LANGLEY — K.C. Ibekwe heard it from the crowd Sunday night at the Langley Events Centre.
From one side of the Centre Court complex, the Centennial Centaurs’ 6-foot-10 centre lined up to shoot free throws while supporters of the arch-rival Terry Fox Ravens broke into unrepentant chants of ‘Over-rated’.
Yet when the unflappable Ibekwe was able to get his touches in the paint and score the big baskets his team needed to extract a 73-65 win from Port Coquitlam’s Ravens in the Eastern Valley Quad-A championship final, the fans from his Coquitlam school were just as vociferous in their chants of ‘MVP, MVP’.
Taken as a whole, the soft-spoken big man brought out what is absolutely best about the live atmosphere of a high school basketball game, and after two pretty silent years of waiting, it was like the sound of music.
In the end, after Ibekwe capped an absolutely dominant 43-point performance with a baseline spin and an explosive slam dunk off dribble-drive to the rack with 36 seconds remaining, it was the Centaurs fans who were ultimately proven prophetic.
“He just wore us down,” admitted Ravens’ coach Don Van Os after the game. “We tried to front and backside him, but he has great hands and great feet and doesn’t miss much inside. And all of that can cause you to get into foul trouble.”
For his part, Ibekwe’s game has indeed been growing, to the point where it’s safe to say it’s almost caught up to his prodigious height.
And the big man showed, on an especially noisy night on the job, that he wasn’t about to suffer from a bout of stage fright.
“It was so great to have the fans back,” the MVP Ibekwe said later. “I know with those free throws I just have to focus. That’s a big win. I think we’re a scary team now headed into provincials.”
Yet the Ravens, so young that at one stage coach Rich Chambers prowled the sidelines with four Grade 10s on the floor, gave every indication that they are growing up in a hurry.
In fact it almost made you think to tap Chambers on the sideline and tell him the B.C. junior boys tournament had scheduled its games in the South Court complex.
But no, Terry Fox, despite it’s youth, continued to show why it is in the right gym.
It may have looked otherwise as they began the game in a 10-0 hole off the opening tip, and then found themselves down 17-2.
Yet there’s a reason that they, too, are scheduled to return to the LEC beginning March 9 for provincials.
Ibekwe subbed out, and the Ravens’ mojo seemed to collectively subbed in, and before you knew it, a 13-2 Fox run had closed the gulf to just 19-15.
From there, it was game on.
The Ravens took the lead at 57-54 heading into the fourth, but Centennial won it down the stretch, closing the game on an 8-0 run in which Ibekwe and Nick Yang, the team’s pivotal senior guard, did all of the damage.
Yang finished with 19 points.
For the Ravens, Christian Moore hit five triples and led the way with 20 points while Titus Heron scored 15 and Graham Stack a further 14.
Ibekwe scored 14 points in the first quarter, 11 in the second, eight in the third and 10 in the fourth, going 8-of-13 from the stripe.
“He was starting to go under 50 per cent (from the free throw line),” said Centennial head coach Lucian Sauciuc, “so we told him ‘Hey bud, you are going to be getting fouled a lot’, and so he really started to work. Lately he’s been in the 70 to 80 per cent range. It’s a testament to his hard work.”
Playing off of what Ibekwe brings, however, is just as important, and on Sunday the Centaurs got that support.
Yang was his usual excellent self, senior forward Arjun Panju also stepped up, as did Grade 11 Trey McLenan in a defensive role.
Van Os, one half of Terry Fox’s learned coaching duo, admitted the sting of the loss was there, yet after decades and decades in the game, he’s also become a philosopher.
“It would have been nice,” he said of carrying a zone title into the B.C. draw, “but March 9 is when we want to get started. We are young and this is all a part of the process. Tonight was a good experience for our kids.”
Burnaby South beat Burnaby Mountain 100-55 in the zone’s third-fourth game. All four teams had already qualified for provincials.
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