Welcome to our live reports from the B.C. Double-A basketball championships.
Today, we’re thrilled to have veteran journalist and sports communication specialist Dan Kinvig re-join the team at Varsity Letters. Dan’s reports are the final six included on this posting, while the first two come from the LEC’s own Gary Ahuja.
We also want to thank Dan and UBC’s Wilson Wong for their excellent photography!
Before we get to the reports, however, here is Thursday’s championship draw schedule with all games being played on South Court:
TOP HALF DRAW
3 p.m. — Charles Hays vs. Westsyde
4:45 p.m. — Abby Christian vs. Sa-Hali
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
6:30 p.m. — Langley Christian vs. St. Michaels University School
8:15 p.m. — D.P. Todd vs. George Elliott
By Gary Ahuja, Special for Varsity Letters
No. 3 LANGLEY CHRISTIAN 75 No. 14 LAMBRICK PARK 60
LANGLEY — A halftime defensive adjustment paid dividends for the Langley Christian Lightning.
The No. 3 Lightning were sporting just a three-point lead at the half against the No. 14 Lambrick Park Lions (Victoria) in the final game of the 2A draw on Wednesday night.
“We just had to keep our composure and realize that they hit a lot of three-pointers early on,” explained Lightning coach Jon Mayan. “And 6 (Coban Scott) and 9 (Comrick Brown) were hurting us, so we switched to a zone defence and that helped limit their opportunities in the second half.”
After surrendering 26 points in the second quarter alone, Langley Christian tightened things up on the defensive end, holding the Lions to a combined 21 points over the final 20 minutes of what would become a 75-60 victory.
Mayan said his team was nervous, even though the core of this team competed at last year’s provincial championships.
“We were nervous, even though we were here last year, a lot of turnovers, a little disjointed offensively and not recognizing who was hurting us,” he said.
The only difference is that they lost last year’s opening round game to move to the consolation side of the bracket whereas this year, they are to the quarter-finals, up against another Victoria squad, the No. 11 St. Michaels University School Blue Jags.
Asher Mayan led the Lightning in their opening-round victory with 22 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and five rebounds. Cole Addison was right behind with 22 points, 15 rebounds, two blocks and an assist.
Josh Walker wound up leading the Lions with 15 points and eight rebounds, as well as four steals, while Brown had 13 points and Scott finished with 11.
No. 7 GEORGE ELLIOT 88 No. 10 SEYCOVE 78
LANGLEY — Over a back-and-forth game which was tied five times and featured another eight lead changes, the No. 7 George Elliot Coyotes (Lake Country) held off North Vancouver’s Seycove Seyhawks 88-78, the No. 10 seed.
The Coyotes were up three points at the half and took advantage in the third and fourth quarters, going to the line 19 times and hitting 13, compared to the Seyhawks’ 7-for-10.
“We hit a few shots down the stretch and got a few stops,” said Coyotes coach Dave Lafontaine.
Nic Lafontaine led the victors with 32 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, as well as three steals. Seycove countered with 27 points, four assists and two rebounds from Dylon Matthews.
By Dan Kinvig, Special for Varsity Letters
No. 9 Westsyde 59 vs. No. 8 Brentwood College 54
There will be a new champion in the B.C. AA boys ranks.
The Westsyde Whundas saw to that, dethroning the two-time reigning champ Brentwood College 59-54 on Wednesday on opening day at the Langley Events Centre.
The Kamloops squad – the third-place finisher in the Okanagan zone – was defensively airtight against the Vancouver Island zone winners from Mill Bay, limiting them to 28.2 per cent shooting from the field thanks to a switch-everything scheme off the ball to counter Brentwood College’s screening action.
“Mad respect to Brentwood,” Westsyde coach Ryan Porter said afterward. “We had to game-plan our butts off in the last couple days just to have a chance against them. They are a step down from last year, but they’re an amazingly well-coached team with hard-working, big-bodied players. It took everything out of our boys to get that win today.”
Brentwood College led 15-10 at the end of the first quarter, but the second was all Whundas as they outscored their opponents 20-10 in the frame.
Westsyde extended the lead to 52-41 through three quarters, and while they would muster just seven points in the final frame, the equity they’d built over the first 30 minutes combined with their toughness at the defensive end was enough to get them across the finish line.
AJ McInnis counted a trio of three-pointers among his team-high 15 points for the Whundas, Cam Treadwell scored 12, and Darlington Murasiranwa, Carsen Day and Trey Dergousoff had eight points apiece.
Shaw Blaisdell racked up a game-high 19 points for Brentwood College, while Ian Grabher (14) and Juan Navarro (13) also scored in double figures.
After struggling with a litany of injuries over the middle portion of the season, the Whundas are finally healthy, and playing their best basketball at the right time.
