LANGLEY — Welcome back loyal Varsity Letters readers. We have gone final for the evening.
Today, we’re honoured that longtime former Vancouver Sun sports reporter Gary Kingston has re-joined the Varsity Letters team and will provide game reports from this tier throughout the day.
Those game reports follow below, but first here’s a look at Friday’s Final Four:
TOP HALF DRAW
8:45 p.m. — No. 1 Charles Hays vs. #12 Sa-Hali
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
7 p.m. — No. 7 George Elliott vs. No. 11 SMUS
BY GARY KINGSTON, Special for Varsity Letters
TOP HALF DRAW
No. 1 CHARLES HAYS 87 No. 9 WESTSYDE 68
LANGLEY — It’s Utah State-bound Liam McChesney who draws most of the hype and attention with the Charles Hays Rainmakers, but it’s the quiet assassin Kai Leighton who drove the Prince Rupert school to a big win Thursday at the Langley Events Centre.
“He’s just a quiet kid who goes about his day,” assistant coach Ryan Bishop said of the six-foot-four Grade 11 who had a team-high 29 points and 12 rebounds in the Rainmakers 87-68 quarterfinal win over Westsyde Whundas in the Double A boys basketball championships. “He just gets it done. He’s a silent killer basically.”
Silent, but tough. A beast on the inside for Charles Hays, which is seeded No. 1 at the provincials.
Leighton was a tidy 11-for-15 from the field and was deadly in the third quarter as the Rainmakers stretched a 44-31 halftime lead into a 73-47 advantage. Leighton poured in 14 points in the quarter, displaying a wide variety of talent by scoring on a fast-break layup, on a nifty reverse layup under the basket and on a pair of three-pointers.
“He’s one of those guys that you know what you’re going to get with him,” said Bishop. “He works hard offensively, defensively. All the small things, offensive board, defensive boards, guard who he needs to guard. He does it all pretty much.”
McChesney, the slight but silky smooth six-foot-nine forward, chipped in with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
“There was a lot of attention on Liam today,” said Bishop. “But we’ve got guys like Kai and other guys on the team, they step up. At the end of the day we’ve got a pretty well-rounded team.
Grade 10 forward Caden Pagens scored 10 points on five-of-five shooting, while diminutive guard Tyler Jones also added 10.
The Rainmakers started slowly, trailing 8-2 and struggling to get the ball inside to McChesney and Leighton. But a 15-2 run midway through the opening quarter got the talented central coast squad off and running.
Only some hot three-point shooting by Westsyde’s big man, Tyrelle Chadwick, who drilled three from long-distance in the first half, kept the Whundas within hailing distance.
Carsen Day led the Whundas with 15 points, while Chadwick added 13. But the six-foot-four Chadwick was not credited with a single rebound as Charles Hays enjoyed a 34-21 advantage on the glass.
Abbotsford now advances to a semifinal Saturday night against the winner of Abbotsford Christian and Sa-Hali.
No. 12 Sa-Hali 68 No. 13 Abbotsford Christian 59
LANGLEY — A broken wrist cost Jalen Nunn his Grade 11 season with the Sa-Hali Sabres but when the Kamloops school needed him most Thursday night, it was all wrist, all good.
The bean-pole slight six-foot-one guard scored all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter, constantly getting to the basket for tough layups as the No. 12 seeded Sabres defeated No. 13 Abbotsford Christian 68-59 in a Double A quarterfinal at the boys provincial basketball championships.
“It’s nice to see him back, playing like a veteran should be playing,” Sa-Hali head coach Dean Magierowski said of Nunn, who also made a big offensive rebound off his own miss with 56 seconds left and his squad up by six.
Both teams were coming off upsets — Sa-Hali over No. 5 King George and Abbotsford Christian over No. 4 Elphinstone — and at times it looked like neither team wanted to grab the opening to reach the Final Four.
The game was sloppy, with plenty of turnovers and a plethora of missed shots. Sa-Hali shot just 25.9 per cent from the field, but a combined eight three-pointers from the guard tandem of Ty McCall and Kalem Wilson, who each finished with 19 points.
Abbotsford Christian was a dismal 28.9 per cent from the field with the Knights’ big scorers Cole Brandsma (10-of-24) and Zac Meinen (five-of-26) struggling at key stretches. Brandsma, B.C.’s top-ranked high school volleyball player, did lead the Knights with 25 points and 13 rebounds, while Meinen finished with 14.
Abbotsford Christian did take its only lead of the second half at 49-48 late in the third quarter, but the Sabres and, in particular, Nunn, wouldn’t be denied in the fourth quarter.Sa-Hali did hold a decisive edge on the boards, with six-foot-seven Grade 10 Jaydian Smith pulling down an astonishing 30 rebounds to go with his 10 points.
