Paul Patterson, head coach of the Sa-Hali Sabres senior boys, spent all season preaching the importance of ignoring the provincial basketball rankings.
In terms of those rankings, the Sa-Hali boys did themselves a big favour in Armstrong on the weekend.
The Sabres, who entered the weekend ranked No. 2 in the B.C. AA division, won the Okanagan championship Saturday. They will go into the provincial championship - March 9-12 at the Tournament Capital Centre and TRU - ranked first or second.
"I made a point to not talk about rankings with the kids - they have enough pressure on them," Patterson said Sunday, a day after his team beat the No. 7 Oliver-Southern Okanagan Hornets 86-73 in the regional final.
"We want them to focus on the game. You don't control the rankings . . . you control your performance in the games."
According to a schedule posted Sunday on the B.C. High School Boys Basketball Association website, the Sabres will open against the Invermere-David Thompson Lakers on March 9, 11:15 a.m., at the TCC.
Patterson said the rankings have been quite turbulent this season, so he doesn't know if the Sabres are ranked No. 1 or 2. The Victoria-Lambrick Park Lions won Vancouver Island and also are ranked in the top two.
"Lambrick won their region, and just hammered everyone," Patterson said. "The main thing (if Sa-Hali gets the No. 1 or 2 seed) is that we don't meet Lambrick, unless we're both in the final."
Sa-Hali was the only team of the province's top three to win its region.
The No. 1 Chilliwack-G.W. Graham Grizzlies finished fourth in the Fraser Valley, with the No. 3 Surrey-Southridge Storm taking third (the Storm beat the Grizzlies 76-62 in Saturday's Fraser Valley bronze-medal game).
Both of those teams - along with the Mission Roadrunners and the Delta-Delview Raiders, who finished 1-2 in the Fraser Valley - have qualified for provincials.
The provincial rankings aren't actually a factor in the seeding process at provincials, but usually are quite accurate in their assessments.
It has been a crazy season in the rankings, with teams rising and falling each week.
"I said to (Sabres assistant coach) Elmer (Froese), 'Have you ever seen it so wide open?' " Patterson said.
"He said, 'Never, never.'
"It's been all over the place . . . absolutely crazy."
After beating the Summerland Rockets 105-41 on Thursday, the Sabres beat the Vernon-Clarence Fulton Maroons 66-62 on Friday. Timo Sargent had 20 points, Patrick Wells scored 15 and Chase Blair ended with 14.
The Sabres came back to beat the Hornets, with Blair scoring 26 points and grabbing 20 rebounds, Sargent ending with 20 points and six assists, and Wells adding 15 points.
"We nailed shots," Patterson said of the final. "We hit shot after shot after shot, especially the three-ball - we were 9-for-17.
"And we had our highest free-throw percentage of the season. Seventeen-for-22, that's 77 per cent - our goal is 70."
Blair was named a tournament all-star, with point guard Sargent picking up MVP honours.
"Timo . . . when you get to the higher-level teams, it's all about defence," Patterson said. "He's just so calm out there, always finding lanes and making good plays.
"We go as he goes."
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The Sabres girls, meanwhile, are looking at a top-five seed at provincials after winning the Okanagan championship in Vernon.
The Sabres had already booked their tickets to provincials by winning the West Zone last week, but now have loads of momentum and the possibility of moving up from a No. 7 ranking when the seedings for provincials are done this week.
Sa-Hali opened the tournament with an 85-36 victory over the Winfield-George Elliot Coyotes. Emily Hilton had 20 points in the victory, and Taiysa Worsfold scored 17.
The Sabres went on to beat the Vernon-Clarence Fulton Maroons, 70-46. Worsfold scored 22 points, with Nicole Karstein scoring 16 points and snatching 12 rebounds. Tess Naylor ended with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Worsfold had 14 points, seven assists, six rebounds and five steals as the Sabres beat the Vernon Panthers 56-44 in the final. Naylor had another double-double, with 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Karstein grabbed 13 rebounds, scored nine points and blocked seven shots.
Worsfold was named tournament MVP, with Leanne Rustand and Naylor each making the all-star team.
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