Often an absence from one team means a great opportunity for another team to step up and take advantage and that is exactly what seven other teams did at the 13th Annual Hoopfest BC Tournament. While the field of talent was as equally as impressive has it has been throughout the tournament's history, the void left by Manny Dulay was felt by the UFC Cascades as they looked to repeat as tournament champions.
Kicking off the first game and first day of the tournament, the battle between two new teams, Toon Squad and FriendZone set the tone for the rest of the day as the early morning game required an overtime period as the first forty minutes found the game tied at 98 points apiece. After falling short of capturing his first Hoopfest BC championship last summer as a part of SB Battle, J. Cohee did everything he could to make sure his team had a chance to return to the championship game this summer as he put up an eye-opening 43 points to carry the Toon Squad to a 109-102 victory.
A retooled Runnin' Rebels squad found themselves with a relatively easy opening half against the Cascades, carrying a 56-40 lead going into the break. Despite not having Dulay to shoulder their offensive attack, the UFV squad still kept competing, using an 18-4 run during the second half to close the deficit to within six points. With a younger, more explosive and well-rounded lineup than last summer, the Rebels, led by Gerard Gore's game-high 26 points found themselves walking away with an opening game win 88-80.
On the other side of the draw, Lights Out despite being one of the older teams in the tournament, managed to squeak out an upset victory over the X-Falcons, a team composed mainly of Langara College alumni. After trailing by seven at the end of the first half, Lights Out continued to ride the hot hand of guard Jeremy Neufeld as he paced his team and the game with 36 points, including five three-pointers. Although the X-Falcons fell short, their well-balanced attack, which included five players hitting for double digits in scoring would be a precursor of what was to come.
The Village People may have been a new team in the tournament lineup, but the players that made up the roster were mostly familiar faces from the course of the previous twelve years of the event. Although the young TRU Wolfpack players managed to keep the game within a single basket 43-41 at the half, the experience of the Village People and Doug Plumb's game-high 22 points proved to be too much for the young pups to overcome as they fell 83-72.
The afternoon schedule saw a pair of teams improve their record to 2-0 as the Toon Squad and the Village People both pulled out single-digit victories over the Cascades and Lights Out respectively, while FriendZone and the X-Falcons improved their record to 1-1. With only the top two teams from each pool advancing to the playoff rounds, the logjam of teams that could potentially sit at 2-1 after the round-robin schedule would make for some very interesting and must win games come Sunday morning.