LANGLEY — Resiliency is proving to be worth its weight in early-season gold for some of B.C.’s best senior boys Quad A high school basketball teams.
And when the No. 1-ranked, defending B.C. champion Burnaby South Rebels take to the Langley Event Centre’s main court Saturday night (8 p.m.) against the No. 4-ranked Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers of Surrey in the championship final of the 2018 Tsumura Basketball Invitational, each finalist will have done so through their respective abilities to weather key early injuries.
The Rebels, hoping their luck doesn’t run out Saturday, dodged defeat in dramatic fashion not once, but twice on Friday, getting a rainmaker trey from Justin Sunga in the dying seconds to edge No 8 Oak Bay 77-74 in the morning quarterfinals, then somehow managed to beat No. 2-ranked Terry Fox 85-82 in an overtime semifinal thriller in which it almost choked away a 20-point third-quarter lead to the pesky Ravens.
Playing tricks with South’s equilibrium was the news that 6-foot-10 Grade 11 forward Sasha Vujisic had been lost to the team for the next six weeks after breaking a finger in his right hand in the second half of the Oak Bay game.
No. 4 Lord Tweedsmuir also lost a key player last week to a season ending knee injury, but 6-foot-3 senior Patrick Jonas joined his team, complete with his crutches, on the bench Friday night as the Panthers wore down the No. 3 Holy Cross Crusaders, who lost key guard Uyi Ologhola early in the game, and were without leading scorer Brent Padilla for much of the second half. As well, Crusaders’ senior linchpin Michael Risi, who hurt his back in a 74-59 quarterfinal win over Kelowna earlier in the day, fell hard on it in the second half and was in obvious discomfort.
The teams will all persevere Saturday.
Here’s a look at Friday’s two semifinals:
BURNABY SOUTH 85 TERRY FOX 82 (OT)
LANGLEY — It was almost a comeback for the ages, if not one of the greatest in Terry Fox basketball history.
In the end, however, the Rebels’ 6-foot-8 senior forward Aidan Wilson proved to everyone that he is ready, willing and able to step up as the team’s solo post presence until mid-to-late January.
With teammate Vujisic on the bench with his right hand heavily wrapped, Wilson took to the paint and lifted his level of play as the game’s stakes got higher.
In fact, he scored eight of his team-high 24 points in the overtime session, and without them, it would be the Ravens who would be playing in Saturday’s final.
“The kids wanted to play for Sasha,” began South head coach Mike Bell after the win. “We talked about it and we just wanted to make sure that we had next man up. And Aidan played great today. He was a beast. He was the difference for us.”
Call it a little bit of a lot of different things, but once the news sunk in that Vujisic would not be in the line-up for the next six weeks, the Rebels re-trenched and showed how dangerous they can be with focus.
The effectively blew the Ravens out of the gym, their level of hustle and their ability to find countless transition opportunities saw Burnaby South build their lead to as many as 26 points (48-22) in the second quarter.
Even midway through the third quarter, they led by as many as 20 points (56-36) and any thoughts of a Terry Fox rally seemed out of the question.
“We really challenged the guys at halftime because we just felt that South came out and really embraced the No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup,” explained Ravens co-coach Mark Prinster.
“(South) played with an incredible amount of energy, they played with excitement,” he added. “But our guys seemed to be intimidated. So we really got after them at halftime and I think we showed a lot of heart to come back like we did.”
Every bit as impressive as the Rebels were in the first half, the Ravens were in the second, especially over a stretch to open the fourth quarter when they went on a 15-0 run to pull within a point at 65-64.
In fact watching Fox’s 6-foot-5 forward Grady Stanyer and its compact 5-foot-6 guard Ko Takahashi combine on a double team that forced a turnover on a shotclock violation just enforced how locked in Terry Fox was with four minutes remaining in the game.
About 45 seconds later, after South’s Wilson had scored off a post-up to put the Rebels on top 67-64, the Ravens’ Jacob Mand drilled a triple to tie the score.
Terry Fox then took a 70-67 lead when Jaden DeLeon, a former Rebels, buried a triple.
Sunga, however, hit another huge three to tie it 70-70 with 2:44 remaining, and no one scored the rest of regulation.
In the overtime, Wilson scored eight of his team’s first nine points to keep them on top 79-78 with 1:12 remaining.
Then with 28 seconds left in the five-minute frame, South’s Jiordano Khan was able to complete a three-point play from the stripe for a four-point lead which essentially put the game away.
“We were executing early but it slipped away midway through the game so we just had to get back to what we were doing,” said Khan, who scored 23 points. “It was very stressful but we came out with the win.”
Sunga added 17 points and Baltej Sohal 14 for the winners.
Mand led the Ravens with 25 points, DeLeon added 15, Stanyer 13, and David Chien 12.
LORD TWEEDSMUIR 96 HOLY CROSS 71
LANGLEY — The Burnaby South-Terry Fox game ended with such drama, that the Panthers’ decisive victory seemed to figuratively puncture the LEC’s Centre Court complex and drain any drama out of the building.
At the same time, while the Crusaders struggled to keep their best players healthy and on the floor, the complete nature of the Panthers’ lineup was definitely brought to the fore.
Lord Tweedsmuir’s 17-5 run during the second quarter, led by the dynamic play of guards Arjun Samra and Austin Swedish, put the Panthers on top 40-26 en route to a 51-31 halftime lead.
“We were lucky,” said Tweedsmuir head coach Drew Gallacher. “Their (Holy Cross) starting five is as good as anybody’s and they had some injuries.”
Padilla scored 18 of his team-high 21 in the first half, while Ologhola scored his four points in the first quarter.
Yet the Panthers won because of the way they were able to come off the bench in waves, every unit set forth by Gallacher seemingly able to find ways to score.
“We’re deep,” admitted Gallacher. “I would say that we have 12 really solid players, so hopefully we bring that into the game on Saturday.”
Samra led the winners with 26 pointsm Swedish added 18, Alex Le 16 and Jackson Corneil 13.
All that said, Gallacher admitted that his team isn’t ideally constructed to beat a team like the Rebels.
“We’ve got a big uphill battle, we don’t match up well against Burnaby South,” he said.
What does Gallacher see as potential issues?
“I just think that when they started game (Friday night), their intensity and the way they run their sets is as good as anyone. They are so polished and it’s a match-up nightmare because they not only have great guard play, but a big that is really good.”
Before Saturday’s 8 p.m. final, Terry Fox will meet Holy Cross in the bronze medal final tipping off at 6:15 p.m.
A total of 14 games will be played Saturday at the LEC with action beginning at 9:30 a.m.
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