Are you a basketball fan?
If so, make sure to mark down Saturday, Dec., 2 on your calendar. As the Whistler Secondary School senior boys basketball team gears up to begin their season, they’re also preparing to host the second-annual “Storm Season Opener” tournament that day in their home gym.
“People can come and watch really good, competitive basketball locally. Everyone is welcome to attend and cheer on the team, and wear white and blue,” explained team manager Diane Riley.
The three-team, round robin tournament will be something of a rematch for the three returning teams, as Whistler looks to defend last year’s tournament win. In 2016, the Storm beat West Vancouver’s Rockridge Secondary School Ravens 30-29 in a nailbiter final matchup, to claim the win in the first high school basketball tournament hosted in Whistler in over a decade. Langley Fundamental Secondary School will also be coming back to the WSS court this year.
“These are exhibition games, and these are teams they don’t see in their regulation play,” Riley explained.
It will likely be the only opportunity for the Storm to play in their home gym, as well. During the season, all eleven of their regulation games will take place on the North Shore. In addition to a much-needed dose of community support, the opportunity to start their season off at home “really focuses them as a team, and they get that many more touches on the ball,” Riley said.
The first game’s tip-off is scheduled to take place at 10 a.m., with the fourth and final game of the day wrapping up at 4 p.m.
But first, the Whistler students will travel to West Vancouver on Monday (Nov. 27) for their first regulation game of this year’s Howe Sound “AA” league season. They’ll face off against North Vancouver’s St. Thomas Aquinas Saints, with the game set to take place at Rockridge Secondary.
This year’s program features a total of 17 players from Grades 11 and 12, split into two teams. The gold squad will travel to games scheduled across the Lower Mainland, from the Sunshine Coast to Deep Cove.
With this year marking the Storm’s second season participating in the league, the boys are looking to improve upon last year’s performance with the goal of ultimately earning a spot at provincials in March. Last year, WSS finished fourth in the league and advanced to the first round of zone qualifiers. With this year’s roster featuring a large contingent of Grade 12 players returning to the team, they’ve got the skill, speed, athleticism, chemistry and size needed to progress even further.
“They’ve got goals, and they’re going to see where they can go,” Riley explained. “They’re really strong, and our tall guys got taller over the summer. Kids in this town tend to be so athletic anyways, but the students that are playing basketball do many, many sports.”
The players aren’t the only members of the team who’ll be returning, either: this year, in addition to returning head coach Scott Riley, the Storm will also be receiving coaching help from a WSS alumni who played for the Storm as an international student in 2014-15. “He’s come back to Canada for… however long he’s allowed to be here as a visitor, and he’s volunteering his time coaching,” Riley said.