Panthers brush back Wildcats

The Vernon Panthers stopped the R.A. McMath Wildcats of Richmond 68-62 Wednesday in Langley.

Morning Star Staff

Snow is melting, birds are singing, days are longer and B.C. high school March madness is in full swing. All signs that spring is here to stay.

The Vernon Panthers advanced to the elite eight after rallying down 12 in the first half to win 68-62 over R.A. McMath Wildcats of Richmond Wednesday in the opening round of the Telus Senior AAA Boys Basketball Championships in Langley.

“We dug in on defence in the second half, and started to chip away at the lead,” said VSS head coach Glenn Garvie.

Vernon entered the tournament missing Okanagan Valley MVP Shelby Hartwig, in Arizona on a family vacation.

“Shelby is big, tall and our top rebounder. But we had guys step up and they will for the remainder,” said Garvie.

John Garvie led the Panthers over the No. 11-ranked Wildcats. He had 21 points, 12 rebounds and four assists. Chris Inscho notched a double-double with 12 points and 15 rebounds.

Mitchell Pepper had his best game of the year with 21 points and five rebounds.

The Panthers rolled six deep in Game 1 and fatigue is not a concern for coach Garvie.

“We have been playing with a short bench all year. We will be fine.”

The Panthers moved to Thursday afternoon’s quarterfinals against the No. 14 Charles Hays Rainmakers of Prince Rupert.

The Rainmakers have the upset of the tournament so far, knocking off No. 3 Fleetwood Park Dragons of Surrey 52-51.

The Rainmakers held the Dragons to 30.6 per cent from the floor while shooting 42.3 per cent.

Six-foot-9 forward Justin McChesney turned away five Dragon shots and recorded 11 points and 15 rebounds.

“I like our match-up. We are going to go out and run, letting our size and athleticism take over,” said Garvie.

Bench play is unlikely to factor as both teams had two points in their opening round matches.

The Panthers might have a favourable match up in the quarters, but a potential clash with the No. 2  Sir Charles Tupper Tigers of Vancouver awaits in the semifinals today. The final is Saturday night.

The top-ranked Abbotsford Panthers upended North Peace Ocars of Fort St. John 86-77.