The South Delta Sun Devils hope to thrive in a different role when they clash with the Delta Pacers on Tuesday for the Stebbings/Murray Cup.
The senior boys basketball teams will meet for the third time since the rivalry game offered more at stake with a trophy named after longtime coaches and Delta Sports Hall-of-Famers Bob Stebbings and Neil Murray. The Sun Devils won the inaugural meeting and the Pacers evened the score last year with an 80-77 overtime thriller.
This time, a young up-and-coming DSS squad has to be considered the favourite after knocking off a pair of provincially ranked teams to finish second at a recent tournament in Burnaby. Meanwhile, the Sun Devils entered the 2012-13 campaign with some significant holes in their roster after losing a number of key players to graduation, including standout guard Dustin Triano.
"This is an inexperienced group including four kids who have never played (organized) basketball before," said South Delta coach James Johnston. "We have been fortunate to be right in the mix (in the Fraser Valley Southwest) the past couple of the years. This year it's more about hoping to be competitive."
The Sun Devils have been hanging tough with most opponents but their lack of depth has been exposed too. Case in point was Tuesday's league encounter with Semiahmoo where they trailed by just seven points with six minutes before running out of steam in a 76-60 loss. The same scenario unfolded earlier against Elgin Park.
"With our top four or five players we are capable of competing with most teams," added Johnston. "When you look at Delta, Seaquam and North Delta, their advantage is they can go deeper in their bench. We just can't afford to get into any kind of foul trouble."
Looking after the bulk of South Delta's scoring have been a pair of Grade 12s - post standout Nolan Sullivan and forward Gord Nicholson.
The Pacers have been tuning up for league play with a diet of American opponents, including a 68-38 win over the Darington High Loggers on Tuesday night in Snohomish County. Andrew Jones led the visitors with 15 points. Ryan Cowley added 12. Mackenzie Falk and Reece Griffing had 10 each.
Tuesday's game is being co-hosted by the South Delta Basketball Association. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m.