Eric Rogers smiles when asked how good his Sardis Falcons senior boys basketball team can be.
“I haven’t seen a team that we can’t beat if we’re playing well,” he proclaims.
Bold words, but jusitified when you look at the players Sardis has and the games that they’ve played.
The team is 3-0 in early league play and 12-4 overall (including preseason and tourney play).
The most recent rankings by the BC Boys High School Basketball Association has Rogers and his Falcons ninth in the province.
Rare air for a school that hasn’t sniffed basketball success in a long, long time.
“It’s kind of cool playing on a team with expectations,” Rogers says. “Having people actually coming out to watch our games. We have 300 fans some nights, and that’s awesome.”
Sardis coach Kyle Graves has a deep squad in 2013, with two players leading the offensive charge.
Rogers is one.
Hayden Lejeune is the other.
Both have provincial team experience and both have come up the basketball ladder together.
“I’m pretty good at getting him the ball for fast breaks and dunks, and we have other plays for just the two of us,” Rogers says. “I pass it in to him, cut to the basket, get the ball back and that’s a layup right there.”
“I can see in their eyes sometimes that they’re setting something up,” adds Graves. “I think the other guys know as well, and they kind of get out of their way.”
If Lejeune is the tree in the paint, dominating with his height, it is Rogers’ versatility that makes him so potent.
He is the classic tweener, big but quick.
Standing six-foot-three (almost four), he can play forward, venturing into the key to pull down rebounds and drain short jumpers and put-backs.
Yet he’s quick enough to play guard, creating huge mismatches against smaller opponents.
“We’re not a high scoring team, but him being the all-round player he is really helps,” says coach Kyle Graves. “We can send him to the post and he can knock down a shot or make a good pass. And if we need a clutch three pointer, we’ll draw up a play that gets Eric the ball.”
Lejeune is much the same way.
He is a terror around the basket, throwing down rim-rocking slams from time to time.
“It’s pretty cool and the crowd gets hyped up,” Rogers says of the dunks.
But the big fella also shows a soft shooting touch when he backs away from the basket.
For opposing defences, there’s no easy way to defend these Falcons. Collapse to the basket, and Rogers and Lejeune can light it up from the outside.
Press the points and they’ll make you pay in the key.
Double Lejeune and Rogers will kill you.
Double Rogers and Lejeune will kill you.
Double them both and someone else will step up.
“We can attack everywhere because we’ve got good drivers, good shooters and good post players,” Rogers said. “We’re at our best with Hayden in the post, kicking the ball out for threes. But we’re not weak anywhere.”
Two elite players can carry a high school team a long way.
“The last couple years we had one guy having a really good game and one guy pretty quiet, where this year we’ve got one having a really good game and one having at least an average game,” Graves says. “But to become really good, we need both of them hitting the 20 point mark and firing on all cylinders.”
Even with that, against the best of the best, Rogers and Lejeune alone may not be enough to get it done.
“If I was coaching against them I’d consider doubling both and leaving one guy to guard the other three players,” Graves laughs. “That’s not to disrespect our other guys, but Hayden and Eric are that good. And once our other guys get that confidence to knock down shots, we will be really dangerous.”
As good as the Falcons have been this year, the best may be yet to come.
At last weekend’s Legal Begal tournament at Terry Fox secondary school in Port Coquitlam, Sardis finished 1-2.
Underwhelming on the surface.
But they lost to the host Ravens and the province’s top-ranked team, the Kitsilaino Blue Demons, and the latter loss was a nail biter.
Kits beat the Falcons 76-74 on a buzzer-beater.
Sardis did the same to 10th ranked Vancouver College, with Rogers sinking a last second shot to secure a 62-60 win.
Rogers believes Sardis can reach another level with a bit more consistency.
“We’ll go through spurts when we’re not clicking, and then all of a sudden we’ll get 20 points in five minutes,” he says. “Man for man, we’re deeper and more skilled than a lot of the teams we face. I think we can make provincials and once we’re there we’ll be a big threat to upset some teams.”
Rogers and company face a sizeable test a week today when they host Yale secondary school in a matchup of top 10 teams.
The Lions (Abbotsford) are ranked No. 2 in the province, and it has been a long time since a regular season high school b-ball game carried this much importance for a Chilliwack team.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do individually and as a team,” Graves says. “But our goal at the beginning of the year was to make provincials, and right now I think we have a real good shot of doing that.”
Tipoff is 8 p.m.
Get scores and schedules online at bcboysbasketball.com.
l The Falcons and Chilliwack secondary school clash in an all-local matchup Tuesday at CSS.
Tipoff is 8 p.m.