The Lake City Falcons high school basketball program has come a long way in the past two seasons under the guidance and tutelage of coach Harrison Stupich.
Stupich, after a successful university hoops career on Vancouver Island, himself, has now settled down in the lakecity with his partner of Williams Lake and two young children, and is working as a teacher at the high school.
When he took over the reins of the team last season, Stupich said he wanted to instill his love of basketball in his players — many who had little experience in the sport — which ultimately resulted in a bronze medal at zone championships.
From Dec. 13-14, the Falcons had a chance to showcase their skills in Williams Lake for the team’s home tournament where they hosted the Peter Skene Ogden Eagles and the Correlieu Coyotes.
“We lost about six of our guys to graduation from last year’s team and they were kind of our core group, but I think with the success we had winning bronze last year we’ve attracted a lot more guys,” Stupich said.
“We have 15 players on our roster right now. Last year we ended with nine, so there’s a bit of turnover but a lot of new faces looking to revive their basketball careers and we’ve got a pretty good mix with six Grade 12s, the rest Grade 11s and one Grade 10 player.”
Friday afternoon, in front of a packed Lake City secondary gymnasium filled with students, teachers and parents, the Falcons put on a show for the hometown crowd.
Trailing almost the entire game versus the Coyotes, Lake City managed to dig deep and find a way to win.
“We were down for the entire game until a minute to go in the fourth quarter and we went up by two and held on to win, so that was pretty good,” Stupich said. “They were pretty excited to squeak out a win in front of their friends and family.”
Later Friday evening, the team handed the fledgling PSO Eagles squad a sound defeat.
“Adrenaline kicked in and, since we have 15 guys, we were able to get some fresh legs out there,” Stupich said. “Everyone got equal minutes in that game and we won by 30 or 40 but, credit to 100 Mile, it was their first game, they haven’t had a basketball program in years and they played hard.”
Saturday, the Falcons, split up into two teams so all participants could get more competition, went unbeaten.
“That put both our teams in the first- and second-place game, and then Correlieu beat 100 Mile in the other game.”
Rounding out the team are Taki Faubert, Deven Naumann, Adrien Batso, Gurkaren Boyal, Isaac Shoults, Hunter Boston, Kevin Stuart, Ethan Michel, Jared Crowe, Bjorn Hunt, Cody Elkins, Jacob Maas, David Buechele, Satnam Gill, Jacob Champagne and Lovedeep Galsian.
At the tournament, Stupich said Maas and Buechele were phenomenal, along with the play of point guards Faubert and Michel.
“David and Jacob were a pretty big force to be reckoned with on the glass and inside,” Stupich said. “David came from Saskatchewan last year and he had a very, very strong weekend. He’s super athletic and plays very, very hard.”
Moving forward, he said the Falcons will continue to work on their offensive and defensive systems as the team has a busy January ahead.
“We’re trying to get a bit more flow to our offense and, defensively, we’re working on picking up on our pressure and getting after teams by denying the ball and staying up tempo,” Stupich said. “We’re trying to play with high energy and pick up the pace of the game because we’re better when we’re out in transition.”
Throughout the home tournament, Stupich added he saw improvement in his team.
“We just got better at keeping our composure and executing down the stretch,” he said. “At the start of the season I’d ask them to do something and they were lost but now we’re starting to run what we want because we’re more composed and under control.
“I think last year we maybe had better basketball players, but this year we have better athletes, and having more kids on the team is nice. There’s a lot of kids that just enjoy being around basketball and the culture, and they’re learning. Everyone’s smiling and having fun. The team feels a little more connected this year.”
Stupich also thanked his assistant coaches John Sheppard, Jason Salter and, a former player from last year’s roster, Tanvir Vaid.
The team will now take a break over the holidays before returning to the hardwood Jan. 10-11 for a tournament in Hope, then travelling to Ashcroft Jan. 17-18 for another tournament. Following, they’ll have two more tournaments in preparation for the upcoming zone championships where they hope to land a spot at provincials.
“Basketball is alive and well again at the school and the kids are having a great time and playing hard,” Stupich said. “I’m pretty pumped with our progress. Five more tournaments to go so there’s a lot more room for improvement, but the building blocks are there.”