LANGLEY — The St. George’s Saints graduating Class of 2020 has done a pretty fair job of holding its own against their basketball peers at Vancouver College.
But lose a one-point game to the Fighting Irish in the semifinals of the B.C. Grade 9 championships last season, then surrender the Grade 10 league title when they hit a dagger jumper with a half-second left on the clock?
“You get tired of losing and that is what we have experienced against Vancouver College,” said Sam Wooder, the Saints’ heroic 6-foot-3 Grade 10 guard. “At some point you just have to work harder and get over it, just show that you are mentally tough enough to get through it and get a win.”
That day, it turned out, was Monday, and behind a game-high 29 points from Wooder, No. 5 seeded St. George’s finally won one of those so-called big ones against their arch-rivals, its 71-63 triumph propelling the Saints into Tuesday’s 6 p.m. B.C. junior boys championship final at the Langley Events Centre against Surrey’s No. 3 seeded Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers.
In the truest measure of their focus, Wooder went 10-for-10 from the free throw line, including a savagely singleminded 8-for-8 in the fourth quarter to beat the No. 1 seeded Irish.
Wooder, in fact, didn’t even score from the field in the final frame, just from the stripe.
“Those were huge points,” Saints’ head coach Guy da Silva reported of Wooder’s free throws, ones which helped St. George’s even the season series between the two teams at 2-2.
“Playing that series really gets us prepared for those kinds of moments, and it’s because those moments are so big that we spend so much time shooting free throws in practice. We’ll sprint in practice, then go right to free throws. We’ve practiced them after almost every drill.”
Certainly the Saints’ overall 19-of-23 free-throw proficiency didn’t escape the notice of Irish head coach Ethan Wong.
“Saints played fantastic and they hit their free throws,” Wong said. “That is something we all still have to learn. Games come down to the wire and free throws make a difference.”
Wooder and his Vancouver College rival Hunter Cruz-Dumont were matched against each other the entire game, and Cruz-Dumont, who had earlier stuck the dagger shot against Saints for the Indy League title, scored a team-high 27 points.
Sahil Sandhu added 16 points for the Irish, Eli Van Haren scored 14 points and Jaxon Cohee 12 for St. George’s.
St. George’s has won the B.C. Junior title once in its history, back in 2005.
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