LANGLEY — Many of those who would qualify as longtime high school basketball people in the province of B.C. were calling Friday’s TBI semifinal tilt between SoCal’s Santa Margarita Catholic Eagles and the St. Mary’s Saints of Calgary the Super 16 bracket’s true championship final.
If that was indeed the case, it only further magnified the dominance of Rancho Santa Margarita’s Eagles, who did to the Saints what they have done to both of the B.C. schools it had faced en route to Final Four Friday at the Langley Events Centre.
It was like pairing suffocating half-court defence with the truest meaning of the ‘bigger-faster-stronger cliche’ for the full 40 minutes, and when it over, Santa Margarita had extracted its largest margin of victory thus far at 46 points against the team which may well have been the 16-team pool’s next best team.
Final score: 84-38.
The Eagles opened with a 95-69 win over Burnaby’s Byrne Creek Bulldogs on Wednesday, then topped Victoria’s Spectrum Thunder 83-49 on Thursday.
Yet judging any of the team’s first three games by margin of victory — ahead of its Saturday championship final against Vancouver’s St. Pat’s Celtics — is a foolish exercise based on how quickly or slowly its 12-deep roster of talent was managed.
On Friday, it stayed truer to form longer than the previous two.
Yet if you thought the Eagles’ resounding results weren’t being fully appreciated by its practitioners, think again.
“Hey, nothing’s like winning,” Santa Margarita’s lock-down defensive leader Jonathan Moxie explained after the win. “Nothing’s like winning… so definitely gonna come out with the same intensity (Saturday), continue to get better and just perform.”
No level of genius is required here. It’s all pretty simple.
The more you show the Eagles in the games before you play them, the more you get the defensive spotlight turned up on you. when you do.
Calgary-St. Mary’s guard Jacob McLellan, a phenom of sorts with his circus-like ability to make buckets in times of duress through the confidence of his quicks and his handle, was made to earn his output Friday in a more demanding fashion that he perhaps has over his entire career.
The Grade 11 guard, who will surely be pursued with fervor by the best programs in all of U SPORTS, had opened with 30 points in a win over Holy Cross on Wednesday, and had followed with 34 points in a win over Kelowna on Thursday.
On Friday, he still led his team in scoring, but it was by posting a total of 10 points. Six of those points came off of free throws and the rest came on one bucket in each of the second and third quarters.
And that’s no indictment of McLellan. Put him in an Eagles jersey and surround him with all of that talent and he would fit right in, as would a select few from some of the 30 other B.C. teams taking part in TBI 2023 this week.
Moxie, who wound up scoring all five of his points Saturday in the opening quarter, admitted that he and his teammates don’t have a whole lot of trouble pretending they’re back home playing in their league games when facing teams on the LEC courts.
“Even if all of the games have not been maybe super-dooper competitive,” he said respectfully, “we’ve come in with a mindset that we are preparing ourselves for the games we have in our league comign up. So that has been the mindset.”
Scoring was again balanced on Friday.
Drew Anderson and Dallas Washington each scored a dozen points while Cameron McNamee added 10 to lead the way.
Reserve forward Jackson Bradley scored all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter.
And what has Moxie noticed most about the way basketball is played in B.C.?
“It’s been fun being in a whole different country, experiencing the culture and everything,” said Moxie, who surprisingly got the gist of the question and didn’t just automatically refer to the modified FIBA rules under which boys high school hoops is played under in this province.
“I feel that (culture) is reflected in the games, too,” he continued. “It’s the way everybody plays. Everyone is really respectful with how they play. So it’s been fun. It’s been great.”
Hey, he’s just sayin’.
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