Although they turned some heads in winning the Okanagan championship, the South Kamloops Titans may still be a mystery ahead of the provincial AAA boys basketball championship.
The Titans are to open the provincial tournament in Langley today against the Victoria-Belmont Bulldogs. South Kam is ranked No. 7 in the 16-team draw, with Belmont, which played its way into the tournament in a wild-card game with the Victoria-Oak Bay Breakers last week, seeded No. 10.
The Titans are confident and healthy ahead of the tournament. According to their head coach, Tim Unaegbu, they also are an unknown.
"When people think about us, they don't know much," Unaegbu said Tuesday. "They thought Kelowna was going to walk through the Okanagan. They don't know anything about us."
The Titans knocked off the Kelowna Owls, who were then ranked No. 6 in the province, in an Okanagan semifinal on March 1, before topping the NorKam Saints in the zone final.
"On paper, I always thought we were equal to or better than Kelowna," Unaegbu said. "In that (semifinal), we were down 21 in the first half, and had cut the lead to eight at the half. We won in double overtime by 13 points - that's a 30-something-point swing against the No. 6 team (in B.C.)."
That's ancient history by now, but it certainly doesn't hurt the Titans' confidence. South Kam, in making its first provincial appearance since taking third in 2009, has big goals in mind, and doesn't seem intimidated.
Point guard Elijah Hillis-Gold, who is off to the NCAA's Simon Fraser Clan next season, is the Titans' leader, but Reid Sellars, Tye Desrosier and Jacob Adams also are contributors.
Unaegbu acknowledged that Hillis-Gold won't be a mystery to the rest of the teams, but they may be somewhat unaware of what Sellars, Adams and Desrosier bring to the table.
"Reid Sellars, he's only in Grade 10 but he's been on provincial teams. Some people may know him," Unaegbu said. "(Adams), he's a smaller guy, but he defends their big men. They're a little slower than he is.
"Other teams think: 'Stop Elijah and win.' That's not going to happen."
Unaegbu, a former TRU basketball and soccer player, has been to the provincial AAA basketball championship, so knows everything that comes with it.
"I told them after Okanagans - that's not the goal; making noise at the Langley Events Centre is the goal," said Unaegbu, whose Titans could face his former team - the Coquitlam-Terry Fox Ravens - in the second round. "We want them to understand that there's a lot going on here - all these teams, exposure to media and the games are being live-streamed (online).
"Some of the guys are starstruck already . . . but we're confident. We had a tough week of practice, and we're ready."