Last Wednesday, SMUS hosted the Senior Badminton Island Championships. Although SMUS had a perfect 4-0 record entering the tournament, a key injury to star player Candice Ip made it an uphill climb for the team. In fact, SMUS was the underdog in the contest.
Round 1 saw SMUS take on Oak Bay. The matches were not terribly difficult, and the players secured a 10-1 win. The depth of the team allowed for many players to contribute, and Becky Thomas and Stacie Hoi were especially prepared for their tilt in girls doubles.
This put SMUS through to the final, where once again, the team would square off against arch-rival Claremont. Claremont, knowing that the SMUS was one key team member down, clearly had the advantage. However, as luck would have it, when the lineups were submitted, SMUS would benefit greatly from the matchups. With Robbie Thomas and Michael Ip winning in style early on, and Helen Ip following up in the girls singles, SMUS looked poised for a win. Ethan Lee and Helen Ip would clinch the 6-5 victory by winning the mixed doubles right at the end.
SMUS was lucky on the day, but as they say in sport, “you gotta be good to be lucky.” This is the 9th Island title in the last 11 years for the SMUS badminton team. They now qualify for the provincial championships which will be held in Victoria on March 4-6.
Senior Boys Basketball
The recent resurgence in SMUS Basketball continued recently, as Senior School teams looked to secure their passages to provincial tournaments.
First up was the Senior boys, who hosted the Vancouver Island AA event February 11-13. Seven of the eight teams entered were very real threats to capture one of the three berths on offer to the BC championships.
In Round 1, SMUS, behind 41 points from the starting guard duo of Tycho Mommsen-Smith and Jamie Yorath, dispatched Mark Isfeld from Courtenay 77-57. An impressive opening salvo, in front of an enthusiastic home crowd, produced a 23-10 first quarter lead and it was clear sailing after that.
This win moved the team into the semifinals, against Ladysmith, one of the dominant AA programs in BC over the past decade. With both defences extremely well prepared , and with nerves perhaps impacting on shooting, the game became something of a low-scoring affair. Indeed, a 23-23 tie at halftime gave way to further lack of offence after the break. With 2.39 to play, all seemed lost for SMUS, as, after a Ladysmith surge and with the home shooters completely out of rythym, the team trailed 48-37.
What followed will go down in Island Tournament folklore. SMUS refused to quit, and forced a flurry of turnovers. Suddenly shots started dropping, with a 3-pointer from Mommsen-Smith, a long 2-pointer by Mitch Wiggins, a drive by Yorath, and a putback by Connor Eden pulling the Blue Jags to within two points at 48-46.
Then came yet another steal, and, with the crowd at a fever pitch, Jure Erlic, quiet on the night up to this point, hit a tough 14′ bank shot, drawing a foul in the process. Tie game at 48, with a free throw to come.
To his credit, Erlic swished the extra shot, and amazingly, incredibly, stunningly, SMUS led 49-48. And there were still 44 seconds to play, as the eleven point deficit had been erased in less than two minutes.
These final seconds were agonizing. Three times the SMUS defence forced poor shots, only to have players not rebound or chase down loose balls. Finally, to the massive relief of the home supporters, Mommsen-Smith gained possession and, with .4 to play, hit one final foul shot to ensure a dramatic 50-48 victory.
With BC qualification now ensured, and given the theatrics of the dramatic semifinal recovery, it was perhaps not too surprising that the emotional well was dry the following night in the final against Brentwood. While Erlic, with 25 points, performed well, the rest of the team again struggled mightily at the offensive end of the floor. Brentwood, by virtue of a three pointer at the half time buzzer, led 22-16 at intermission, and kept this lead between six and ten points through the second frame.
With three minutes to play, SMUS had one last gasp. Down 42-36, the team had one last trifecta crawl in and out. Brentwood replied with a three ball of their own, and this time, there was no way back.
Nonetheless, there was so much to be proud of. Undersized at every position, the players battled furiously to compensate, while a never-say-die attitude was richly rewarded in the semifinal.
