When it comes to self-made players, Josiah Mastandrea could pose for the cover of the book.
And on Friday, with the Douglas College Royals paddling hard to extricate themselves from what can best be described as a pickle, the pure freshman guard from Port Coquitlam’s Terry Fox Secondary, who just a few short years ago didn’t project as a game-changing force, answered the tap on his shoulder from head coach Joe Enevoldson and turned the CCAA Final Four on its ear.
Mastandrea, a 6-foot guard, enjoyed the defining moment of his career in Laval, hitting four triples in the third quarter to help New Westminster’s Royals rally from a 17-point first half deficit to stun the defending national champion Nomades de Montmorency 93-87 in their own gymnasium, earning a berth in Saturday’s CCAA championship final against the No. 1-ranked Seneca College Sting of Toronto.
“If you saw him play in Grade 9 and said back then that he was going to be a college player, people might have gotten you to check into a hospital,”said Brad Petersen, his head coach at Terry Fox. “But Josiah is a success story. He just spent a ton of time in the gym working on that shot and once he catches fire, once he gets in that zone, it’s automatic. And he doesn’t need a lot of space to get that shot off.”
For all of those reasons, the man who recruited him and then decided to call his number, offered nothing more than some uncomplicated words of wisdom as Mastandrea subbed into the game.
“At the start of the half, I just said to him ‘You’re the best shooter in the conference, so just let it fly,’” said Royals head coach Joe Enevoldson of his freshman who scored all 12 of his points in the frame. “The first one he hit was pretty deep. Basketball is an emotional game and it got us going.”
With the momentum that the Royals had already started to build in cutting their halftime deficit to 11, Mastandrea’s output picked up on the incredible first-half outing of third-year Kameron Johnson, a modern-day Vinnie ‘Microwave’ Johnson-type provided, in scoring a game-high 33 points.
Johnson was a true recruiting coup by Enevoldson, who immediately realized how comfortable his 6-foot-2 guard was coming off the bench. The third-year transfer out of Las Positas College was a physical force on the floor, scoring through contact and even posting up with old-school hook shots.
“He has an edge, a fire, a passion,” said the coach. “There are nights when it has gotten the better of him but he has really matured. I am so proud of that guy.”
How did Enevoldson find him?
“In basketball, you pick up the phone and you make 60 calls to get one guy,” Envoldson began. “And what it boiled down to, is I called a coach about another guy and he recommended Kam to me.”
Taking a chance on a pure freshman who was a diamond in the rough on one of the weakest Terry Fox teams ever, and hitting the phones to find a prodigious scoring talent?
On Friday, the pair alone supplied 45 of Douglas’ 93 points, and they all came off the bench, leaving the rest for the its veteran core of regulars which included Reese Morris (16 points) and Noah DeRappard Yuswack (12). All-time PacWest career scoring leader Grant Campbell battled foul problems all game and finished with just four points. Yet the sum of the Royals’ parts was as substantial as anyone pulling for the Royal City crew could have hoped for.
Montmorency pulled to within 83-80 off a made triple by Kevin Civil with 2:05 remaining, yet an unsportsmanlike foul off a driving lay-in by Johnson helped push the lead out to 87-80.
Paul Getz then made a perfect layin off a feed from Morris that capped a picture-perfect press-break by Douglas College, the significance coming in the fact that no matter what Montmorency threw at them, the Royals had the answer.
And now they face Seneca, a 90-86 winner over the Holland Hurricanes in the other semifinal matchup, in Saturday’s 5 p.m. (PDT) final.
Douglas College had not qualified for nationals since 2008, and Saturday’s game marks precisely 10 years since they last won the national title.
“The biggest thing was that we continued to show our resolve,” said Enevoldson. “When we were down 17 we had bent, and it looked like we were going astray. But we took a time-out, and we said that if we were going to win, we were going to have to do it together.”
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