-final loss. The result at least proved Delta should be right in the mix, battling for one of the last provincial berths at next month's Valley "AAA" championships.
The tournament got off to an unfortunate start for the locals when opening round opponent Earl Marriott forfeited just hours before tip-off. It meant the Pacers having to adjust to a rare 2 p.m. start time in front of a packed gym against a quality semi-final opponent.
"It was a bit difficult for our boys to play during the school day," admitted Delta head coach Scott Masse. "It wasn't one where we typically prepare the way we usually do. I think we were unsettled the way the build up went. Some of our boys are used to it and some are not. We have played a lot of basketball lately so rust wasn't a factor but I think mental preparation was.
"Tweedsmuir is an excellent team and they have had some positive results."
The Pacers were slated to face Semiahmoo in league play last night, then visit fifth ranked White Rock Christian on Wednesday before playing their fourth tournament in as many weeks at McMath secondary in Richmond. The focus will then shift to a crucial stretch in their schedule where they will try to secure third place in the Fraser Valley Southwest League behind top 10 ranked Tamanawis and WRC. Pivotal games loom against Seaquam and crosstown rival South Delta with the Tsawwassen school visiting Ladner next Tuesday.
"When we all sat down in November, we said the goal would be third place," continued Masse. "We need to compete hard against teams like South Delta and Seaquam. We will be ready."
The Pacers are relying on the continued progress of three Grade 10 players in their line-up - Andrew Jones, Ryan Cowley and Gursharn Bajwa - but other Valley teams contending for B.C. berths also feature plenty of youth. None more so than tournament champion Yale.
The Abbotsford school was led by Grade 9 phenom Joaquin Benntt-Boire who secured MVP honours with some key second half baskets against Tweedsmuir.
"Yale is another solid second tier team that is well coached and works very hard," added Masse. "Like us, they rely on younger players. It's going to come down to who works hard and prepares the best for the next six weeks."
Pacer standout Lucas Goosen and Evan Messenger were named to the tournament all-star team.
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