“Everybody came back as we went into our zone tournament, and I think we’re starting to click,” Porter said.
No. 12 Sa-Hali 56 vs. No. 5 King George 53 (OT)
The Sa-Hali Sabres worked overtime to engineer an upset, knocking off the 2018 AA finalist King George Dragons 56-53 on Wednesday.
The Kamloops squad trailed by nine points midway through the third quarter, but dug deep and battled all the way back to tie the score 47-47 at the end of regulation, then outscored the Dragons 9-6 in the extra session. King George had a shot from beyond the arc to send it to a second OT, but the ball rimmed out.
Both teams excelled defensively – the Sabres limiting the Dragons to 24.1 per cent shooting from the field, and the Dragons returning the favour by keeping Sa-Hali to 27.3 per cent themselves.
Kalem Wilson lit the fuse offensively for the Sabres, scoring a team-high 18 points, and Jaydian Smith was a tower of strength in the paint with 14 points and 18 rebounds.
King George, the three-time reigning Lower Mainland zone champs, got 24 points from Romel Eyobe, a huge double-double of their own from Nikola Guzina (18 points, 19 boards), and 12 rebounds from Gareth Wintjes. But only four Dragons registered points on the night.
No. 11 St. Michael’s University School 49 vs. No. 6 Britannia 46
LANGLEY — Watching St. Michael’s University School grind it out on Wednesday vs. the Britannia Bruins, you’d naturally assume this was a defence-first team that locked down opposing teams for fun.
But in the aftermath of the Blue Jags’ 49-46 upset win – which saw them limit the Bruins to just two fourth-quarter points – head coach Ian Hyde-Lay insisted that wasn’t necessarily the case.
“To be honest, we haven’t defended that well this year – not by normal SMUS standards,” he said with a wry chuckle. “But 46 points (allowed)? That would have surprised me if you’d said that before the game.
“Sometimes your defence is tied to them probably not shooting the ball as well as they can. They had some open looks. Our whole focus was on trying to deny Josh (Kagande, Britannia point guard), and we were moderately successful at times. But I think if you’re going to do well in a tournament like this, your defence has to be pretty solid, and some days it goes your way.”
Indeed, the Blue Jags were able to throw a blanket over the Bruins at key times, paving the way for a huge comeback.
Britannia, after mustering just two points over the first five minutes of the game, clawed out a 10-8 lead at the end of the first quarter, and stretched it to 31-15 late in the second. SMUS, though, made a late push to cut the deficit to 31-21 at the break.
The Blue Jags opened the third on an 11-3 run, but the Bruins responded. Dorian Gonzalez hit a three and Kagande followed with a tough spinning jumper in the late to extend the lead to 41-34. In the dying seconds of the frame, Kagande came up with a steal and converted an and-one layup to give his team a 44-37 cushion heading to the fourth.
But Britannia would muster just two more points the rest of the way, and the Blue Jags mounted a rally by attacking closeouts and getting a few buckets at the rim.
Neither team shot the ball well, particularly from distance – Britannia was 5-for-34 from the land beyond, and SMUS was 3-for-21.
“It’s the biggest cliché in the world, but when you’re in a tournament like this, it’s survive and advance,” Hyde-Lay summarized. “I think we’ll be better tomorrow.”
Noah Helman paced SMUS with 20 points and 15 rebounds, and Karter Fry had 13 points and nine boards.
Kagande finished one assist shy of a triple double, posting 15 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. John Deng also had a big game, with 10 points and 14 boards.
No. 2 D.P. Todd 81 vs. No. 15 Pacific Academy 68
The D.P. Todd Trojans’ strength in the paint powered a steady performance in their B.C. AA tournament opener.
While the No. 2-seeded squad from Prince George wasn’t able to fully pull away against a scrappy Pacific Academy Breakers squad out of Surrey, their 81-68 triumph was relatively drama-free.
The North Central zone champs led 19-17 at the end of the first quarter and 41-32 at the half, and they extended the lead to double digits in the third quarter and kept the Breakers at bay from there.
The Trojans’ forward duo of 6’4” Saagar Shergill (24 points) and 6’6” Chris Magrath (12 points) not only combined for 36 points, they did so with extreme efficiency, shooting a combined 71.4 per cent from the field (15-for-21).
Grade 11 guard Cameron Sale contributed 14 points and eight rebounds for D.P. Todd, Shane Sandhu scored 13, and Holden Black had seven points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Breakers leading scorer Michael Chifan showcased a strong inside-outside game with 23 points and 16 boards, and Ethan Mesfin (16), Isaiah Francis (14) and Jacob Ronald (11) also scored in double figures.
