BURNABY — In an emotional final scene Friday night, in a sport only high school basketball games are seemingly able to produce, the fans of Coquitlam’s Centennial Centaurs stormed the court in absolute delirium to celebrate their team’s 69-62 upset win of No. 1-ranked, undefeated and defending B.C. champion Burnaby South in the semifinals of the Fraser North zone finals on the Rebels own home court.
“I guess we shocked the province a bit,” admitted Centaurs’ head coach Lucian Sauciuc after Centennial’s 6-foot-10 centre K.C. Ibekwe turned in a 22 point, 21 rebound, 13 block performance to hand the Rebels (27-1) its first loss of the campaign.
Honourable mention Centennial improved to 16-8.
“That’s a true triple-double,” continued the coach, who also got a gutsy 22-point outing from guard Nick Yang, who fought off a nasty case of cramps to hit four late crucial free throws.
“And it was so great that after not being able to have fans at the game that we were able to have so many kids there, and when they stormed the court… that was it, the beauty of high school sports. Our football team, our soccer team.. they were all there. And it was awesome. One of those great memories they will never forget.”
Yet it was an evening filled with a lot of other moving pieces.
On a night when Burnaby South’s top front court force, big man Karan Aujla, was forced to sit out while continuing to nurse an injury, Centennial was able to qualify for the B.C. championships with the victory.
The Centaurs will now play for the zone title on Sunday at the LEC against crosstown rival Terry Fox, after the Ravens also clinched a B.C. berth with a 73-62 win over Burnaby Mountain.
Burnaby South and Burnaby Mountain must now win sudden-elimination games against Heritage Woods and Dr. Charles Best respectively, tomorrow at Terry Fox to qualify for provincials.
“Karan was hurt and that is a huge loss for their team,” admitted Sauciuc. “Before the game, we were not sure if he was going to be able to play. We hadn’t played them this season, but we felt that we could give them some issues because K.C. has the kind of size to match up.”
Veteran Burnaby South guard Jimmy Zaborniak, who had 33 points in Thursday’s 96-79 win over Best, thus became a focus for the Centennial defence to try and stop.
Overall, Sauciuc saw Ibekwe turn into a defensive force in the win.
“We packed the paint and K.C. was an absolute monster,” added the coach. “He had his 13 blocks but he affected so many more. He left his fingerprints.”
Sauciuc felt that the adversity incurred from his team’s inability to protect late leads in recent losses to St. George’s and Terry Fox steeled them to finish the job Friday.
“It hurt a lot and myself and (assistant coach) Rob (Sollero), we kept talking about how this team needs to learn how to win tough games. All of those tough losses got us to this point tonight.”
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