Yale's Reid Loewen (left) does his best to slow McMath's Rio Hutchful during Sunday Elite 8 play at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of VarsityLetters.ca 2019. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Boys Basketball

B.C. Junior Boys 2019: A look at how powerhouse Van College and underdog McMath have arrived at Monday’s Final Four showdown

Who’s on a higher high? 

That’s the question the No. 2-seeded Vancouver College Fighting Irish and Richmond’s No. 6-seeded R.A. McMath Wildcats have to be asking of each other heading into Monday’s 8 p.m. B.C. junior boys basketball championship semifinal clash here at the Langley Events Centre.

The favoured Irish have made consistency their hallmark this week, while the underdog Wildcats are operating on pure adrenaline.

Here’s a look at how both teams fared Sunday in their quarterfinal games.

No. 6 R.A. MCMATH 49 NO. 3 YALE 41

LANGLEY — The R.A. McMath Wildcats went to their halftime locker room Sunday not only trailing by seven to the Fraser Valley champion Yale Lions, but knowing that if they continued to let the Abbotsford school gash their armour with treys, that it was going to be a long ride back to Lulu Island.

Yet it’s pretty hard to imagine that anyone on its coaching staff would have anticipated the defensive adjustment the Wildcats made over the final two quarters, suffocating the Lions’ offence en route to a 49-41 victory which sends it to Monday’s Final Four against the Vancouver College Fighting Irish.

“To play the defence we played in the second half, to only give up 10 points, we really locked down and did a great job of getting out on their shooters,” said McMath assistant coach Chris Kennedy.

“They have two very good shooters, but it was lockdown defence, just like it was the night before against St. George’s.”

Reaching something of an emotional peak the night before in their win over Saints, Kennedy applauded the tight rotation’s ability to maintain focus and composure one day after logging heavy minutes.

“That was such an emotional win, so to come back when you’re relying on largely the same five-to-six guys,” said Kennedy, “we really needed them to hit big shots.”

Joseph Ho, who hit four treys for Yale in the first half, led the Lions with 19 points, yet his fifth triple wound up being the only points his team would score in the third quarter.

Harmaan Bola added 15 more in the loss.

Yale had pulled to within 43-41 in the dying stages, yet a huge three from Travis Hamberger of the Wildcats gave them the separation they needed to pull out the victory.

Michael Kitka led McMath with 13 points, while Rio Hutchful and Miguel Vargas scored 11 each.

Hamberger’s three was his only field goal of the game.

Vancouver College’s Cole Cruz-Dumont (left) and Kevin Kao of Walnut Grove both played key roles down the stretch for their teams on Elite 8 Sunday at the LEC. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of VarsityLetters.ca 2019. All Rights Reserved)


LANGLEY — The hometown Walnut Grove Gators did everything they needed to do to put themselves in a position to pull off the biggest win of their season.

“But sometimes it comes down to bounces, to foul calls, to free throws,” admitted Gators head coach Terry Stead after the No. 7-seeded locals pulled to within a point of the favoured, No. 2-ranked Vancouver College Fighting Irish in the late going of a B.C. junior boys basketball championship quarterfinal game played Sunday at the Langley Events Centre.

In the end, Vancouver College prevailed 63-58, and are back in the Final Four for a second straight season, set to tip-off Monday (8 p.m.) against the underdog R.A. McMath Wildcats of Richmond.

And at the risk of sounding like a broken record player, Irish forward Jacob Holt continued to play like the tournament’s MVP, scoring 26 points in yet another fantastic performance in which the mobile, agile and powerful 6-foot-8 guard-post once again became the centre of the opposition’s game plan.

“We just wanted to limit Jacob Holt,” said Stead. “He is a fantastic player, we did what we could, we tried to rotate kids down. But then Cole Dumont his two three-pointers and that was clutch.”

Clutch also defined Walnut Grove’s Kevin Kao.

With 2:45 left, his steal and lay-in pulled the Gators to within 57-55. The Irish coughed up the ball off the ensuing inbounds and Kao again scored, tying the game with his second hoop in eight seconds.

Holt, however, scored on a turnaround in the paint to make it 59-57 VC with 1:28 left.

Kao was fouled, however, and although he made his first free throw with 21.9 seconds left, he front-rimmed the second to keep the Gators behind at 59-58.

Vancouver College then went four-for-four down the stretch to win by five points.

“I felt so bad for him.” Stead said of Kao who put his team in position to win by virtue of his earlier two back-to-back buckets. “He was just tired. He didn’t have the legs. But he is just an awesome kid, They are all awesome.”

On the other side, the Irish have exemplified focus and consistency.

“Getting to the semifinal and being in the top four has definitely been a goal of ours,” said Irish head coach Trixie Cruz. “Obviously, the final would be fantastic but we knew Walnut Grove were going to be tough contenders and they showed in the first half how great a shooting team they are. That’s why we couldn’t play our 2-3 zone (a key in Sunday’s Sweet 16 win over Terry Fox) today. We relied on our man-to-man and a lot of switching.”

Cruz-Dumont scored 12 points in the win and Zyken San Felipe 9.

Tyson Baker led Walnut Grove with 13 points while Kao added 10, and the trio of Callum Neilly, Dylan Senft and Connor Platz nine each.

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