LANGLEY —Karan Aujla’s only in the ninth grade, so you have to excuse him for being a little wide-eyed in the face of a reporter’s questions.
Yet if the Burnaby South Rebels’ solidly built, 6-foot-5 post couldn’t really verbalize what he had just accomplished on the floor at the Langley Events Centre, his actions did a pretty good job of speaking for themselves.
In an offence-challenged semifinal filled with speedy guards on both side here Monday at the B.C. junior boys basketball championships, Aujla was the difference-maker in the middle, pouring home a game-high 31 points to lead the Rebels past Vancouver’s St.Patrick’s Celtics 58-35 and into tonight’s 7 p.m. B.C. final against Richmond’s R.A. McMath Wildcats.
Burnaby South will be attempting to win its second provincial boys JV crown in three seasons and also follow on the heels of its senior varsity team’s provincial Quad A title won last March.
“They key today was to go down low, go through the big man,” smiled Rebels’ head coach Tyus Batiste, whose charges will now put their perfect 33-0 record on the line against McMath. “If they wanted to double, then we would just kick out to the shooters.”
Yet there was more to it than that, especially off the opening tip as Aujla actually joined his guard-based teammates in the transition game, and on a couple of occasions running the floor with enough verve to finish at the other end.
“He helps all of us out because most big guys aren’t going to be able to go up and down like that,” said fellow Grade 9 guard Jimmy Zaborniak who finished with 12 points. “But that’s our game, to push the ball, run and out-hustle teams.”
Yet the bread-and-butter was all about giving Aujla his touches in the paint and watching the mismatches take place.
“He was awesome, fundamentally sound, his footwork was great and he finished almost every lay-up,” said Batiste as Aujla had 20 points by halftime. “He’s the reason our shooters have been so open.”
The rest of the Rebels’ attack did indeed follow suit, and Burnaby South outscored St. Patrick’s 21-4 in the third quarter.
The other half of the equation was the Rebels’ 2-3 zone defence, which they sat in the entire game and which limited the Celtics to just one double-digit scorer in Jose Malabanan (10 points).
“The zone is to keep our big man out of foul trouble and to let them shoot,” said Batiste of a Celtics’ team which was denied any dribble penetration and thus could never get enough inside-out ball movement to get into a shooting groove. “All I tell my guys is to stay on the ground and don’t jump.”
Figuratively, that would have been the polar opposite of how the McMath Wildcats left the barn here at the LEC following its OT win over Vancouver College in Monday’s second semi-final.
The Rebels and Wildcats have one previous meeting this season, and based on Burnaby South’s record, you know who won.
Burnaby South beat McMath 71-57 in the Vancouver and District final on Feb. 15, but the Wildcats were able to get within 10 points in the second half.
Yet McMath at least knows what it has to do to have a chance in the final, and their belief is as high as it has ever been.
“They are a great team,” said Wildcats’ assistant Chris Kennedy. “They beat us, but other than about a four-minute stretch, where they hit a bunch of threes, we played them pretty evenly. We know that we can play with them.”
That stretch was part of a 21-2 run, and illustrates just how explosive the Rebels are at any given moment.
Added McMath guard Travis Hamberger: “When we played them, we took a bad loss, but as long as we believe in each other, I feel we can win.”
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