Winning a tournament is a thrill for any team, but there was something a little extra special for the Handsworth Royals senior boys as they claimed the trophy in the No Regrets tournament Saturday night at Collingwood School.
The Royals used hard-nosed defence and some high-skilled offence to knock off Prince Rupert’s Charles Hays Rainmakers 69-50 in the final and win the No Regrets tournament for the first time since its creation in 2015. The event, which absorbed and built upon the former North Shore Invitational Tournament, is run by the Quinn Keast Foundation and takes its name from the mantra repeated by Quinn Keast back when he helped guide the Royals to a provincial championship win back in 2006, winning player of the game honours in the final. Quinn tragically died a few months later, but his legacy lives on in the Quinn Keast Foundation which has helped turn this tournament into one of the showcase events of the season, featuring 16 boys teams and eight girls teams playing at gyms across the North Shore.
“It’s wonderful,” Handsworth head coach Randy Storey said of being able to claim the No Regrets trophy, which features a bronzed Quinn Keast shoe. “Being able to host games at our gym and be a part of this and see the Keast family here and ex-players, and North Shore people here – it makes the event maybe a little bit more special.”
The Royals were ready for a tough matchup against the Rainmakers, one of the top-ranked AA teams in the province. The Rainmakers feature 6-9 forward Liam McChesney, a smooth and multi-skilled big man who has the skills of a guard and is bound for NCAA Div. 1 school Utah State next season.
Handsworth, however, showed early that they were the team to beat, racing out to a 12-2 lead in the first five minutes of the final. The Royals got strong play from their own big man, George Horn, who limited McChesney’s opportunities on his way to earning player of the game honours. On offence guards Merek Van Bylandt, named tournament MVP after the game, and Robert Lutman paced the Royals as they held off all challenges from the Rainmakers. Horn earned first-team tournament all-star status while Lutman was named to the second team.
The stars of this year’s Royals team likely weren’t even in grade school when Quinn was helping Handsworth win their first ever provincial title, but his presence still looms very large, guiding the team’s commitment to hard work.
“It’s part of our basketball culture at school: no regrets,” said Storey. “We have No. 13 on some of our uniforms – it’s lasted the years since we lost Quinn. He still has an influence on our basketball program.”
The Keast family – mom Jan, dad Tom and Quinn’s twin sister Jamie – are all heavily involved in the foundation and the tournament, and all were on hand Saturday night to watch the game.
“It’s a pretty good feeling,” Tom Keast said of watching the Royals win the No Regrets tournament for the first time. “They’ve got a good team. They’ve got a bunch of strong guys who are able to attack the basket. There’s no passengers.”
One of the main missions of the Keast foundation is to procure scholarships and awards for student athletes who display the qualities of effort and teamwork that allowed Quinn, an undersized forward, to succeed in the game.
“There’s tons of great kids, and there were certainly a lot of them in this gym today,” said Tom Keast. “We look for kids for scholarship purposes, and you’re looking for a kid that every coach wants. Every coach wants one and not every coach has one.”
Coach Storey has more insight into that No Regrets mentality than most – he was Quinn’s coach for grades 10, 11 and 12. Storey famously challenged Quinn to take 30,000 shots over the summer after the Royals lost at provincials in 2005, to which Quinn replied that he would instead shoot 100,000 shots. Coach Storey stepped away from basketball to raise his young family in 2010, but returned to the team this season after former coach Cam Mowat stepped down.
Storey looked comfortable back in his old role with a new generation of players.
“I think about basketball every single day of my life,” he said about stepping back onto the court as head coach. “I’m always questioning what we do, and whether or not we can get better. I just wanted to have the chance to follow my passion of working with kids and trying to get better and improve every day. I’m just thankful that we’ve got a good group of kids and I get that opportunity for at least another couple of years. … It’s nice to be a teacher and a coach, have these kids in your class and build team, build culture. It’s the wonderful part of being a teacher – working with keen kids is pretty rewarding.”
The Royals were an honourable mention in the latest provincial AAAA rankings and may move up following the No Regrets win. It was their second tournament final in as many weekends, as Handsworth finished second at the Mike Dea Classic in Edmonton at the start of the month.
“I watch us run down the floor and it’s hard for me not to see one thing we could be doing better in every aspect, but we’ve got some nice pieces and I’m excited about the opportunity to get back to work next week and see if we can improve,” Storey said about his new team’s hot start. “We have kids that expect to do well, kids that are confident, kids that are skilled. I’m not surprised that we’re doing well.”
For full tournament results visit noregretsbball.com.