LANGLEY — Who would have thought that a sleepy-eyed 8:30 a.m. game played on the LEC’s South Court during the final day of the Tsumura Basketball Invitational back in early December would be a preview of the eventual B.C. senior boys Triple A championship final?
On Final Four Friday here at the 2018 B.C. boys tournament, both the No. 1 seeded Byrne Creek Bulldogs and the No. 2 seeded South Kamloops Titans won semifinal games to slot themselves into Saturday’s 6 p.m. provincial final on the spacious Arena Bowl court.
When asked about any previous meetings with the Titans, Byrne Creek Bal Dhillon did not want to comment on his team’s earlier 73-51 victory at the TBI because at the time, the Titans were missing both 6-foot-11 centre Ripley Martin and key shooting guard Evan Jumaga.
On Friday, Martin had 12 points and 10 rebounds and Jumaga 18 points as the Titans won a game of runs with the Pitt Meadows Marauders 65-59.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs switched up their defence to a multiple zone look late in the third quarter, going on a 16-0 run and eventually topping the Fraser Valley champion North Delta Huskies 76-64.
Dhillon also did not want to divulge too much of the inner workings of the defence, joking that it was actually man-to-man played lazily.
Yet whatever it was, it stopped a North Delta team, which had gotten on a three-point shooting roll late in the first half and early in the third quarter, in its tracks.
“They are good shooters and I am not taking anything away from them,” said Dhillon of the Huskies, “but typically, most teams shoot a lower percentage in this arena. So that is a testament to how good they are. And when they went cold I was surprised.”
Yet Byrne Creek, with the benefit of already having played at senior provincials, had an edge in experience. Add their length and their ability to more consistently go inside-out on offence, and they eventually took control of the contest.
“They face guarded two of our best guys,” said North Delta head coach Jesse Hundal. “We’re young and we had some mental turnovers. I think we just ran out of gas. But our goal was to win the Fraser Valley and finish top four in B.C., and we’ve done that. I am really proud of our guys.”
Martin Djunga, Byrne Creek’s leading scorer, put in the most meaningful performance of his career thus far, scoring 33 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Bithow Wan added 16 and Sufi Ahmed 11. The Bulldogs shot 52 per cent from the field over the second half, rallying from a 34-29 halftime deficit.
Meanwhile, South Kamloops got all they could handle from a Pitt Meadows team that boasts huge bodies in its front court, but still managed to prevail 65-59.
After the Titans built a lead as large as 14 points in the second quarter, 6-foot-7, 320-pound UBC football recruit Gio Manu took over, and a good portion of his game-high 24 points helped carry the Marauders to a three-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.
But towards the end of the game, South Kamloops brought back the 1-3-1 zone press that had helped it build its early lead towards the end of the game. It paid big dividends.
Nursing a one-point lead, Jumaga hit a trey for a 61-57 lead with 1:59 left, and then eight seconds later, the resulting pressure allowed Sam Jean to make a steal and drive in for a lay-up that made it 63-57.
“That was a great match-up,” said South Kam assistant coach Bryce McMillan of Manu vs Martin. “Those guys are physical and big and we knew that we would have to elevate our aggressiveness and our toughness.”
If South Kamloops gets a win Saturday, it would follow its senior girls team which won the B.C. AA title last Saturday.
(Note to readers — reports on AAAA and A will follow Saturday)
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