M.E.I. Basketball - Ed Suderman - 1961 - 1963

March 1993 B.C."AAA" Basketball Tournament Program 2nd page
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Meanwhile, a tough Alberni Chieftains squad was doing some winning of its own, topping North Surrey 62-50 in the other semifinal game.

Suderman had sprained his ankle against Q.E. and when the MEl team retired to their room at the Vancouver YMCA that Friday night 30 years ago, Braun admits his players were starting to wonder what the next day would bring.

"Ed was the team leader," says Braun. "And there was some doubt if he was going to be able to play. I started to feel the pressure and I know the kids were starting to feel it, too."

When the Eagles arose from a night of fitful sleep the day of the championship game, Braun realized he had to do something to calm their nerves.

So he gathered the team together and told them they were going to go for a walk.

Braun took the team to Stanley Park and they spent the early part of - the day walking around Lost Lagoon, soaking up the beauty and forgetting about the hurricane that would await them later that night.

"At first we all wondered what was going on ," says Falk. "But looking back on it now, it relaxed us, calmed us. It was an esthetic experience, just like winning the tournament turned out to be an esthetic experience.

"When I think about that morning, I can't think it was anything but total brilliance on his (Braun's) part."

When the game finally tipped off that night before an achingly loud crowd, the Eagles got the kind of game they were expecting from the Chieftains. MEl led 15-10 after the first quarter but trailed 28-27 at the half.

But then, the sons of farmers realized why they had spent the countless hours that they had in their own backyards and in Falk's hayloft. They had prepared themselves for just such a pressure situation, and they responded in firewagon fashion.

MEl outscored Alberni 22-5 in the fourth quarter and won 58-40. Finally, they were on top of the world.

The phone rings in the academic dean's office at the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary in Fresno, California, and a soft voice picks up the phone and offers a distant "Hello. Yes, this is Howard Loewen."

He is one of the sons of farmers and in his mind's eye, he can still see his old hoop, nailed on to the side of the chicken shack back home. He can also remember a precise moment in the championship game when a 17-year-old looks into the crowd and finally realizes the magnitude of his journey.

"It was in the second half," he says. "I just looked up and suddenly realized that there were 6,000 people watching me. And then I missed a wide-open layup ."

"It was in the second half," he says. "I just looked up and suddenly realized that there were 6,000 people watching me. And then I missed a wide-open layup."

Loewen makes as many trips back to the Fraser Valley as his busy schedule will allow. And he is sure to look up Heidebrecht, Ratzlaff, Falk, Hooge and all the gang.

He says the game has given him the gifts that have led to his success.

"It was the discipline and the commitment that developed into a team work ethic," he says. "And that has translated directly, for me, into the life stream. The seeds were sown then for all of my success now."

"And hey, say 'Hi' to all the guys for me."

The sons of farmers and their coach have left a legacy. It starts with Edward Suderman, Jr., a Grade 10 basketball player at North Vancouver's Handsworth Secondary and just keeps on going, all the way into the heart of the Fraser Valley where Jake Braun's grand-daughter, Stephanie Reimer, is a current standout with the MEl senior girls team.

This week of basketball celebration is about crowning a champion , for sure. But every March, it's also about families and friends coming full circle.

It's about old school chums who grew up on the farms and played on gravel driveways, skinning their knees and bleeding for a chance to win.

It's about going out into the real world with your varsity letter jacket folded up in the bottom of your suitcase.

It's about keeping, yellowing, faded newspaper clippings.

It's about coming back to this gathering each year to renew old acquaintances and then realizing that although you haven't kept in touch for years, it doesn't really matter.

The same feelings are always there. "It's instant comfort to see them all," says Suderman of his 1963 teammates. "We shared tough experiences together. And when I see any of them, it's always unconditional acceptance."

They were the sons of farmers and they grew up. It's the game and this tournament that lets them come home every year. It's the game and this tournament that brings them back to the old hay loft.

And if you can 't imagine what their hay loft was like, just remember that the building you 're walking around in this week really is the biggest old hay loft around. The sons of farmers welcome you to the biggest harvest of them all.

Howard Tsumura, whose Super 25 rankings are the official ratings of B.C, High School Boys Basketball Association, is a sportswriter with the Vancouver Province.

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