LANGLEY — Put the proverbial carrot in front of him and Diego Maffia will take care of the rest.
No matter what that challenge is, Oak Bay’s exciting Grade 11 guard is ready to accept it as a means of getting better, and nowhere better did he reveal that part of his DNA than in the final of Saturday’s Tsumura Basketball Invitational at the Langley Events Centre.
Add up the drives to the rim for lay-ins, the steals that he finished with coast-to-coast sprints, and of course, the robotic three-point shooting stroke that is his bread and butter, and you get the sum of all opposition fears.
Maffia led his team in scoring in each of the No. 3-ranked Bays’ four games at the TBI, including’s Saturday’s 86-68 win over Surrey’s No. 6 Holy Cross Crusaders in which he poured home 27 points en route to being named tournament MVP.
“Diego just enjoys competition,” said Bays’ head coach Chris Franklin of Maffia, who besides averaging 23.5 ppg for the tournament, came off a two-sport fall at the Victoria school by finishing second in scoring at the B.C. AAA soccer championships, and being picked the MVP at the Vancouver Island AAA volleyball championships.
“He locks in on it and it triggers him,” the coach added.
The competition to be the best, as it pertained to basketball, also drove he and his teammates over the summer.
Oak Bay, ranked No. 3 in the latest Varsity Letters AAAA poll, looked like a team in midseason form compared to the rest of their competition at the 16-team, three-day event.
And while the Bays were busy winning by an average margin of 34.5 points over, in order AAA No. 4 North Delta (94-48), AAAA No. 4 Walnut Grove (82-57), Terry Fox (99-50) and finally Holy Cross 86-68), Maffia was showing just how much his game had changed since last season, when as a Grade 10 shooting prodigy, he was known exclusively for dropping the three ball.
“We went extra hard all summer because we knew this could be our year,” Maffia said of he and his teammates. “And also, I wanted to get better than I was last year, to improve as a slasher and to become a better passer and playmaker.”
Wow. Did he ever.
All weekend, and especially in the final, Maffia showed himself to be a true multi-threat performer.
His improved floor game, especially, kept defenders off balance because his shooting stroke has remained smooth and consistent.
Holy Cross, which bolted out to a 13-4 lead early and on two other occasions, led by nine points (20-11, 22-13), looked good early.
Grade 10 forward/guard Uyi Ologhola and Grade 11 swingman Michael Risi were effective. However Risi got into foul trouble, and the Bays’ penchant for executing a defensive game plane shone as the Victorians never allowed their Surrey foes to establish a high-tempo running game.
The Bays used a 9-2 run, fueled by Maffia and senior backcourt running mate Caelan Scott, to lead 37-30, and later 46-37 at the half.
Scott, who finished with 24 points, nailed a triple with 3:43 left in the third quarter for a 60-47 lead.
“We have a lot of guys, a 10-0 deep rotation,” said Scott. “and on this team, everyone is ready. No one is hesitant.”
On the other team, that was also a good way to describe Ologhola, who led his team with 24 points.
The Grade 10 cashed in an offensive rebound to pull his team to within 60-53 with 1:56 left in the third and was Holy Cross’ most reliable offensive player on the game.
Even in the early stages of the fourth quarter, the Crusaders were threatening.
Grade 10 reserve guard Tee Osei-Anim made a steal, ran a two-on-one with Gabe Takeawoa, and fed his teammate for a trey that made it 68-60.
Maffia, however, was the back-breaker.
He hit back-to-back treys midway through the fourth quarter, and it was more than enough to make up for the absence of Scott, who had played so focused through his own foul issues before picking up his fifth and leaving the game with 3:46 remaining.
“It was a messy game and we started poor,” said Franklin,”but we got more aggressive. I was pleased with the way Caelan played, his ability to play through foul trouble.
“And I was happy with Valdi (Alarie-Hill),” Franklin continued of his little-known 6-foot senior guard who stepped in to take a hard charge under the basket in the second half, which as a barometre of the Bays’ all-out desire to win, may have been the strongest indicator of the night. “He is usually our eighth or ninth man but today he must have played 36 minutes.”
Holy Cross coach Matt LeChasseur was philosophical after the loss.
“We’ve improved over the first two weeks (of the season) and that is what tournaments like this are for,” said LeChasseur, “for where we want to get to in March.”
And of course the Bays’ desire to try to take the air out of the Crusaders’ tires was fully expected.
“We see that every time we play a game,” LeChasseur added. “We try to force our will on teams and most of the time that comes in spurts, but today they just weren’t as frequent as they normally are.”
OAK BAY 86: Freeman Taylor 10, Valdi Alarie-Hill 8, Diego Maffia 27, Cam Henderson 4, Tyler Hills 4, Caelan Scott 24, Luis Guerra 9.
HOLY CROSS 68: Uyi Ologhola 24, Michael Risi 14, Jamal Osei-Anim 10, Gabe Takeawoa 10, Brent Padilla 4, Marcus Garcia 3, Isaiah Roque 2, Tee Osei-Anim 2
Abbotsford’s No. 7 W.J. Mouat Hawks beat PoCo’s Terry Fox Ravens 71-58 in the third-fourth game.
In the fifth-sixth game No. 4 Walnut Grove beat honourable mention Lord Tweedsmuir 100-92.
No. 1 Burnaby South, which lost a pair of games Friday, held off the 41 points of Yale’s Bradley Braich in the seventh-eighth game with a 98-72 victory.
Burnaby’s AAA No. 8 Byrne Creek Bulldogs were the top-finishing AAA team, with a win over Richmond AAA No. 2 R.A. McMath Wildcats in the ninth-10th game.
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