Members of the 1972 Centennial Centaurs senior men’s basketball team that won the school’s only provincial championship recently reunited for a 50th reunion
The Centennial Centaurs’ eighth-place finish at the recent BC High School AAAA Men’s Basketball Championships may not have lived up to the team’s second-place finish heading into the tournament.
But several miles from the Langley Events Centre, a group of longtime supporters celebrated anyway.
Players from the 1972 Centaurs, the school’s only men’s team to win the senior provincial basketball title, gathered last Friday (March 11) at the Vancouver Golf Club to reacquaint themselves and catch up on their delay.
50 years ago, this group of now elderly people tasted the sweetest victory of their young lives, beating the defending champions, North Delta Huskies, 60-40, in front of nearly 10,000 cheering fans, friends and family. at the Pacific Coliseum. in Vancouver.
“It was like a shiver went down your spine,” Centennial 6’4″ power forward Greg Hoskins said of the atmosphere of that night long ago. “It was amazing.”
While the game was for provincial basketball bragging rights, it was also an opportunity for the Centaurs to avenge an earlier one-point loss to the Huskies in the Fraser Valley playoffs.
North Delta was a basketball powerhouse, having come through teams like Abbotsford, MEI and North Surrey who were stacked with big men to win the 1971 championship. Before the 1972 final they had only lost twice all season.
Huskies coach, the late Stan Stewardson who coached the men’s team at Simon Fraser University for several years, said many Centennial players weren’t good enough to make his team.
LARS HANSEN WENT TO PLAY IN THE NBA
And the one who was, the imposing center Lars Hansen, had been blocked in the Fraser Valleys by North Delta’s strategy of doubling him with a defender up front and behind.
Hansen, who played at the University of Washington and then played professionally in Europe as well as a season with the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics, said Stewardson’s assessment stung the Centaurs.
“I don’t think there were any doubts in this team,” he said. “We had confidence. Our physique was better than North Delta’s”
Hansen, who had not yet committed to a post-secondary program, said he had already been seasoned by playing in basketball camps in the United States where he had to overcome the cover of some of the best players in the world. secondary school in this country.
“It allowed me to come back bigger and stronger and to have a clear idea of what basketball was all about.”
John Buis, who played for North Delta and then went on to have a long career with the RCMP that included a stretch in Coquitlam, said the Huskies knew how to repeat as champions that they had to stop Hansen.
“He was a pretty big guy,” Buis said of the 6’10” star. “He was the key guy.”
As the Centaurs and Huskies moved through the AA Tournament preliminary rounds on a collision course with each other, anticipation for the matchup grew.
Hoskins said the crowded Centennial halls were abuzz and excitement spread throughout Coquitlam as everyone supported the team at the city’s only high school at the time.
HIGH SCHOOL CHAMPIONSHIPS ARE BIG BUSINESS
Buis said the high school basketball championship was a focal point of the Lower Mainland’s winter sports scene, catching the attention of Vancouver’s three daily newspapers – the Province, the Sun and the Columbian.
“It was the event to go to,” he said, adding that the Huskies’ status as defending champions comes with its own pressure.
Centennial took a 12-9 lead late in the first quarter, but the teams were tied at 24 when they retired to their locker rooms at halftime.
Hansen accounted for 21 of the Centaurs’ points.
“With a guy like Lars, you just had to give him the ball and he would take over,” Hoskins said.
“We just couldn’t stop Lars,” Buis recalled. “He had one of those nights.”
At the final whistle, Hansen had scored 39 points, the most ever scored in the championship up to that point.
He was named the tournament’s most valuable player, reclaiming the honor he also earned the previous year when the Centaurs made it to the semi-finals.
Hansen said that despite the scoresheet appearances, he did not win the provincial title alone.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the way the guys played,” he said, noting his teammates were smashing the boards and battling for the rebounds. “They just left me the score.”
CENTENARY PLAYERS’ COMMITMENT LASTS
Hoskins said the bond between the players transcends their roles on the basketball court.
“There were a lot of friendships within the team,” he said.
Hansen added, “I really enjoyed how everyone accepted their role. There was no animosity. »
Fifty years later, the bond remains strong.
In addition to the players and coach Gordon Betcher, who is still alive and kicking at 87, several members of the school’s cheerleading squad also attended the reunion.
“People don’t really change that much,” Hoskins said. “We’re just getting old.”
For Buis, the experience of two consecutive appearances in the Provincial Championship launched a lifelong passion to pass that opportunity on to subsequent generations as Tournament Director for many years.
“It was an experience I will never forget,” he said. “It ushered me into the next phase of my life.”
MEMBERS OF THE 1972 CENTENNIAL CENTAUR:
- Rob Davidson, guard
- Terry Uotuk, guard
- Mitchell Dudoward, guard
- Art Abram, guard
- Gary Holte, guard
- George Musseau, striker
- Dave Bedwell, guard
- Greg Hoskins, striker
- Al Godin, guard
- Brian Fulton, striker
- Arnold Anderson, center
- Lars Hansen, center
- Gordon Betcher, coach
- Scott McNab, Director