It was the kind of game, you figured, that Randy Coutts and Aaron Mitchell, high school head coaches past and present, were watching on their laptop computer screens Thursday night, nodding their heads in recognition of the hustle and the skill that their respective former players made a habit of showing though pre-university careers.
And in a game which sent its winner to Friday’s CCAA Final Four at Laval’s Montmorency College, New Westminster’s Douglas College Royals were giving the pair plenty to cheer about.
Coutts, the recently-retired Kitsilano Blue Demons head coach, could well have been watching as his ex-player Noah DeRappard-Yuswack, as he canned key free throws, and most impressively, pulled down 15 rebounds to go along with 16 points.
And Mitchell, the current head coach at Burnaby’s St. Thomas More Collegiate, was no doubt fist-pumping every time his ex-player Reese Morris pulled down a carom, finishing with 12 rebounds to go along with his 17 points.
“They are so deceptively long and active on the glass,” confirmed Royals head coach Joe Enevoldson told VarsityLetterrs.ca of the pair after his team dominated the glass and maintained its cool down the stretch drive to defeat Calgary’s SAIT Trojans 80-76 and earn a berth in Friday’s national semifinal against host Montmorency.
“Body-type wise, they don’t pass the eye test but at the end of the game they each have double-doubles,” added Enevoldson after the Royals crushed the Trojans 56-42 on the glass, with DeRappard-Yuswack and Morris each grabbing four offensive rebounds. “Those guys show us that rebounding is an art form.”
It may have been the Royals’ first appearance at the national championships since they won it all for head coach Jamie Oei back in 2008, but the veteran line-up showed that the moment wasn’t too big.
A pair of treys by the Trojans’ Charlie Conner were the only shots SAIT hit from the field over the final 2:30 of the game, and despite a potentially fatal turnover right in front of their bench while nursing a two-point lead with 16.9 seconds remaining, the Royals held on, getting two free throws from DeRappard-Yuswack with 5.3 seconds left to wrap it up.
“I knew they were going to battle hard,” said Enevoldson. “Look at their experience in these playoffs, where they hit big shot after big shot in the ACAC. We had to have to some resolve. At the end we got to the free throw line a bit more, and the two that Noah hit at the end were huge.”
The Royals took a 72-66 lead with 2:13 remaining when guard Grant Campbell, the Surrey-Fraser Heights grad, hit a pair from the stripe.
Key Royals hoops down the stretch included a beautiful DeRappard-Yuswack lay-in off a no-look dish underneath from Campbell, a blue-collar lay-in off an offensive rebound by Morris and then a dribble-penetration lay-in by Kameron Johnson with 35.5 seconds left for a 78-73 lead.
Campbell, the PacWest’s all-time scoring leader, finished with 19 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
Ethan McKean (Walnut Grove) added 12 points, Josiah Mastandrea (Terry Fox) added six, as did Johnson.
Gemie Muya-Ntalaja led the Trojans with 16 points.
Douglas College now faces the host team in a 5:30 p.m. PDT tip Friday, and Enevoldson feels like it will be like a PacWest road trip to Nanaimo and more.
“They are long and quick and athletic and they like to get out and run,” said Enevoldson of Montmorency, which will have its home throng out in numbers. “Today they were down 10 with three minutes to go against Humber and when they came back to win, (the atmosphere) was like being at VIU on steroids. It was crazy.”
Montmorency’s Nomades defeated Toronto’s Humber Hawks 92-89.
On the other side of the draw, the Seneca Sting will face the Holland Hurricanes.
Seneca defeated the Lakeland Rustlers 77-69, while Holland got by Dynamiques de Brebeuf 104-92.
*In women’s opening round play at the CCAA nationals at Sackville, NB, North Vancouver’s Capilano Blues came out on the short end of a heartbreaking 73-69 decision in overtime to Montreal’s Dawson College Blues.
Carmelle M’Bikata (Abby-W.J. Mouat) had 17 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Blues, while point guard Ashley dela Cruz Yip added 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Guard Sherrie Errico (North Vancouver-Windsor) had three points and 13 rebounds.
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