Ramblers team that almost folded playing in provincials

The Maple Ridge Ramblers almost didn’t have a senior boys’ basketball team this year due to low numbers.

Ramblers team that almost folded playing in provincials

The Maple Ridge Ramblers almost didn’t have a senior boys’ basketball team this year due to low numbers. But at season’s end, the Ramblers will be the only team from Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows playing at the provincials.

They tip off B.C.’s own March madness tournament this morning at 10:15 a.m. at the B.C. Boys High School Basketball Championships, in the AAA division, at the Langley Events Centre.

“It’s pretty phenomenal what they have been able to accomplish,” said Ken Dockendorf, the longtime coach of the Ramblers. “It’s one of the groups I’m most proud of.”

That’s saying a lot, considering Dockendorf has been coaching senior boys’ ball since 1973.

A small, dedicated core of veterans, reinforced by junior players, has put together a fine season, and finished third at the Fraser Valley championship tournament.

The Rams lost their first game of the playdowns to the Brookswood Bobcats, so every game after that was do-or-die.

On Wednesday, they faced Abbotsford Collegiate. They led the game as much as 54-42, but Abby came back to tie it at 66-66, and the game went into overtime. The Ramblers outscored the Panthers 12-9 in the extra frame, and went on to win 78-75.

Will Chartrand led the scoring with 25 points and 12 recoveries (rebounds and rebounds that hit the floor). Tristan Coumont scored 24 points and 13 rebounds, and Burke Brussow had 20 points.

Next, they beat the Delta Pacers 76-64 on Thursday, in a game that put them in the final four, and the provincials.

Brussow led with 29 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists. Coumont scored 22 with eight rebounds, and Chartrand had 18 points and seven recoveries.

They faced Brookswood in the bronze medal game on Friday, and won the rematch 38-35 in a grinding contest.

“It was a really physical game, and both teams were tired,” said Dockendorf, noting that his team shot a season-low 27 per cent.

Brussow led with 14 points and eight rebounds, while Chartrand had 11 points and nine recoveries. Coumont, generally the team’s leading scorer, faced special attention from the Bobcat defenders and was held to a season low four points, but he had 10 recoveries.

Brussow and Chartrand were both named to the tournament’s first all-star team, while Coumont was selected for the second team.

Brussow is a Grade 11 and a provincial under-16 team player who is skilled and aggressive and drives for points. Chartrand is a skilled senior guard who is the team’s best three-point shooter, and Coumont is the offensive spark who averages about 23 points per game, and can score from anywhere.

“They’re all skilled, and they’ve all been with the program since Grade 8,” said Dockendorf. “They’re very experienced, very skilled and quite competitive.”

George Panagiotopavlos started playing organized basketball for the first time in Grade 11 last year, and has made amazing progress. His trademark is hard work, which translates into effective defence and rebounding.

Those four start all games, and rarely get a break.

“Many games, they never come out,” said Dockendorf.

The fifth starter is Brandon McRobert, who is a promising Grade 10 player.

On Wednesday they will face Bodwell of North Vancouver, who are seeded fifth. The Ramblers are seeded 12th.

These two teams met earlier in the season at the Robert Bateman Tournament, and the Bruins won 66-53.

Dockendorf acknowledged it would be an upset if the Ramblers win, but there are upsets at the provincials virtually every year.

“We’re third in the Fraser Valley and we’re ranked 12th. You have to expect to play somebody really good,” he said.

Either way, the tournament will be a great experience for his players, said Dock.

“I’m really happy for them – at the start of th year, we didn’t know whether we’d have a team.”

The Ramblers made the provincials in 2014, the first year of restructured divisions in the province and the inclusion of quadruple A. They finished ninth.