Journey to a Championship... Journal of a Champion
The dated excerpts in this article are from the personal journal kept by Co-Captain Quinn Keast
November 8, 2005 was the first official day of practice for the Royals Senior Boys' Basketball Team, but their quest for a Provincial Championship began much earlier. Some may say the pursuit began immediately after the final game of the 2004 Howe Sound Championship when Argyle beat Handsworth in three of the most memorable basketball games ever played on the North Shore. Argyle went on to win the 2004 AAA Provincial Championship, and Handsworth, while ranked second in the province, did not qualify for the provincials '“ a very tough ending to a great season. Other people may suggest that the chase for a Championship commenced the day following a disappointing semi final loss to White Rock Christian in the 2005 Provincial Championship. A loss that weighed heavily on a team that had achieved so much. Whether it was those specific events or whether it was many years earlier when these players were playing with the Junior Grizzlies (now the Steve Nash Youth Basketball League). There is no question that the preparation for the Championship season started well in advance of the first practice in November 2005.
NOV 8, 2005.
First practice today! It was so much fun. I love our team. I think we're going to do very well because we will be so close. Practice was good. I worked my hardest and played well too. We look strong and hopefully we can put a good 12 or so practices together before White Rock Christian. I'm not worried at all, I'm just looking forward to the next practice. I am doing well in school too, I have put in a lot of work for it and I hope it will pay off. I'm enjoying life a lot these days, which is why I am writing and going to continue to write all year. The past 2 months, which consisted of a lot of training and fun as well, and the next 4 months (the season) will maybe be the greatest 6 months of my life, and I'm not going to let it go unremembered. I am going to live it up, work hard, but most importantly have fun, so in mid-March I can look back and say wow, that was the time of my life.
The season started off with an opening game win over the defending Provincial Champions, White Rock Christian. The Royals were down 6 at the half but put in a great second half performance in front of a packed WRCA gymnasium. That win was followed by the North Shore Invitational Tournament the next week. A semi final loss to the very talented Kitsilano Blue Demons meant an early exit in our local tournament. Kitsilano was a very strong team that Handsworth would see a couple more times over the course of the season.
The month of December saw the Royals head into the exciting HSBC Basketball Classic. The early rounds posed little challenge and the Royals made it to the semi final game where they were up against Kitsilano with the opportunity to revenge their loss from a week earlier. Handsworth played a strong brand of team basketball and were successful in beating Kits which put them in the final game against St. George's. It was a close game with the lead exchanging hands a number of times and ending deadlocked after regulation time. The Saints took the HSBC Championship in overtime, but the Royals gained some valuable experience against a couple of teams which they would eventually meet on the road to the Championship.
January 2006 saw the Royals fly off to Saskatoon to defend their winning title at the infamous Bedford Road Invitational Tournament ("The BRIT"). Over the last 35 years this tournament has become one of the premiere basketball events in Western Canada. Games are played in front of screaming capacity crowds '“ and those are the morning games! The Royals managed to successfully defend their title with a hard fought game against Holy Cross of Regina. "My mentor, Phil Langley, always told me that great teams play in great places, and for us, The BRIT is one of those places that our kids will never forget" said Coach Randy Storey.
JAN. 8, 2006.
Wow...well we got home from the BRIT 06 today. We repeated as CHAMPIONS!! Man it was crazy, I am so excited for our team. We are playing well right now. The trip was so much fun... We played Holy Cross in the final. Man, I have honestly never been in a gym that loud in my life. I could not hear myself talk!! The atmosphere was crazy, I will never forget it. We beat them by 23 or so, and I played pretty good actually. Hit shots and rebounded well.
There was no rest for the Royals as they continued to prepare themselves for the end of the season. Coach Storey scheduled a set of exhibition games against WRCA, Oak Bay, Claremont and Brookswood in a six day period. Three of those four games were on the road. The Brookswood game was a tough game that Handsworth won .... despite a 40 point performance by Junior National team member, Brent Malish. The final game of the week was a double overtime thriller against Claremont which was a season highlight, despite missing the ferry on the return trip! In reflecting on this portion of the season, Coach Storey commented that "those games really helped us prepare for the Provincial Tournament as they were all against very good teams and they threw a lot at us so we had to adjust and adapt in order to be successful."
JAN. 29, 2006.
The trip [to the island] was only one night but we had so much fun, so many laughs. We played some poker, pulled pranks on the managers like leaning a bucket of water on their door and knocked so when they open it spills out... I just love chillin' with my team, I think we gel together well because everyone likes each other a lot. The girls played a huge prank on us too. They came in at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday morning and poured ice and water all over Cole, Rob and I. We couldn't sleep because everything was soaked.
In the regular season and Howe Sound Playoffs the Royals just simply took care of business. A year earlier, those playoff games were the scene of intense competition with un-believable drama. As close as the games were in 2005, it was not the case in 2006. The Royals ripped up the North Shore competition with an average margin of victory of 30 points in the league and playoff games!
