Sneak-Peak: Pre-Season preview of Abbotsford’s high school teams.
The last time the M.E.I. Sr. Boys reached the finals was in 1995 when they lost to the Ladysmith Miners – the Eagles were projected to win the tournament but the Miners pulled off 3 straight upsets to win the championships. Prior to that last visit to the finals the M.E.I. Eagles were a provincial powerhouse with frequent visits to the Final Four of the BC Boys Sr. Provincial Championships. A historic year for M.E.I. was 1963 when they completed an undefeated season onwards into the championship game against Queen Elizabeth, a year that they also defeated University of South Carolina’s freshman team. Their last championship was in 1970, led by Coach Jake Braun, the Eagles defeated the crosstown rivals Abbotsford Panthers with the final score of 49-47. The AAA Sr. Boys M.E.I. Eagles are currently ranked 5th in the British Columbia preseason polls and have the tools necessary to take them back to the Final Four of the 2018 AAA Sr. Boys Provincial Championships.
We thank Coach Thiessen, Chris Khotawanich (CK), Jordan York (JY), and Isaiah Reimer (IR) for taking the time to sit down with us to answer some questions regarding the upcoming season and their off-season leading up to the upcoming season.
Q: What has been the key to your success so far as a group?
The Thiessens:: “The key to our success so far has been depth, it has allowed us to play well even if one player is shutdown by the other team or is having an off day; someone else steps up. In 2015-16 we started with defence and then worked on our transition offence. This led to an amazing show in the Junior Provincials as the team was able to recognize each other’s patterns and push the ball up the floor quickly after a stop. In 2016-17 we worked on a bit more of the offences as well as trying out some other defensive set-ups that work for us. Now that we have taken the two seasons to work on the offence and defence separately, it is time to put all we’ve learned together; this is the season!”
Q: What were your most significant takeaways from the 2016-17 season?
IR: “We need to be better offensively and defensively as a team; and to stick together as a unit no matter what happens in the game. We tend to give up our lead this season, so for sure we need to be able to protect our lead next year, and not to get caught up with the score, or how much we are up by. We need to play every possession like it is our last.”
CK: “My biggest take away from the season was free throw shooting. We were not as successful at the free throw line this year as a team, and it affected the result of our games disappointedly. I believe we had an exceptional run as a young team full of grade elevens this year, and we are poised to work hard in the summer for our awaiting season.”
JY: “The biggest take away for me was to have a mindset of winning going into each game. It does not matter who we are playing; the number one ranked team or the second ranked team in the province. In basketball, any team has a chance to win on any given day, so all we have to do is stay poised and focused as team.”
Q: What did you take away from Rick Hansen’s championship year?
The Thiessens:: “We were really proud of Rick Hansen’s team last year. Each time we played them we wanted to take them down, and there was a lot of friendly banter between us. However, they proved that they needed to know their roles, seek for the success of each other and commit as a team. They were able to take the “hate” or bad calls and instead of returning with words, the instead proved that they were the best on the court.”
Q: What are your expectations for the upcoming season?
The Thiessens:: “We are returning every player except 3 (seniors that graduated). Our expectations are that the majority of our players know the pace, contact and game play at the senior level. At the earlier levels a team could revolve around one player, or a good press, or fast breaks, but at the senior level you are playing against a whole team of better athletes and bigger players. Each win will be as a team, as well as each loss. We have had to teach them that if they want to be an all-star, they need to elevate the game of their teammates.”
IR, CK, IR: “Our expectations for my senior year is to win as many games as possible, and to win Fraser Valleys in order to earn our chance to making Provincials. I believe with the team we have next year; we are Provincial title contenders. The fact that we did not make Provincials this year gave my team and I a little fire inside of us, and will always be on the back of my mind. I will use that motivation going into each game next year.”
Q: In your opinion, what are the key improvements for the upcoming season?
CK: ” Our key improvements for next season is to build more chemistry as a team. To also know what our strengths and weaknesses are individually and as a whole. I am trying to work on being comfortable with finishing with contact, and my jump shot inside the perimeter.”
The M.E.I. Eagles are coached by both Matt and Dawn Thiessen – our final question we asked them what the most challenging part of coaching is for them.
The Thiessens: “The most challenging part for us coaching basketball is to keep focused on the longer lasting traits. We want these boys to be better men, fathers, husbands and leaders in the future. Being a husband and wife coaching team, our marriage is on display and we hope to demonstrate an example of love and mutual respect. The way we treat our children who get to be a part of the team hopefully is an example of good parenting. We want to be competitive and we want to win, but when one individual tries to make that happen on their own, it doesn’t work.”