The last Totem basketball tournament being played at the Alberni District Secondary School gym starts this Friday, Jan. 6. But the hallowed tradition is not ending: next year the tourney will take place at the new high school, athletic director Mike Roberts said.
Four boys and four girls teams are vying for the 57th title and six candidates are competing for the Totem Spirit Crown.
In hoops action, final placings will be determined by each teams record after round-robin play.
Boys title up for grabs as Ballenas is out
The Armada boys are competing against Stelly’s and Reynolds senior secondary schools from Victoria and the Kondors from Kwalikum Secondary.
Last year’s champions, Ballenas Secondary from Parksville won’t be back this year.
Of 13 players on the Armada roster, only three played in last year’s event. “We’re a relatively new crew but the whole year has been new for us,” second-year head coach Neelam Parmar said.
The Armada is 10-2 in pre-season play. Two of the losses were blowouts. “But we were in the other games, they were close,” Parmar said.
The Armada last saw action in December when they beat Woodlands Secondary by seven points.
“We missed 17 free throws though and that can’t happen,” Parmar said.
The Armada hasn’t played Stelly’s yet, but lost a tight game against Reynolds earlier this season.
Kwalikum appears to be the team to beat this weekend. “They’re the Phoenix Suns of Vancouver Island: they fast break, press and trap,” Parmar said. “They killed us earlier this year.”
Parmar eschews zone defenses and instead has had the team work hard on its man-to-man defense. He will likely counsel the Armada to clog the key this weekend, forcing teams to shoot from outside, he said.
The Armada have also added a post element to their game, and will be counting on Maquinna Pley to pull down rebounds on both ends of the floor.
The team has no inuries but Parmar has called up players Luke Bradley, Connor Van Vliet and Lucas Bitter from the junior squad to add depth to his roster.
“We’ll see what kind of action they’ll see but it will be a good experience for them just the same,” Parmar said.
Girls look for back-to-back Totem titles
The Armada senior girls are down a player but they hope to keep the girls’ title on home turf, head coach Greg Freethy said.
The Armada girls are vying for the title with Kwalikum, Ballenas and St. Thomas Aquinas from North Vancouver.
The Alberni Valley team is no longer one of the younger squads competing in senior tourneys. Eight of 11 players played at Totem last year.
“We’ve got an experienced crew coming back,” Freethy said.
The team got their collective game legs back with a lopsided 61-32 win over Cowichan in their first league game on Tuesday night at ADSS.
They haven’t played the rebuilding Ballenas this year, and have beaten Kwalikum in an early tilt.
But the wild card could be St. Thomas Aquinas, who the Armada beat in a close game last year, but know little about this season.
“I’d like to say that we’re the team to beat but we can’t take anything for granted,” Freethy said.’
“We’ll see after our opening game,” he added.
The team needs to play more consistently, something that has plagued them thus far this season, Freethy said.
The team had five practices over the holidays.
“If they do what they did in practice in games then we’ll be okay.”
The team is hobbled by the loss of Paige Hansen to a knee injury for the rest of the season. Freethy has called up Denae Edgar and Julia Hudson from junior to bolster his roster.
What would Totem be without spirit?
The Spirit competition gives non-athletes a chance to be part of the big show, tournament co-ordinator Mike Roberts said.
“I was an athlete but wasn’t into basketball, but my friends and I came to Totem,” Roberts said.
The candidates for Spirit winner are girls rugby: Jenessa Noviello; girls soccer: Alyssa Randles; cheerleading: Sabrina Osterpolski; dance: Melissa Goundan; track and field: Michayla Riley; and ABC News: Maria Duck.
Candidates participate in a rally, bake sale, food drives, contests and giveaways in the weeks leading up to Totem.
It is the spirit contestants’ goal to get as many people out to Totem games as possible, Roberts said.
Students get to vote on the candidate they feel is best, but the actual vote is a small part of Totem.
“It’s not just a popularity contest, it’s about more than that.”
Totem started as a Ms. Totem pageant in 1966 but changed to Totem Spirit in the late 1980s or early 1990s to be more inclusive. It is just coincidence that there are no male competitors this year.
The contest hasn’t changed a whole lot since Roberts graduated in 1986. “You see wild body painting, crazy cheering and posters today but we had fun like that back then,” Roberts said.
This may be the last Totem at ADSS on Burde Street but the show will go on at the new school on Roger Street.
“I know we needed a new school but if those old walls could talk can you imagine the stories they would tell,” Roberts said.
“Steve Nash played there, the Seredick boys, Andrew Sturgeon,” he said.
Students should enjoy Totem while they are in high school because this time in their lives goes by fast, Roberts said.
“When students grow up, they’re not going to reminisce about the English paper they did,” Roberts said. “But they will remember the fun they had at Totem.”
TOTEM TRIVIA….Chris Robertson was crowned the very first Miss Totem in 1966.