LANGLEY — Prior to the start of the 2017-18 B.C. high school basketball season, coaches around this province were near-unanimous in their feeling that Surrey’s Holy Cross Crusaders should start the campaign as the province’s preseason Quad-A No. 1 team.
Of course when they did, disaster promptly ensued.
Loss after loss after loss against an unrelenting and bitterly-tough schedule of provincially ranked foes seemed a cruel fate for a young team, albeit one blessed with an abundance of talent.
In fact it was on this this very weekend a year ago that the Crusaders had to beat the Coquitlam’s Pinetree Timberwovles 83-68 just to capture the Fraser Valley’s seventh-and-final berth to the provincial tournament.
(Full recaps of other placing games below)
A quick snap back to the reality of the present, of course, confirms what everyone thought to be the eventual future of Surrey’s Crusaders.
Ranked No. 5 in the latest provincial poll but putting forth blue-chip efforts as of late as part of a jam-packed top end, Holy Cross came of age in front of a near-capacity crowd at the LEC’s Centre Court gym o Sunday night, blitzing the No. 1-ranked Terry Fox Ravens 83-62 in a Fraser Valley championship game which was nowhere near that close as that score would indicate.
Now, in conjunction with the fall-out from Burnaby South’s forfeiture loss at the Lower Mainlands, the provincial Quad A draw to be revealed this coming Sunday is sure to be must-see TV.
“It was the kind of decisive win where you can say that the kids finally put all the pieces together,” Holy Cross lead assistant Matt LeChasseur said after his team outscored the Ravens 47-26 over the second- and third-quarters of the game. “They executed the game plan to perfection.”
The victory was so substantial for such an anticipated matchup that fans began filing out of the sold-out gym midway through the fourth quarter.
“It’s something you don’t prepare for as a coach,” said Ravens’ head coach Brad Petersen afterwards. “We haven’t had an off night this season. But I have to give them credit for taking us out of our game.”
In the Crusaders case, they schemed ways to take the best advantage of their athleticism, and with that came a physical edge that the Ravens were forced to deal with.
“It was their pressure,” admitted Petersen of a deep cache of Holy Cross players, including their top scorers. “They presured us at different parts of the floor. Places we hadn’t seen it before. And they played it physical. They worked for everything they got.”
And when the final horn sounded, a team which had already qualified for the B.C.’s, celebrated like they had just won it.
For this team, however, it’s all good.
“We encourage the kids to be emotional,” LeChasseur said. “They thrive on it. They are always on the edge. Sometimes it gets us in trouble but that is the way we want them to play. So them being happy and excited? That’s what it’s all about. We want them to have fun.”
Tourney MVP Uyi Ologhola of Holy Cross had 19 points before the half, was assisted off the court with a suspected back injury, but came right back and finished off with a game-high 32.
Brent Padilla added 18 and Michael Risi 12.
Cam Slaymaker led the Ravens with 20 points while David Chien and Grady Stanyer each scored 10.
The victory seems to enforce the notion that the Crusaders are playing a step above the rest of the Fraser Valley right now.
LeChasseur sees it as a progression.
“The biggest thing for this team is where we were at at the beginning of the year,” he said. “Losing to Fox twice is the preparation and the process. November and December games are preparation for these moments. We played a hell of a game tonight, and now we’ve got four more left.”
Of course if you go back to last season’s late rise by Burnaby South en route to the 4A title, then factor in the golden moments of play enjoyed by the likes of other teams like Fox, Lord Tweedsmuir, Vancouver College, St. George’s, Kitsilano and Burnaby South over the course of this season, you know that any number of teams can still win it all.
“This is not going to change a thing,” said Fox’s Petersen. “We have talked about seizing opportunities that have been in front of us all year but this one slipped away. Still, we live to fight another day and our practices will be just the same as if we won this game.”
(Editor’s note — We’ll have a separate posting on Heritage Woods’ victory over Guildford Park to grab the Fraser Valley’s seventh-and-final B.C. berth later on Monday.)
Here’s a look at the rest of the placing game played Sunday at the final Fraser Valley top-tiered championship tournament:
FRASER VALLEY CHAMPIONSHIPS
LORD TWEEDSMUIR 85 W.J. MOUAT 83
In a fourth quarter worthy of the provincial championships, Surrey’s Panthers and Abbotsford’s Hawks waged a back-and-forth battle that wasn’t decided until Tweedsmuir’s Elijah Devison scored on a buzzer-beating lay-in to snap a 73-73 tie.
The bucket gave Devison 11 on the game and brought to 10 the number of double-digit scorers in the game, with five on each side.
The fourth quarter featured six ties and seven lead changes.
Jackson Corneil led the winners with 26 points, while Austin Swedish added 18, Arjun Samra 14 and Alex Le 12.
Gershaun Sarowa scored a team-high 20 for Mouat, Manvir Johal had 19, Jevan Uppal 16, Prabh Saran 13 and Tyler Nelson 11.
WALNUT GROVE 75 CENTENNIAL 72
Jarrett Jacobs and Dominic Parolin, two of the most dynamic scorers in the province, went toe-to-toe and although the Gators’ scoring guard and the Centaurs’ post finished in a saw-off with 30 points apiece, it was Jacobs’ Walnut Grove squad coming through with a narrow victory.
The Centaurs got off to a hot start and held a 37-32 halftime lead behind the red-hot shooting of guard Leif Skelding.
Yet Jacobs, Kyle Kong (20 points) and Nolan Premack (10 points) helped lead the second-half comeback surge.
Skelding finished with 25 points and hit seven triples.
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