There appears to be a tough road ahead for the Sa-Hali Sabres boys and girls teams at the provincial AA basketball championships.
So . . . what else is new?
The Sabres are ranked 12th in the 16-team girls draw, and will open against the No. 5 Vancouver-Windsor Dukes. They'll meet on Wednesday, 11:45 a.m., at the Tournament Capital Centre.
Sa-Hali's boys, meanwhile, are ranked 15th out of 16 teams on that side, according to assistant coach Nicolas Karpluk. They'll be playing No. 2 Mills Bay-Brentwood College on Wednesday, 5 p.m., at TRU Gym.
The tournament runs Wednesday through March 10.
At this time of year, you can't throw a rock without hitting eight teams displeased with their rankings ahead of provincials, and the Sabres are no different.
The Sabres girls gave themselves a tough schedule all season, but still ended up 12th after finishing second in the Okanagan zone. The Okanagan-champion Vernon Panthers are No. 2 ahead of provincials, and all five Lower Mainland teams at provincials are ranked in the top-10.
"I'm disappointed with (the ranking)," said Sabres head coach Jody Vosper. "Our schedule . . . we went to the coast three times and we played all of the top four teams - we played three of them twice. We worked really hard and had a schedule to prepare ourselves for provincials, and I would have liked to have seen us (ranked) 10 or 11."
The Sabres boys, meanwhile, have struggled with injuries all season. They finished third at the Okanagan championship in Kelowna last weekend, behind the strong Kelowna Christian Knights and the Oliver-Southern Okanagan Hornets, who always seem to play well at this time of year.
Sa-Hali has its hands full with Brentwood, even if the Sabres know little about the team that has made the semifinals in each of the last two tournaments.
"They have Jordan Charles, and I think he's a provincial-team player," said Sabres centre Ben Phillips. "We've heard he's a really good player. Other than that, all we've heard is that they just drain threes."
Of course, pre-tournament rankings are an inexact science, and there always are upsets - Sa-Hali is hoping for a couple of those.
"They have to play well in their first games," offered tournament co-chairman Brian Peters. "They both come in ranked lower than they probably wanted, and that means they have a really tough game to start with."
Vosper said there is a clear favourite in the girls draw - the Surrey-Holy Cross Crusaders have been the class of AA basketball all season - followed by a dozen or so strong teams.
Sa-Hali is one of those strong teams, but has a tough matchup with Windsor in the opener. Vosper hasn't seen much of Windsor, but knows the Sabres played tough with the third-ranked North Vancouver-St. Thomas Aquinas Fighting Saints throughout the season.
"(The Dukes) have beat S.T.A., which is ranked No. 3, and we lost to (S.T.A.) by four and by seven," Vosper said. "Getting prepared for them is a little tough, because we're not exactly sure what we're getting prepared for."
Vosper has said all season that the Sabres girls are as deep as they've ever been. They also have provincial experience - lots of it.
"Almost our whole starting lineup is seniors," said guard Taylor MacDonald. "They've all been through this before and know what to expect."
It's déjà vu all over again for the Sabres boys, who have played Brentwood College in each of the past two provincial championships. Brentwood won both meetings, including a 72-42 victory in last year's tournament opener and an 86-72 quarterfinal victory in 2011.
"It's provincials, and anything can happen - I don't even look at seeding at all," Karpluk said. "This is the third year in a row that this program has played Brentwood, and we feel like this is our time. It's another shot at them, and we'll keep shooting - it's what we have to do."
The Sabres boys are definitely eager for that third shot.
"I think we're better than where we're ranked," Phillips said. "Injuries have really played a part, but it's exciting to prove, win or lose, that we can compete with a top-two team."