The team now travels to Kamloops on February 24-27 for the BC AA Tournament. Seeded #8 in the event, SMUS opens against Okanagan runner-up Sahali, with a possible quarterfinal against RC Palmer then on the cards.
Senior Girls Basketball
On the Senior girls side, the team travelled to Campbell River for its own Island Tournament, with only the top two finishers guaranteed BC qualification. SMUS, missing post Sydney Stockus with a knee complaint, opened up with a scrappy 54-47 win over NDSS.
However, the next evening, host Carihi proved to be an altogether different proposition, scoring early and often and playing stifling defence en route to an easier than expected 54-30 victory. The SMUS offence struggled from the outset, and left the team with the difficult task of having to win two backdoor games just to keep the season alive.
The first of these came against a physically large and powerful Brentwood team. SMUS trailed the whole game, but, thanks to some timely Annie Pike buckets and rebounds, stayed in touch just long enough to mount a late comeback, and the girls scrambled back to win 45-44.
This win ensured that the season remained alive, and indeed, the excitement was just beginning. The afternoon affair, against Mark Isfeld, perhaps could have produced a comfortable win, as, behind Pike’s 24 points, and another 21 from point guard Abbie Piazza, SMUS led by 16 near the end of the third quarter.
However, Isfeld then made a serious comeback of their own, which was capped by a tying hoop in the dying seconds. Overtime loomed! Happily, in the extra session, some key plays by Ciara Glen, Sophia Ducharme and Kirsten McLeod stemmed the tide and allowed SMUS to prevail 72-68.
This result moved SMUS into a provincial Wild Card game, played February 16 in Vancouver. A fast and feisty Brittania team provided the opposition, with the winners set to claim the final place to the BC AA Tournament.
The girls produced their best effort of the season, with Pike (22 points and 19 boards) Piazza (9-10 from the foul line down the stretch) and Ducharme (12 rebounds) impressive throughout. SMUS led wire to wire, extending a two-point halftime lead to seven in what finished a 64-57 victory. Without doubt, a very solid 20-25 from the charity stripe was instrumental.
So, the team now moves on to Kamloops for the Provincial AA tournament. Seeded #14, SMUS opens against Mission from the Fraser Valley.
Junior Boys Basketball
The Junior boys completed league play at 5-2, and, as a third seed, opened city playoffs against Reynolds. Balanced scoring offset a slow start, and the team ground out a 50-33 victory. This win guarantees a much anticipated semifinal match-up at Lambrick Park, with the squads splitting their two games played earlier this season.
At point guard, Mark Yorath has continued his fine play, while, off the bench, Alex Davies and Johnny Sipos have contributed well.
From the city playoffs, SMUS will look to qualify for the Island Tournament, to be held February 25-27 in Campbell River, before returning to host the BC Junior event March 4-6.
Grade 10 Girls Basketball
The Grade 10 girls have won three in a row, with one game remaining heading into playoffs next week. On February 8th, they played Spencer, after a slow start, the Jags found their groove. Ronnie Tsai had 13 points, and Sara Taylor was unstoppable under the hoop with 14.
On February 10th, SMUS hosted PCS. It was a tight contest for most of the game, but in the 3rd quarter, SMUS was able to put on some pressure and pull away. The entire team contributed on defense, and Ronnie Tsai and Sara Taylor again led all scorers with 14 and 12 points respectively. Laura Shaw provided some great speed, and Nicole Chan, some finesse under the hoop for 4 points each. The Grade 10 team next faces the Spartans at Claremont this Thursday.
Grade 9 Basketball
At Grade 9 level, both the boys and girls enter this weekend’s Island Tournaments as top seeds. Ally White and Hannah McElderry have proved to be a dominant 1-2 punch inside for the girls, with Monty Fraser-Brown a consistent scorer on a well-balanced boys squad.
Both teams, after the Island Tournament, will first concentrate on completing unbeaten city seasons before focusing on the BC championships, which will be held in the first two weeks of March in the Fraser Valley.