LANGLEY — We’ve gone final.
Here’s a look at our two semifinals tonight at the BC boys AAA championships.
STORY BY HOWARD TSUMURA
NO. 2 DOVER BAY 91 NO. 6 NORTH DELTA 59
LANGLEY — Luke Linder likes to start off small and build towards the bit-hit moments which are such a highlight of his shooting game.
Yet given the stakes of Friday’s B.C. senior boys Triple A Final Four clash with the North Delta Huskies, maybe something in the 6-foot-4 senior sniper’s psyche simply told him there was no time like the present to swing for the fences.
“First thing I want to do is to hit a shot close to the hoop,” Linder said in the post-game, “but sometimes that’s not possible so I just take my chances.”
Linder, the prized Vancouver Island University recruit, hit a three-pointer just seconds into the contest, and with 3:45 left in the quarter stoked his fifth trey of the opening frame.
Now that is swinging for the fences.
Fouled on the make, he completed the four-point play on his way to a 17-point first quarter, a 25-point half, and in the end a 42-point game as the Dolphins found their way to Saturday’s championship final against ther St. Patricks, Lord Byng winner.
“He is just true gamer, he just never quits, he shows up big-time for big games,” said Dover Bay head coach Darren Seaman. “And not only that, he has to be one of the best human beings around. He’s worked relentlessly at his game. When you’ve put in the time like he has, it shows.”
Both teams leaned on their zone defences throughout, yet with a team overall wing-span that would, without any hyperbole, rival the best of any team tournament history, their’s was the one which proved suffocating, taking away the Huskies ability to find their half-court shots in any kind of consistent rhythm.
Coming off an 83-76 win over MEI in the quarterfinals in which he tied his career high for the second time with 49 points, Linder is in a scoring zone like no other player across all tiers here at the provincials.
Yet ask him about his effectiveness and he is quick to credit the skill, size and team-first ways of his teammates.
“I am just working off my teammates,” he said. “They were rebounding amazingly, and it allowed me to get out and run, and to shoot the ball well.”
Linder’s 42-point night came on 16-of-28 shooting, including 8-of-12 from distance.
Linder’s younger brother, Grade 10 point guard Frank Linder, finished two assists shy of a triple double with 13 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists.
Senior guard Matthew Cote added 10 poiunts and 10 rebounds.
North Delta was led by the 26 points of its Grade 11 point guard Harvir Hothi, who was 6-of-16 from three-point range.
When asked if getting to the championship final has been a childhood dream of his, Luke Linder took things one step further.
“Super-funny thing, back when I was in Grade 8, I saw St. Patricks play in the (2019) B.C. (junior) championships,” Linder said.
“My cousin (John Linder) was on that St. Pat’s team, so I have always wanted to get to the B.C. championships and play against St. Pat’s, even though they lost to Burnaby South that year” continued Linder of the tournament’s No. 1 seeds who were embroiled in a semi-final battle of their own against Vancouver’s Lord Byng Grey Ghosts at the time of this story’s writing.
STORY BY AARON MARTIN (Special for Varsity Letters)
NO. 1 ST PATRICK’S 93 NO. 5 LORD BYNG 66
LANGLEY, BC – They may be Irish, but there was no luck involved.
The top-ranked St. Patrick’s Celtics are one game away from history.
Putting on a transition clinic in their 93-66 win over the No. 5-ranked Lord Byng Grey Ghosts Friday afternoon, only one opponent now separates the Celtics from the title of back-to back B.C. Senior Boys AAA champions, a feat that has never been seen in the tournament’s history.
From the jump, the Celtics seemed determined to get as many possessions as possible. No wasted time, no extra seconds for Lord Byng to adjust. They flew up and the court, rarely holding the ball long enough to even thing about turning it over. Despite going just 1-of-10 from beyond the arc in the first half, St. Patrick’s incessant pace on offense saw the put up 44 shot attempts while committing just seven turnovers. That impressive amount of volume had the Celtics up 44-23 at half.
As skilled as his players are, head coach Nap Santos believes a large part of his team’s ability to attack in waves stems from their mentality.
“We don’t want to harp on the fact that [our opponents] score,” explained Santos. “If they score on us, don’t worry about it. Let’s push the ball – it’s always been like that, even for our Grade 8s, they play like that. For our program, if they score, that’s okay. Just put the ball in bounds and push right away, so we don’t get flustered just because they scored.”
St Pats were absolutely dominant in the third quarter. The Grey Ghosts were forced to play tighter defense to counter St. Patrick’s impeccable ball movement, and the Celtics took full advantage, hitting several open threes as they opened up as much as 31-point advantage late in the quarter.
Senior guard Irish Coquia was especially dynamic in that third quarter. Not only did the reigning AAA tourney MVP knock down a couple triples of his own, but his sharp shooting also allowed several open looks for his teammates. Coquia’s athleticism also kept Lord Byng on the back foot, as he mixed in enough drives to the basket to ensure they couldn’t begin to key on the outside shooting.
“They went on a two-three zone,” noted Santos of the shift in strategy. “Once I saw that, our threes were wide open, and we have a lot of good shooters.”
Coquia would finish with a game-high 35 points and 12 boards, while Joey Panghulan (17 points, 10 rebounds) and Jovin Sunner (13 points) also hit double digits for the Celtics.
The Grey Ghosts, who fought tooth and nail until the final whistle, were unable to make up much ground in the fourth quarter. A monstrous 30-point outing from star forward Dylan King was a bright spot for Lord Byng.
The No. 2-ranked Dover Bay are the only thing standing between the Celtics and repeat glory. Dover Bay superstar Luke Linder, coming off 49 and 42-point performance in their quarterfinal and semifinal wins over MEI and North Delta, respectively, is playing at a level that few in the provincial tournament have ever hit.
But Santos, much like his team, is focused on what they can control.
“They run a zone, and they extend their zone,” assessed the Celtics boss. “And they’re long. So you have to move the ball. We haven’t played them, but that doesn’t matter much. We hadn’t played Elgin last year, and we turned it up in the last three-and-a-half minutes.”
Linder and Coquia, Dover Bay and St. Patrick’s. The province’s best will stake their claims at glory tomorrow evening, with the championship tip-off set for 5:30 pm at the LEC’s Arena Bowl.
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