The Sabres now get No. 1 seed and overwhelming favourite Charles Hays Rainmakers in one semifinal after the Prince Rupert school dispatched Westsyde of Kamloops 87-68 in an earlier game Thursday.
“Coming into the tournament, our goal was Final Four,” said Magierowski, whose squad has yet to face Charles Hays this season and acknowledges that it will be a difficult matchup. “I got to spend some hours tonight and tomorrow morning to figure something out.
“Yeah, they’re good, but it’s high school basketball. Anybody can win on any day.”
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
No. 7 GEORGE ELLIOTT 91 No. 2 D.P. TODD 77
LANGLEY — With the George Elliott Coyotes winning the Okanagan championships this year for the first time since 1991, coach Dave Lafontaine thought a little history lesson from an old coach might be a good idea before provincials.
That ‘91 squad went on to win the B.C. Double A boys basketball championships, defeating Lambrick Park 98-79 when the provincials were played in the Victoria school’s gym.
Rick Davidson was the coach and Lafontaine had him address his squad before bringing his group to Langley this week from Lake Country.
“It was a ton of fun,” said Lafontaine after the Coyotes advanced to the semifinals with a 91-77 upset win over the No. 2 seed D.P. Todd Trojans. “He just told them that this whole thing is about being a team, being together and believing in each other. Play the game the way you know how to play it.”
The Coyotes did just that, getting scoring from the entire lineup and playing terrific zone defence against the bigger Trojans. Dynamic five-foot-10 guard Cameron Sale tallied 43 points for D.P. Todd on 15-of-37 shooting, but only five other players hit the scoresheet.
“We saw them earlier in the season, in January, and we thought ‘Oh boy, they are big and tough,’ and we thought we’d have to improve by 35 per cent to play with them.”
George Elliott held the Trojans to just seven second quarter points and used a 13-2 run in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
Nic Lafontaine led the winners with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Three other players were in double figures — Khavden Cullic with 16 and Bergen Van Lent and Matt Darly each with 10 — and three others chipped in with eight each.
“You now what, our guys just hit shots,” said Lafontaine. “And when you hit shots in this thing — what did we have? 14 three pointers — the key for us is to have multiple player in double digits. When we play like that we are very dangerous.”
The Coyotes’ semifinal opponent will be the St. Michaels University Blue Jags and long-time head coach Ian Hyde-Lay.
“St. Mikes, the legend,” said a smiling Lafontaine. “I’m a UVic guy, so I’ve known Ian for a long time, used to referee his games. His teams maximize everything they’ve got out there. They hustle, they defend like crazy and they do exactly what he wants them to do. That’s why he’s such a superior coach.”
No. 11 ST. MICHAELS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL 60 No. 3 LANGLEY CHRISTIAN 59
LANGLEY — They’re not very big. And they’re down the list when it comes to talented teams at the B.C. boys high school basketball championships.
But the St. Michaels University School Blue Jags have been molded in long-time head coach Ian Hyde-Lay’s consistent vision.
“Working right back to Steve (Nash) . . . the work ethic part, just have a dream and chase it by work, work, work.”
The Blue Jags, seeded No. 11 in Double A, used that formula on Thursday night a second successive come-from-behind victory, knocking off No. 3 Langley Christian 60-59 in a quarterfinal that see-sawed throughout.
“We were resilient,” said Hyde-Lay. “They had us down eight, nine a couple of times and we came back. Went down again and came back.”
Trailing 49-42 to start the third quarter, the Blue Jags rode a 10-0 run to take the lead, only to give it up on back-to-back threes by Langley Christian’s Jonas Vanhuizen and Justin Geuze. Then down 59-54, St. Michaels closed things out with two treys of their own, the first by Karter Fry and the second, with just nine seconds remaining, from Tristan Khun.
“Typical playoff basketball,” said Hyde-Lay. “Last night, we were coming from behind and won by three (49-46 over No. 6 Britannia), tonight we win last possession.
“So many 50-50 plays either way. They miss a wide open one (late) and we get one that uses a lot of the rim to go in.”
That was Khun’s game-winner from the top of the arc, only his third basket in 11 attempts.
“Really happy for him,” said Hyde-Lay. “He had a frustrating night, got in early foul trouble and was just always fighting it, battling. He’s been such a great leader for us this year, to see him make the game-winner was terrific.”
Fry, Ty Olynyk and Noah Helman each had 15 points for the winners, with Khun chipping in with seven.
Vanhuizen led Langley Christian with 20, while Asher Mayan contributed 13 to go along with a team-high 12 boards.
St. Michael’s now moves on to play the winner of No. 2 D.P. Todd of Prince George and No. 7 George Elliott of Lake Country.
The Blue Jags haven’t faced either squad this season, but Hyde-Lay isn’t concerned.
“They haven’t played us,” he said with a wry smile.
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