LANGLEY — It’s happened so frequently this season that you’re almost expecting it, yet somehow, it still blindsides you.
And when it came again Tuesday night in the championship game of the 50th annual B.C. junior boys basketball tournament, this time like a tornado, it was all Richmond’s R.A. McMath Wildcats could do to not to be swept away like the Dorothy, Toto and the farmhouse from the Wizard of Oz.
The No. 1-seeded Burnaby South Rebels, a force of nature all season long, capped a perfect 34-0 season at the Langley Events Centre with a tsunami-like second half, turning a tight game on its ear with a run for the ages, and one which had its fans storming the court in post-game celebration frenzy.
In fact it was almost as if Rebels head coach Tyus Batiste reached under his spot at the bench and pushed a secret red button.
On a run that included five triples, Burnaby South, in its biggest game of the season, picked the perfect time to play its best basketball of the season.
After all, who goes on a 28-2 run in a provincial championship game?
“They had a great third quarter,” Batiste said of McMath, who trailed 34-21 at halftime but opened the third quarter on an 8-0 run to pull within five points at 34-29, bringing back memories of their rally from 13 down the night previous to beat Vancouver College in overtime and earn their berth in the finals.
Yet like a tornado, the Rebels struck without warning, quickly turning a precarious 38-32 lead into a 66-34 lead, one which gave the program book-end B.C. junior titles for either side of its 2018 B.C. Quad boys title won last March.
Jimmy Zaborniak’s three, Aujla playing through the contact to complete a three-point play from the free throw line, another Zaborniak three, an Aujla lay-in off a Zaborniak dime.
A three-pointer off a pull-up in transition from guard Jareb Pineda, a Pineda lay-in, another Pineda lay-in off his own steal.
And on it went.
“We just stuck with what got us here,” said Batiste who is never one to complicate what he feels is best described as a simple game. “We push the ball, we shoot the ball, and sometimes we give it to Karan.”
That would be 6-foot-5 Grade 9 post Karan Aujla, who finished with 15 points in the win.
The Wildcats thought they were ready, but they might have brough too much adrenaline onto the court to start the game, and could never put together the inspired kinds of stretches which had become a part of their post-season DNA,
“That is the one team in the province that matches up to our style,” admitted McMath head coach Jon Acob, a lifer who is coaching at his fifth Richmond high school and who 32 years into his noble career had never been a head coach in a provincial final prior to Tuesday. “There is a reason they are undefeated. There is a reason they are champions.”
And on this night, no one exemplified the team more than its Grade 10 guard Pineda, a deserving tournament MVP after he scored a game-high 28 points.
Pineda, who had scored just seven points the night before in a semifinal win over St. Patrick’s, was determined to make a difference in the biggest game of his career.
“I was feeling hot,” Pineda admitted after. “My shot was not on yesterday so I came into the gym this morning, got some shots up and got warm.”
He was so confident in fact, that pulling up on the break and hitting a triple just seemed like the natural thing to do.
“Once my shots were falling, I just fed from the energy from the crowd,” he said. “The crowd was wild today and I have never had a crowd this big before.”
Zaborniak added 17 points for South. Mike Kitka led McMath with 11 points, while Travis Hamberger added 10.
So complete was South’s second half domination that McMath’s only points of the fourth quarter came on a three-pointer by Nick Kennedy.
In the third-fourth place game, Vancouver College defeated St. Patrick’s 75-56.
Irish forward Jacob Holt scored 14 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter. Chrisitna McMahan came off the bench to score 16.
Daniyel Contaoi and Kornel Ursua each scored 17 in the loss for the Celtics.
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