FEB. 8, 2006.
Anyway, we won by 40 or so, and I played well considering all the [playing time] I got (all the starters) and fouls too, which I have to learn to control. It was fun though because we got to chill for the 4th quarter and have fun with everyone. Man, this is the funnest year of basketball of my life. I'm enjoying it so much. I will remember these times when basketball gets tough...
With the Howe Sound Championship behind them the Royals had officially qualified for the AAA Provincial Championship. They entered the Provincials as the number two seed. Coach Storey looks back on those days prior to the Championship with pride, "we entered the Provincials with a quiet confidence, we knew we had a good team, we knew we had the capability to win but I think we also understood what would be needed to win. The fact that we had dropped a couple of games through the season allowed us to understand that we would have to be at our best to reach our goal."
MAR. 6, 2006.
In the evening we bussed out to UBC for practice. Man my team is so fun to be with. We have so much fun as a team. I just love being with them. It was my/our last practice of the year, and my last one ever. It was a weird feeling, I am going to miss all those hours in the gym with the guys. It was a good practice though, getting experience in the larger courts and stadiums.
The opening game against Magee was as it should have been with a final score was 91-50. The quarter final game against Pinetree was closer than the 79-64 score may have indicated. The Royals ran into the hot shooting of Aneeten Braich, who kept the game close. While the team from Pinetree never really threatened to take the lead, the game remained close enough that the Royals could never put things on cruise control. "Looking back at that game, I think it helped us get ready for our semi final game the next night" recalled Coach Storey.
The semi final game was a contest between the #2 seed (Handsworth) and #3 seed (St George's). In their earlier meeting, St George's handed the Royals one of their only two losses that season. The Royals pulled out a 64-57 victory, but not without a cost. Quinn Keast was involved in a major collision in the game with Saint's player Alex Murphy in which Quinn hit the floor with a sound heard throughout the Agrodome. A rush of adrenaline allowed him to finish the game without too much of a problem. A visit to the local physiotherapist the next day confirmed no breaks but he ended up with two severely sprained wrists and a badly bruised elbow.
The stage was set for the Saturday night final game between #1 seed Kitsilano and Handsworth. These teams had met twice during the year, with the series being split. Before heading over to the Agrodome, the players managed to burn off some nervous energy in the afternoon by cheering on the Handsworth Senior Girls who were playing Heritage Park in the Bronze Medal game of the Senior Girls AAA Provincial Championships at Capilano College. In a season of "bests", the girls would also do their part '“ a 4th place finish was the best ever finish for Handsworth at the Senior Girls AAA Provincials!
When the evening finally arrived, the final game of the season against Kits was played in front of more than 4,000 enthusiastic fans at the Agrodome. Handsworth students, administration, and basketball supporters were out in force for Handsworth's first trip to the Final Game of the Triple A Finals.
Handsworth got out to an early jump in the game when Matt Speakman stepped in front of Kits point guard Ty Nurse and drew a charge. "It's the little things that win games like that and Matt's defensive play set the tone for us early in the game" stated Coach Storey. The Royals were up 21-11 at the end of the first quarter which they built to a 43-28 lead at halftime. Kits had a run in the third quarter but the outcome never seemed in doubt. Handsworth took the Championship with a final score of 82-65. The score sheet from the final game reflected the Royal's balanced offensive attack - Quinn Keast (17 points), Robert Sacre (17 points), Don Lee (17 points), Cole Allinger (16 points), and Co-Captain, Scott Leigh (15 points).
Quinn was named Player of the Game in the final game of the season. The combination of 17 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals would support this selection. Scott and Quinn were named tournament All Stars, and Robert was named Tournament MVP. The three players led the Royals all year long and had saved their best for the Championship. There were others who made big contributions in the tournament. Cole's toughness under the basket, and his free-throw shooting in the semifinal against St Georges had a big impact on the eventual outcome. Don played well throughout the tournament and hit a number of clutch "3's" in the final game sealing the victory.
MAR 11, 2006
WE DID IT!!! B.C. CHAMPS!!!!!!!!. I can't believe it. I've never been this happy in my life. Everything I have ever done was for this night, and man it was amazing. Wow, I am actually speechless. This morning I went to the physio to check out my injuries, and I got them taped up. I had to take off the tape from my left elbow/wrist because it was limiting me too much. Then I went to shootaround at Handsworth for an hour, then to my sister's last ever b-ball game. Its been a really emotional week... spending time with my team is something that has made this year as good as its been... I was so ready for the game '“ I have no regrets.
In summarizing the season, Coach Storey said "while a few of the guys grabbed the headlines, this was a team effort all the way. Each one of our players contributed in some way to this Championship. Whether it was competing aggressively in practice to make us better, or drawing a charge in a game along the way. I am lucky to have been given the opportunity to be associated with such a great group of student athletes. We were a happy group that got along well and we were an unselfish team. We had a bunch of talented athletes with extraordinary motivation and leadership!"