LANGLEY — We’ve gone final here at Day 2 of the 2020 B.C. senior boys basketball championships.
Here’s your game reports!
TOP HALF DRAW
No. 1 Charles Hays 91 No. 9 St. Thomas Aquinas 79
By Gary Kingston (special to Varsity Letters)
LANGLEY — Heart of a champion. It’s a cliche to be sure, but sometimes you just have to accept that it’s the best way to describe a gutsy, come-from-behind win by a reigning champion.
The Charles Hays Rainmakers, the 2019 B.C. senior boys Double A basketball champions and the No. 1 seed this year, opened their quarterfinal Wednesday against St. Thomas Aquinas on a 15-3 run, then frittered it away and trailed by 15 late in the third quarter. It looked like there would be no repeat.
But behind a suffocating man-to-man defence and some brilliant work by five-foot-seven playmaker Tyler Jones, the Rainmakers roared back to claim a 91-79 victory that spoke to the grit, resilience and fight of the squad from Prince Rupert.
“The fourth quarter kicked in and we all just said ‘it’s either now or never. We can’t go out like this my senior year,” said Jones, who had a team-high 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
“Me and (fellow Grade 12) Kai (Leighton, who had a game high 16 boards to go with 13 points) just went at it and balled in the fourth quarter.”
Charles Hays went on a 16-0 run to open the final quarter, with Jones putting on an amazing display of his talent with nine straight points. After converting an up-and-under scoop on a fast break, he was fouled on a three-point attempt. He made the first, then missed the next two, but somehow beat all the bigs to the rebound at the end line, bouncing it off a Fighting Saints player to allow the Rainmakers to retain possession.
On the inbounds, he drained a three-pointer, followed that up with a driving layin, then converted from the free throw line after a technical foul on St. Thomas Aquinas. Suddenly, the Rainmakers were up 71-69, a lead they would not relinquish.
“Just a jitterbug and he has such a great feel for the game,” said Saints head coach Jim Kelly. “He got inside on us way too much. And he’s a heck of a competitor. He just kept going all game long.”
St. Thomas Aquinas got huge games from point guard Jansen Balmaceda (33 points, eight rebounds) and forward Rory Goodwin (22 points, five boards). But the young Saints, who play just one Grade 12 and start a Grade 9 and a bunch of Grade 11s, made just three baskets in a disastrous fourth quarter.
“We controlled the game for a long time,” said Kelly. “But they showed who they are. They’re just a championship calibre team, No. 1 for a reason. They showed it in the fourth quarter and we showed how kind of young we were.”
The Rainmakers now advance to Friday’s semifinals where they’ll meet the winner between Brentwood College and Abbotsford Christian.
Charles Hays coach Mel Bishop credited his squad with being “a tough-minded group of guys.” And Jones noted they built that toughness by playing a lot of Quad A teams this season.
“All the games are within five or 10 points. It’s no easy walk in the park. We’re battling the whole time just to prove how good we are, prove our No. 1 ranking in Double A.”
NO. 4 BRENTWOOD COLLEGE 69 NO. 5 ABBOTSFORD CHRISTIAN 61
By Gary Kingston (special to Varsity Letters)
LANGLEY — The fans were engaged, on the edge of their seats with each momentum swing. The pace was fast, the player intensity level high.
Just about the only person who didn’t enjoy Thursday night’s Double A quarterfinal at the B.C. senior boys basketball championship was winning coach Blake Gage of Brentwood College.
“I’m sure it was entertaining, but I did not enjoy the experience,” said a grinning Gage after the 69-61 win over the Abbotsford Christian Knights.
The game was back-and-forth the whole way, with six ties and seven lead changes. Neither team had a lead of more than five points in the second half until the final couple of minutes.
“They did a good job of keeping us off balance,” said Gage. “I haven’t seen us that frantic for a long time. Full credit to Abby Christian. They really mixed things up well and we were not very good with the basketball.”
Brentwood turned it over 26 times, but they played lock-down defence in the fourth, limiting the Knights to just eight points.
Grade 11 guard Shaw Blaisdell led the winners 22 points and helped turn the game early in the fourth with six consecutive points off a baseline drive and a pair of fast break layins. He also drained a pair of clutch free throws with 39.9 seconds remaining to push the lead to 67-61.
“He was up and down the whole game, but you know what, his energy was high the whole time,” Gage said of the five-foot-10 speedster. “He’s our best guy out in transition, no question about it. When he gets going, he’s tough.”
Forward Juan Navarro chipped in with 14 points and 10 big rebounds.
“You learn more from these games than a blowout,” said Navarro. “Battle back and forth. Those are the best games there is.”
Tobi Sienbenga and Zach Fleming each had 17 points to lead the Knights.
Brentwood now advances to a semifinal Friday night against the reigning champion and No. 1 seeded Charles Hays Rainmakers of Prince Rupert, who overcame a 15-point deficit to beat St. Thomas Aquinas 91-79 in an earlier quarterfinal.
“They are champions,” said Gage of the Rainmakers. “They are the No. 1 team in B.C. for a reason. They have a championship pedigree, a terrific coach and they’ve got outstanding players. It’s going to be a massive challenge.”On Thursday Stojsavljevic led the way with 16 points, George Horn scored 12, while Watters and Rob Lutman each had 13.
