Charles Hays Rainmakers' Kai Leighton measures a jump shot Friday in his team's semi-final clash with Brentwood College. (Photo by Mary Kessenich property of Vancouver Sports Pictures 2020. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Boys Basketball

FINAL EDITION – DOUBLE-A 2020: It’s No. 1, defending champion Charles Hays set to clash with No. 2 King George Dragons

LANGLEY — Welcome to our reports from Friday’s Final Four here at the 2020 B.C. senior boys basketball championships and the Langley Events Centre.

Please check back on this posting throughout the day as we bring you reports from both of today’s semifinals.

By Gary Kingston (special to Varsity Letters) 




By Gary Kingston (special to Varsity Letters)

LANGLEY — The repeat is still alive for the mighty Charles Hays Rainmakers.

The school from Prince Rupert let a 20-point first half lead over Brentwood College slip to four early in the fourth quarter, but the gutsy group of battle-tested Rainmakers relied on their championship pedigree to close out a 69-55 victory.

Charles Hays now advances to Saturday night’s Double A final at the Langley Events Centre where the Rainmakers can become the first back-to-back winners since Lambrick Park of Victoria repeated in 2003.

“We kept our cool under pressure,” Grade 12 forward Kai Leighton, who had a team-high 16 points and was a beast on the boards with 19 rebounds and four blocked shots, said of the fact that Rainmakers never looked excessively rattled.

It was dicey, though, when Brentwood, which trailed 38-19 at the half, went on an 18-5 run to open the fourth quarter. As the lead frittered away under a barrage of three-pointers and aggressive drives to the basket, observers kept looking to the Charles Hays bench wondering when head coach Mel Bishop was going to call a timeout.

“We let ‘em play,” said Bishop of his Grade 12 dominated rotation. But he did admit that he came close to bringing his players to the sideline.

“We were that close to calling a timeout. If they had hit another one, we would have called it. But we have confidence in the kids.”

Rainmakers’ Caden Pagens is guarded by Brentwood College’s Olin Dahlstrom (left) and Jack Napier-Ganley. (Photo by Mary Kessenich property of Vancouver Sports Pictures 2020. All Rights Reserved)

With the score at 49-45 in the fourth, the Rainmakers went on a 10-0 run keyed by Grade 11 guard Rylan Adams, who started it with a running floater off the glass, then drained a three-pointer and a trio of free throws after he was fouled behind the arc.

But it was Leighton and fellow post player Caden Padgens, a big-bodied six-foot-five Grade 11, who controlled things by scoring off a handful of offensive rebounds and working ferociously at clearing the glass defensively.

The Rainmakers held Brentwood scoreless until nearly the six-minute mark of the first quarter and gave up just those 19 first-half points with a tenacious man-to-man defence and that impenetrable wall inside.

“You’ve got to win the first five minutes of every single game,” said Leighton, whose 19 rebounds were a career-high for a game. “With the way our shooters are rolling right now, me and Caden just have to rebound and get the ball to them. That’s our job.”

Adams had 14 points, Pagens 15 and point guard Tyler Jones 13 as the Rainmakers spread the scoring around.

Shaw Blaisdell led Brentwood with 18 points, with Juan Navarro chipping in with 11.

Brentwood head coach Blake Gage said his squad simply “got outcompeted in the first half.

“And that’s a very tall, veteran team. Kind of like men against boys out there.”

The Rainmakers will face the winner of King George-Lambrick Park in the final.



King George Dragons’ players, sensing the moment at hand, begin to contemplate a place in Saturday’s B.C. 2A championship final. (Photo by Mary Kessenich property of Vancouver Sports Pictures 2020. All Rights Reserved)

By Gary Kingston (special to Varsity Letters)

LANGLEY — The King George Dragons’ do-everything star didn’t have to be all-world Friday night.

With six-foot-nine Nikola Guzina being double- and triple-teamed in the post, it was the Dragons’ role players who stepped up with big games to lead King George to an 84-65 semifinal victory over Lambrick Park and into the B.C. boys senior basketball Double A final.

Guzina had just 12 points and five rebounds, rather pedestrian numbers for him, but he did dish out five assists and four other King George players hit double figures, led by Romel Eyobe with 18, Silvio Suchy with 15, and Jodhan Uppal and Gareth Wintjes with 13 each.

“The whole year everybody has disrespected my other guys,” said King George head coach Darko Kulic. “But when we played in a tournament in the fall without Nikola . . . we finished second in the Drive Classic.

“I said to everybody, ‘people think we’re just one man, but we’re not.’ There’s Romel, (point guard) Alejandro (Rios), Silvio, Gareth and down the line. Everybody was just stepping up and giving us what we needed.”

King George jumped out to quarter leads of 28-18, 54-34 and 72-48, giving the Lions little opportunity to build momentum. Lambrick Park did cut the lead to 13 midway through the third quarter, but the Dragons responded with a 14-0 run, in which the lightly regarded Suchy, a Grade 11 forward who had seven crucial rebounds, scored six big points.

“We all had to step up,” said Suchy. “We knew they were going to double (Guzina), so we just tried to hit our shots. I was ready. We were all prepared.”

King George Dragons’ point guard Alejando Rios (left) was one of several players from the Vancouver school to step up when star Nikola Guzina was double- and triple-teammed by Victoria’s Lambrick Park Lions. (Photo by Mary Kessenich property of Vancouver Sports Pictures 2020. All Rights Reserved)

The Dragons, who lost in the 2018 final to Brentwood College, now advance to play the reigning champion and No. 1 seed Charles Hays Rainmakers in the Saturday final.

“We have been preparing for this all season,” said Wentjes of the matchup of clearly the two best teams in Double A. “Summer, we were like we’re coming in, provincial finals and we’re taking down the reigning champs. That’s how it’s going to go.”

Kulic knows, though, that it’s going to be a huge challenge.

“Wonderful team, wonderful coach. Been there, done that. They know what they’re doing and they showed a lot this week, fighting through adversity (in a couple of games).

“The whole season people have been saying it’s going to be us two. But I kept dodging it because I respect everybody else. But I’m excited for it now. The boys are ready. We’ve been waiting for this for a long while.”

Nate Crust led Lambrick Park with 19 points, while Taine Clague added 13 and 11 rebounds.

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