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Dukes lead playoff charge

Win over Collingwood clinches first place for Windsor
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Carson Graham's Nik Termansen goes up for a shot while Sentinel's Austin Penrose (left) and Oscar Oritz get up to challenge. Carson won the Jan. 31 matchup 54-40. Senior boys AAA playoffs are scheduled to start Feb. 21. For more shots of Carson vs. Sentinel visit the Photo Gallery at www.nsnews.com.

THE Windsor Dukes stamped their signature on the North Shore AA boys basketball season Thursday night, beating Collingwood 60-47 in a first-place battle to claim the regular season crown.

With a strong crowd out at Windsor's gym for their senior night, the Dukes and Cavaliers scrapped and clawed in a tight defensive struggle for much of the game. After being tied 2626 at the half, the Dukes took a slim 45-40 lead into the fourth quarter. That's when their power trio of David Manshrek and twins Spencer and Dyllan Quon took over at both ends, shutting down the Cavaliers on defence while taking turns scoring on powerful drives to the hoop on offence. In the end it was Windsor's fresh legs running their high-pressure defence that shut Collingwood down as the Cavaliers were limited to just seven points in the final quarter and the Dukes pulled away.

"Defensively both teams played well but I think we both have more to offer in terms of scoring," Windsor assistant coach Alex Van Samang said about the game. "We took five charges today - you can't ask for much more."

The win earned Windsor the right to host the AA playoffs starting on Wednesday.

"It feels great," Van Samang said about claiming first place and the right to host the playoffs. "The boys have put in a lot of time, around 700 hours since last season, and now we get to host and it's going to be a great thing for us."

The Dukes have been building to this moment for a long time. They're senior heavy with seven Grade 12 players, led by Manshrek who is one of only two Grade 12 players in British Columbia this year who has made the provincial team every year since Grade 8. Against Collingwood Manshrek didn't have a flashy game but still ended up as Windsor's top scorer and rebounder while playing almost every minute.

"You don't always notice David but he's always been our best player," said Van Samang. "David plays every position. He's our inbounder usually but he also plays point guard, shooting guard, he'll be our post-up guy and match up against the other team's biggest guy, he'll match up against the other team's best scorer, some nights he'll be a help guy - he does everything. He's a real hard matchup for other teams because he plays inside, outside, brings the ball up - it'd be a nightmare to scout us. You put a big guy on him he beats him on the outside and shoots over him or drives to the hoop. You put a little guy on him he posts up. He's pretty gifted."

The Quon twins, also Grade 12s, complement Manshrek well, giving the Dukes three tall players who can all go to work inside and also handle the ball on the perimeter.

Spencer and Dyllan are high-level hockey players who have starred with the North Van Wolf Pack junior B team this year while also hitting the hardwood with the Dukes.

"They're our Sedins," said Van Samang with a laugh. "Dyllan is our point guard and one of our scorers and Spencer more of a forward/guard but both can handle the ball really well and are slashers and can shoot it really well. Whenever they are on they are dangerous - they can beat anybody off the dribble. It's a beautiful thing to see . . . it's like skating through the defence every time they touch the ball."

Collingwood will settle for second in the regular season but they will be a tough out come playoff time

"They're going to be there with us in the end, I think," said Van Samang. The Cavaliers are led by the powerful inside outside duo of point guard Raman Mehat and forward Kadin Burnett. Mehat scored on slashing drives and long jumpers on Thursday night while high-flying Burnett did a little bit of everything, bombing away from the outside, slashing to the hoop and scoring from the post.

"We had a tough time stopping (Burnett)," said Van Samang. "If those two guys are hot and the rest of their guys do their jobs, they're going to be a tough team to handle."

The playoffs will begin Wednesday with a little February Madness, the top eight AA teams facing off in single elimination games. Play will then continue Friday in a double-knockout tournament for the final four teams with championship games scheduled for Feb. 23 at 5: 30 p.m. and, if necessary, Feb. 24 at 5 p.m. at Windsor.

The teams will be fighting for only one berth in the provincial championships.

"It's going to be tough, it always is on the North Shore and that's why our tournament is one of the best in the province - only one team goes," said Van Samang. "If you play one or two bad games you're not going to go."

The Dukes are hoping their veteran team will have what it takes to get that one provincial berth and to make the most of it.

"We've been planning and practising for almost two years with this group of seven guys," said Van Samang. "We want to be in provincials and we want to be in a position to compete for a championship in the provincials. We think we can do that with what we have. If we put it all together there's no doubt we can win it."

. . .

Senior league playoffs in all of the other North Shore divisions are starting up soon. Senior boys AAA will get underway Feb. 21 with the championship game scheduled for Feb. 29.

In senior girls action the playoffs are packed into two exciting days this week. On Monday, Feb. 13 the premier division and Div. 1 will hold their semifinals. Handsworth will play host in premier with Carson taking on Argyle at 4 p.m. and Sentinel meeting Handsworth at 5: 45 p.m.

In Div. 1 action Monday Seycove will play host as St. Thomas Aquinas takes on regular season champs Windsor at 6 p.m. followed by Sutherland meeting Seycove at 7: 30 p.m.

The premier and Div. 1 semifinal winners will then square off at Handsworth and Seycove, respectively, in championship finals on Wednesday starting at 7: 30 p.m.

aprest@nsnews.com