LANGLEY — The Burnaby South Rebels came ready for a battle Tuesday night at the Langley Events Centre, figurative hard-hats an essential part of the wardrobe in a clash with East Vancouver’s Sir Charles Tupper Tigers.
On the occasion of the Telus 2017 B.C. junior boys basketball title game, the eighth-seeded Rebels relished their roles in the trenches of the low block, putting together a blue-collar 10-0 run which ultimately put the game out of reach and carried them to a 58-46 win over the No. 2-seeded Tigers.
The three biggest baskets of the game, which began the 10-0 run with 5:13 remaining and the Rebels nursing a 48-42 lead, all came off offensive rebounds and putbacks as the Tigers’ interior defence, decimated by high foul counts to both Toni Maric and Joven Dhillon, lacked the ability to put up its best resistance.
First a put-back by talented Grade 9 Emir Krupic, then an offensive rebound and layin by forward Jiordano Khan, and then another Krupic put-back.
Khan then stretched out his full 6-foot-2 frame for a layin, and eventual tournament MVP Baltej Sohal drove and laid the ball home.
Just like that, over a span of 3:19 it was 58-42 Rebels. Just 19 seconds later, the 6-foot-5 Maric, one of the top forwards in B.C.’s JV class, fouled out of the game.
“We kept getting the put-backs and we kept multiple possessions alive, and at the end of the day, it’s why we ended up on top,” said Rebels head coach Cody Cormack. “And that was huge for us because all year, rebounding, offensive and defensive, was our biggest weakness.”
The Rebels are not a team smitten by the hoisting of triples.
They may wear glowing yellow-green uniforms straight out of the football factory of the Oregon, yet they are still old school in their ways.
One night after playing an exclusive 2-3 zone in a semifinal win over West Vancouver, they went straight up against Tupper, stripping the Tigers’ ability to find halfcourt rhythm in its jump shooting game by getting quality defence from the likes Kyle Kirmaci and Brandon Obuyes.
And they went after the heart of the beast, the wonderfully-talented Maric, hard in the paint.
“It’s easy to come up with a game plan, but coming in that was the goal,” said Cormack.”We got him to pick up a few (fouls) early and then we tried to punish him in the paint and we were lucky enough to get the result we wanted.”
Talent is easy enough to spot on the court, but when it’s backed with character and substance, you know said player is going to do just fine.
When approached after the game, Maric dodged and deflected nothing.
“For me personally, I got into foul trouble and I had to sit on the bench,” he said. “I messed up for my team. Shots weren’t falling. It happens. We’ll come back even stronger next year.”
Sohal and Obuyes each scored 14 points to lead the balanced South attack, Krupic added 10 and Khan eight.
Guard Gaurab Acharya scored a game-high 17 points in the loss, while Norben Bulosan and Maric each added 11.
Cormack predicted a bright future at the senior varsity for the Rebels’ JVs: “The sky’s the limit but they’ve got to play for each other and not worry about their stat lines. If they do, there won’t be a team in the province that will be better than these guys.”
The No. 11 seed North Delta Huskies captured third place, following its 53-42 win over the No. 4 West Vancouver Highlanders.
The Huskies used a 13-0 run between the halves to rally from a 23-22 deficit to lead 35-23 and from that point, never looked back.
Arun Atker led the winners with 21 points, Jagraj Johal added 15 points on five triples, while Suraj Gahir scored 10.
“It’s hard to bounce back after the way we lost last night,” Huskies coach Jesse Hundal said of a semifinal loss to John Oliver, “so it says a lot about guys. We left it as a challenge to our kids and they responded like we knew they would.”
When asked, Hundal said he would love to continue to coaching the group at senior varsity next season.
“I don’t know if decisions have been made but I would like to work with these guys again, and to be honest, I have been with them for three years and I would love the chance to be able to finish through with my coaching staff and my guys.”
The Highlanders, who struggled to find committed numbers at senior varsity this season, the fourth-place finish will provide a nice infusion of talent as West Van returns to the Howe Sound wars.
Erik Neusel, the 6-foot-5 forward, scored 12 in the loss, while Simone Ceolin added 10. The rest of the West Vancouver lineup added seven field goals, five of which came from beyond the three-point arc.
“We’re diappointed right now,” said West Van head coach Greg Meldrum, “but in the grand scheme of things, for us to finish fourth and meet our seeding, I think we proved to a lot of people that we can play.”
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