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
NO. 2 KING GEORGE 69 NO. 10 MULGRAVE 52
By Gary Kingston (special to Varsity Letters)
LANGLEY — Nikola Guzina might just be the most indispensable player at the B.C. senior boys basketball championships, no matter the tier.
The six-foot-nine senior is the King George Dragons leading scorer and a dynamic slasher to the basket. He’s the second-seeded Double A squad’s rim protector on defence and the primary ball handler. He probably picks up the towels off the lockerroom floor after the game, too.
On Thursday, Guzina almost single-handedly drove King George to victory, scoring 35 points, pulling down 17 rebounds, dishing out five assists and blocking a half-dozen shots as the Dragons beat Mulgrave Titans of West Vancouver 69-52 in the quarterfinal round.
“As I said yesterday, I think he is, if not the best player in B.C., one of best,” said head coach Darko Kulic.
“He’s everything for us. Some of our guys weren’t feeling great today, and he really stood up and showed what a talent he is. He’s a senior and he took the team to the next level and showed them great leadership. Just made that big play everytime and he’s such a positive leader.”
Down 11-0 and 24-6 at one point, the Titans battled back to cut the lead to seven at the half and to five points late in the third when point guard Isaac Manji hit a three-pointer from Aldergrove as the shot clock was winding down.
But Guzina immediately responded with a 10-foot jumper and, after Dragons’ Grade 12 point guard Alejandro Rios converted on back-to-back shots, the lead was back up to 10. The Titans never got closer the rest of the way.
“He gets disrespected a lot,” Kulic said of Rios. “I’ve had a lot of great guards in my coaching career. And a lot of people say if we just had a better guard. But he does everything you need. He never gets the all-star (recognition), but he doesn’t care. He’s always giving pointers on the bench to the younger kids. Wonderful kid and he stepped up really big there.”
It was Guzina, though, who had the biggest impact on the game, with all his numbers representing game highs. And when the lead was cut to five, it was Guzina who was rallying the players during a timeout, reminding them that the game was still in their control.
But can he continue to handle the workload asked of him for four games in four days? Is he up to the challenge?
“Of course, you gotta be,” he said. “It’s provincials. Everybody is a little banged up, but you’ve got to play.”
The Dragons will face Lambrick Park in one semifinal on Friday. They beat the Lions by 20 points in January, although the Victoria school was missing top scorer Cormick Brown to mono.
“It’s going to be a battle and we’ll have to come out ready.”
Manji was on the only Mulgrave player in double figures with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
NO. 6 LAMBRICK PARK 77 NO. 14 GEORGE ELLIOT 76
LANGLEY — For most of the Lambrick Park Lions basketball season, Grade 11 sharpshooter Cormick Brown was sidelined with mononucleosis.
He finally returned to the court three weeks ago. On Thursday, at the B.C. seniors boys Double-A championships, the six-foot-guard saved the Lions season by catching fire from behind the arc as the Victoria school won an exciting, come-from-behind quarterfinal thriller 77-76 over the George Elliot Coyotes.
Held without a basket in the first half, when the Lions struggled to score and trailed 41-26 at the break, Brown found his stroke in the second half. He scored 25 of his 26 points, with six of them coming off back-to-back, momentum-turning three pointers.
He also dropped a couple of clutch free throws with 10.6 seconds remaining to put the Lions up 77-73.
“I wasn’t feeling it too much in the first (half, when he was 0-for-4), but I just kept shooting and they started going down,” said the soft-spoken Brown. “I felt really good. It’s kind of like a flow state almost. You don’t even know what’s going on.”
George Elliot led 50-37 three minutes into the third quarter when 15-2 run that turned the game into a back-and-forth contest with a nail-biter finish. In that run, Brown scored nine straight points on a three-point play off a fast-break layup and a pair of corner threes.
The Lions also got 19 points and three key offensive rebounds from Taine Clague, a six-foot-one forward who did a terrific job slashing to the basket and battling on the glass against the Coyotes quartet of six-foot-five starters.
“Taine’s hands are phenomenal,” said Lambrick Park coach Ed Somers. “And he understands the geometry out there, how to get the space to create. At times, (George Elliot) had the four tallest players on the floor . . . and he was getting some catches and one-hand layins, things that were just amazing.”
The Coyotes, losers in last year’s final to Charles Hays and somehow seeded just 14th this year, got 20 points and a game-high 11 rebounds from Triston Hearn, 19 points from Bergren Van Lent and 17 from Roan McCarthy, who was eight-of-13 from the field. But McCarthy, the B.C. boys volleyball player of the year, was forced to the bench in the first half with three fouls, then fouled out with 5:46 remaining on a call that both coaching staffs felt was not deserved.
“You’ve got to them every credit in the world,” said Somers of the Coyotes. “They had all the components. That is one solid team. We just found a few gaps out there and that was enough.”
Coyotes’ coach Kathy Lafontaine said her squad got “pushed” off its game plan, got into foul trouble and made too many mistakes.
“And they came out after the half, they made the adjustments and (Brown) lit it up. We couldn’t shut him and (Coban Scott, who had 19 points) down.”
The Lions will play a semifinal on Friday against the winner of the King George-Mulgrave quarterfinal. Brown, who says he’s feeling strong after so much time off this season, can’t wait.
“I’ve never come this close to a championship before, so I’m just pumped.”
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