No. 4 Elphinstone 61 vs. No. 13 Abbotsford Christian 64
The B.C. high school boys basketball championships aren’t even two hours old, and we’ve already got our first upset.
And what a barn-burner it was.
The No. 13 seed Abbotsford Christian Knights, playing before a partisan crowd in what amounted to a home-game atmosphere, knocked off the No. 4 Elphinstone Cougars of Gibsons by a 64-61 score in the AA tournament opener.
The Knights built a nine-point lead early in the fourth quarter, only to watch the Cougars battle back to draw even with six minutes remaining, setting up a pulse-pounding finish that saw Abby Christian punch its ticket to the Elite Eight.
“It was a rough start, and we spent most of the first half trying to catch up,” Knights senior forward Cole Brandsma said afterward. “But we decided, you know what, we’ve got nothing to lose. We’re not supposed to win this game, so why not just go for it? We worked hard, and that’s what the fourth quarter was all about for us.”
Elphinstone led for most of the first half, but the Knights found some traction midway through the second quarter, reeling off a 7-0 run to grab a 27-26 lead.
Abby Christian gained some separation as the third quarter wore on, with point guard Zach Meinen leading the way, and their lead was 50-41 after Brandsma stroked a long two-point jumper to open the fourth.
But the Cougars mounted a lightning-quick rally, highlighted by a pair of Guz Goerzen triples, to square matters at 54-54.
Abby Christian answered with a three-point play of the old-fashioned variety, Meinen driving the lane and dishing a no-look pass to Spencer Langelaar for the and-one layup. They never trailed again, despite a pair of highlight-reel plays from Elphinstone’s Elan Kimpton-Cuellar. The sublimely athletic 6’5” forward hammered down a dunk, and later rose to catch a baseline inbounds pass and fire home a close-range jump shot all in one motion with one second left on the shot clock.
At the other end, Meinen – who finished with 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds – was making huge plays for the Knights, and his pair of free throws made it 63-58 with 22 seconds left in regulation.
Elphinstone Grade 10 guard Nathan Parulski responded with a triple from well back of the arc, though, getting his team back to within 63-61 with 19.6 seconds remaining. The Knights went 1-for-4 from the line in the dying seconds, and Parulski had a chance to send it to OT. But Brandsma rose to block his first attempt, and when the ball came back to Parulski, his follow-up effort was off the mark.
Brandsma, B.C.’s top-ranked volleyball player who is ticketed for the UBC Thunderbirds in the fall, had seven blocked shots to go with 12 points and seven boards. Zach Fleming (12) and Langelaar (11) also chipped in offensively for the Knights.
Goerzen had a huge double-double (17 points, 17 boards) for Elphinstone, and Kimpton-Cuellar (14) and Joseph Schembri (11) scored in double figures.
No. 1 Charles Hays 119 vs. No. 16 Sparwood Spartans
Liam McChesney and the Charles Hays Rainmakers introduced themselves to the Langley Events Centre crowd in impressive fashion, blitzing the Sparwood Spartans 119-45.
McChesney, the Rainmakers’ supremely talented 6’9” forward who is off to the NCAA Div. I ranks to play for the Utah State Aggies in the fall, spearheaded a performance which saw the AA tournament’s top seeds overwhelm the Spartans with sheer physicality. McChesney’s stat line (16 points, 7-for-12 FG, 10 rebounds, two assists, one block) was garnished by five dunks, the last of which was a thunderous off-the-glass alley-oop from teammate Daniel Cachero.
“I told him, ‘Nice game. Thanks for taking it easy on us,’” Sparwood coach Pete Templin said with a chuckle, relaying his conversation with McChesney in the post-game handshake line.
“They’re very impressive. They took it easy on us, and they still won by 60 points. It was good for our kids to see the talent level that they bring to the table.”
The Rainmakers opened the game on a 15-0 run and led 33-9 at the end of the first quarter, and they were off to the races from there.
Prince Rupert-based Charles Hays boasted five double-digit scorers, with Tyler Jones (20), Kai Leighton (19), Quinton Nisyok (15) and Caden Pagens (10) joining McChesney.
“We played loose today – the guys were a little bit relaxed,” Rainmakers coach Mel Bishop said. “Everybody played, and that was a positive.”
And as to what fans can expect from McChesney this week?
“He’s very athletic for 6’9”, and he’s quite quick and skilled,” Bishop said. “He’s not just a back-to-the-basket guy. We tried to make him a basketball player, where he could score inside, he’s good on the perimeter, he can handle the basketball, he’s a good passer, all those things.”
Sparwood, a traditional Single A-sized school making its first provincial appearance at the AA level, got 24 points from Grade 11 scoring sensation Tanner Barclay, who earlier this season poured in 83 points in a single game. Devon Elliott notched a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
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