When Cory Ahlers took over as head coach of the Vic High Totems senior boys’ basketball team two years ago, he admits the first few months were tough.
Players often had other commitments or jobs, making it challenging to get a team on the floor for practice. The team would only rally a handful of players every other week for drills and their lack of practice translated to poor performance on the court, said Ahlers.
“It was hard to get guys out. It was really hard to build a program because they just didn’t have enough players,” Ahlers said. “(Coaches) before could only get a practice every two weeks. Guys were missing practice because they had to work . . . it was tough.”
However, all that has changed this season. In fact, the Totems are off to their hottest start in recent years, going undefeated in their first three regular season games so far.
They opened the season with a win over the Royal Bay Ravens 61-31 and defeated the Reynolds Road Runners 58-45. In the team’s most recent game last week, they tallied a 71-51 win over the Pacific Christian Pacers.
Forward Lyndon Hamilton is leading the team and league in scoring with 63 points, followed by Chris Nkurunziza with 23 points and Raphael Macsaquit with 22. Currently, the Totems are the top ranked boys AAA team on the lower Island.
“They’re hungry. I know that a couple of guys realize this is a really big year for the school,” said Ahlers, adding there is more structure, changing up defenses and running offenses, during practices.
“We have a talented team. Guys are just buying in to playing as a team, to working together. Just the bonding process has really helped us as well.”
A number of factors have led to the team’s success so far this year. Vic High’s athletic director Greg Pitre believes the fact that many players have played together since middle school, the school’s decision to host the Island AAA Championships from Feb. 23 to 25 and the team making an appearance at the Island Championships last year for the first time in a decade, has resulted in a highly-competitive and motivated team on the court.
“By going to the Island Championships last year, it gave us that fuel to take some bigger steps,” Pitre said, adding assistant coach Tak Niketas has been a big influence on the team as well. “That’s been something to really galvanize ourselves around. They’re a really solid group of guys that love playing basketball.”
Ahlers noted they’re not the biggest team, but their speed on the court gives them a competitive edge over others on the Island, and one they’ll continue to use to their advantage moving forward.
This year, the team’s goal is to qualify for Islands as the top ranked AAA team on the lower Island.