RICHMOND — With four minutes to go in the first quarter of Friday’s Lower Mainland Triple-A championship third-place game, Aaron Mitchell looked up at the scoreboard at The Oval and got a little queasy.
“We’re down 5-0 and this is one night after we scored 94,” the head coach of Burnaby’s St. Thomas More Knights explained. “It was ugly. Honestly, I didn’t think we were going to score (the rest of the quarter).”
In a Triple-A tier rife with Top 10 parity this season, STM’s march to a No. 3 provincial tournament seed, following its tense 53-50 win over Vancouver’s Lord Byng Grey Ghosts, was one not for the faint of heart.
The three biggest games of their season on three straight days, beginning with an 80-76 semifinal loss to eventual runners-up Steveston-London on Wednesday, followed by a 94-69 win-or-go-home victory Thursday over McNair, and capped by its narrow win over a Grey Ghosts team which claimed the zone’s final B.C. berth.
“It’s always a grind,” said Mitchell. “Our biggest fear going into the Steveston-London game was that we had two wins over them and we knew they would be super-motivated. We lost. But the toughest thing you have to learn at this time of the season is that you have to move on.
“You have to have the mental toughness to play against a team like McNair, who are coming off a win (105-69 over Windermere), while we’re coming off a loss. You have to really dig in and your Grade 12 leadership has to show.”
It did for the Knights.
They trailed 9-5 after the first quarter, but gutted out a win over a second half in which the largest lead owned by either team was five points.
That Grade 12 leadership?
UBC recruit Cameron Morris showed it.
He scored 20 of his game-high 23 points after the opening quarter. Teammate Liam Feenan added nine.
Nathan Bromige led the Ghosts with 11 points while Peter Chae and Peter Gibbons added 10 each.
Byng head coach Kevin Sandher knows his charges will be in tough at the provincials, but his group is seasoned, with the current seniors now having made the provincials every year at their age group for four straight seasons.
Curiously, Friday’s clash with STM was the first time the teams have played in age-group competition over the four years Sandher has brought his team up through the ranks.
“You would think with all the invitational tournaments and the Lower Mainland tournaments that we would have, but today was the first time,” said Sandher. “Cam is a fantastic player and he really put them on his back when they weren’t scoring.”
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