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South Delta boys hoop rivalry to heat up this season

Sun Devils and Pacers will now be battling for playoff positions in the same tier
South Delta’s Finley McConnell heads up court during exhibition action last week in Tsawwassen against Richmond’s MacNeill Ravens.

It’s taken two less students to change the boys basketball landscape for the South Delta Sun Devils, yet nothing is different when it comes to the overall picture.

For the very first time since B.C. Boys Basketball added an additional tier a decade ago, the Sun Devils have dropped down to the “AAA” level after enrollment of Grade 11 and 12 boys at South Delta Secondary dipped below the minimum requirement to stay at “AAAA” for the province’s largest schools.  

The development comes after a very competitive 2021-22 campaign and coaches Bryan Lopez and Carol Lingham having already put together a challenging schedule that includes a steady diet of “AAAA” teams, including high-profile tournament stops at Burnaby South and Vancouver College over the next month.

The Sun Devils flirted with their first-ever provincial tournament berth a year ago, coming within a couple of wins of advancing to the Langley Events Centre. The plan is to continue to build on that momentum.

“It’s difficult to make the provincials regardless of what tier you are playing at. It’s more looking at the bigger picture and that’s continuing to build the basketball culture at the school,” said Lopez. “In our eyes, we saw success last season in terms of senior boys basketball making that leap forward.

“We’re younger, but we have a decent amount of players and it’s really spread out this year. It’s not really a re-building year, but more like they’re gonna have their experiences, they’re going to get a lot of playing time and they’re just going to keep getting stronger.”

Lingham, the longtime SDSS teacher and co-athletic director, knows it’s essential the program reaches out to the feeder elementary schools to enhance skill development at the younger ages. 

“We did Grade 6 and 7 camps here and a lot of kids came out,” she said. “Our senior boys helped out and it’s a way to promote the program as well.”

The Sun Devils are making sure they get a good idea what they will be up against at the “AAA” level where their attention turns from mostly Surrey schools to Richmond.

The honorable mention MacNeill Ravens have been among the top programs across the Fraser River for about a decade and came into Tsawwassen last Thursday to defeat South Delta 92-78.

There is also quality opponents closer to home, including the top 10 ranked North Delta Huskies, while nearby rival Delta Pacers are off to a promising start, winning a tournament at Langley Secondary last week.

The Pacers should only get better as the season unfolds with head coach Dave Jones recently welcoming back six players who were fresh off playing at the provincial volleyball championships in Kelowna.

A twist to the Sur-Del League this season will see each of the teams play each other just once compared to the previous home-and-home format.

The Sun Devils and Pacers are slated to meet Feb. 15 in Ladner with the league playoffs starting the following week.