LANGLEY — Welcome to our Day 3 coverage from the 2019 B.C. senior boys basketball championships. We’ve gone final for the day.
Coverage for both Quad-A and Triple-A games will be provided by Howard Tsumura. Former Vancouver Sun sportswriter Gary Kingston will cover the Double-A semifinals, while the Langley Event Centre’s own Gary Ahuja will provide reports from the Single-A contests.
By Gary Kingston, Special for Varsity Letters
FINAL FOUR FRIDAY
No. 7 GEORGE ELLIOT 85 No. 11 ST. MICHAELS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL 49
LANGLEY — Forget the dominating win. Forget the fact the George Elliott Coyotes are back in the Double A boys basketball championship final game for the first time since 1991 after a decisive 85-49 dismantling of St. Michaels University School.
Head coach Dave Lafontaine was more interested in talking about shoes. His on-the-bench shoes. The three-stripe black-and-white addidas with the distinctive and dazzling gold tips and little bit of teal trim.
“The kids all were (stylish on-court sneakers), so I thought I’m going to start wearing coaching shoes,” said Lafontaine. “I started five years ago . . . and I wore these gaudy yellow shoes.
“Every year I’ve come back with a new shoe. So, I custom designed these suckers. Gold tips — chasing gold, so we’re right there. Black and white for Elliott and then we have this ugly teal line in our gym. We have this play we run on the sideline called Teal.”
Lafontaine has got some undeniably talented kids, including his youngest son, Nic, who led the Coyotes on Friday night at the Langley Events Centre with 26 points. But the gregarious, shaved-head bench boss firmly believes that those shoes have played a part in his squad winning 35 games this season and earning a long-sought return to the final.
Interestingly, Lafontaine was a young official at that ‘91 tournament in Victoria when George Elliott defeated the host Lambrick Park in the title game. He had the coach from that team give his squad a pep talk before they left Lake Country for this year’s provincials.
The Coyotes struggled early Friday, trailing 5-2 midway through a quiet first quarter. But then Nic Lafontaine got hot, following up a driving layup with three straight three-pointers, and George Elliott was off and running. The Coyotes led 23-13 after one, 42-28 at the half and 65-36 after three when they closed that quarter on 15-0 run that extinguished any hope St. Mikes had of making a comeback.
“He lit it up . . . he’s a dynamic scorer,” Lafontaine said of his son, who was eight-of-18 from the field, including five-of-13 from long range. “He’s been on the provincial team for four years . . . spent endless hours in this gym. He loves this place.
“When you own the gym, it’s like your own court. His eyes were big.”
The Blue Jags tried a couple of different defences to try to stop Lafontaine, fronting him all over the court with guard Tristan Kuhn, then switching to a close-out zone. Nothing seemed to work as Lafontaine scored 24 of his 26 in the first half.
“Oh yeah, I felt it,” said Nic. “I know if they leak and I go, I have a fast shot, I’ve got this. They knew I was going to shoot, but it’s terrorizing.”
Lafontaine did a lot of deferring in the second half. Carter McConnell came off the bench to score 16 and scrappy forward Triston Hearn added 13, plus 10 rebounds as the bigger Coyotes won the battle of the boards 53-32.
“It’s fun how many (teammates) can actually play,” said Nic. “You bring all the pressure on me and then Carter hits four in a row, or something like that. I was just laughing. I was like ‘Yes.’”
Khun led the Blue Jags with 16 points, but nobody else hit double figures and St. Mikes shot a dismal 20.5 per cent from the field.
But back to those shoes. We asked Nic what it means when your dad/coach has flashier shoes than you.
“That’s what he thinks,” he said with a big smile. “I think I’m wearing better shoes. No, they’re awesome shoes.”
Especially if they help bring George Elliott just its second Double A title.
No. 1 CHARLES HAYS 74 No. 12 SA-HALI 66
LANGLEY — Big man Liam McChesney was left speechless. Dynamic support player Eric Lees was ready to shed tears.
The emotions were raw late Friday night as the top-seeded Charles Hays Rainmakers from Prince Rupert fought off a stiff challenge by the plucky Sa-Hali Sabres of Kamloops to reach the championship final of the Double A boys high school basketball tournament.
“This feels so special,” said Lees after Charles Hays pulled out a 74-66 victory to set up the title game matchup with George Elliott of Lake Country. “I’d cry, but I ain’t crying until we win this thing. I want to do this for Prince Rupert, I want to do this for everyone who supported us.
“We’re a family doing family things. Everyone who was in the game had some awesome buckets. Our whole team we just come out together as one unit. It doesn’t matter if you sit on the bench the entire time, you are part of our family and we’re going to win this together.”
The head of that family is 65-year-old head coach Mel Bishop, who guided the school, then called Prince Rupert Senior Secondary, to Double A titles in 1998 and 2001. His son, Ryan, is his assistant coach.
On the court, though, the lead dog is McChesney, the silky smooth six-foot-nine forward who is headed to NCAA Div. 1 Utah State in the fall. He tallied 31 points by going eight-of-22 from the field and a cool 15-of-16 from the free throw line, pulled down a game-high 17 boards and had four blocks and three steals.
“It was a tough fight, but we managed to sneak it out in the end,” said a relieved McChesney, whose four free throws in the final 28 seconds clinched the win.
After a see-saw first 28 minutes, Sa-Hali took a one-point lead, 50-49 with two minutes left in the third quarter. But the Rainmakers went on a 16-3 run closing out the quarter and into the fourth to seize control.
“Mel Bishop, best coach I know, he always tells us every player has got another gear,” said Lee, who had 12 points, seven scrappy rebounds and two steals. “We just had to find that gear and we found it man.”
The Sabres did get to within five points with 98 seconds to go on three-pointers from Kalem Wilson (17 points) and Ty McCall (10), but the Rainmakers, battled tested by facing several Quad A and Triple A teams this season, stayed composed.
McChesney said getting to the championship final has been his dream since he entered high school.
“I watched my brother play in the past, um . . . I’m speechless.”
He might have plenty to say if the Rainmakers complete dream season Saturday night with a Double A title.
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