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The SMUS Senior badminton team travelled to Kamloops last Friday to take part in a two-part exhibition series. The road trip was a little on the long side, but when the competition arrived, it was clear that the trip would be very worthwhile.
The first game was played against Provincial #6 seed South Kamloops. SMUS did reasonably well, but struggled somewhat to adjust to the altitude. At altitude, the players found out that the shuttle travels much faster than at sea level. As a result, many shots were barely out, and the games were much closer than anticipated. Normal school vs. school format was not followed, as there was a greater benefit to play in an exhibition-series style. In the end however, SMUS did hold their own, winning by the slightest of margins: 35-34. In all, the games lasted 2.5 hours. SMUS members Michael Ip, Robbie Thomas, Stacie Hoi and Becky Thomas all did their part to secure the victory.
The following day, SMUS faced #8 seed Semiahmoo Secondary (South Surrey). SMUS played much better, as the consistency and accuracy increased substantially. Players by the likes of Joe Ekthumrong, Sylvia Ho, Helen Ip, and Ross Prager all had superb outings. Although this time SMUS only played for 1.5 hours, it was still a convincing 24-18 win for the team.
The trip proved to be very beneficial, both from a competitive and a social perspective. This was the final tune-up for the #5 provincial seed SMUS. This is the highest seed a SMUS team has been given in the last decade, so with some solid play and a bit of luck, the team does have an outside chance of capturing the provincial championship. The one and only time a SMUS team has won the provincial championship was back in 1996.
The provincials will be held next week in Victoria on March 4-6. SMUS will be playing their Thursday round-robin games at St. Margaret’s School. All the dates and times can be found on the tournament website: http://bcschoolbadminton.com/
Grade 9 Boys Basketball
The Grade 9 boys basketball team ensured qualification to their own BC Tournament, beating Spencer and Wellington in pool play before recording a heart-pounding overtime victory against arch rival Oak Bay.
Day 1 of the tournament, held at SMUS, proved as straightforward as expected, as the team easily defeated game but outmatched opposition. Balanced scoring and stingy defence were very much in evidence throughout, with reserves Keenan Manhas, Fynn Kehl and Sam Reid all making good contributions.
The final against Oak Bay was an altogether different proposition. Any ideas that the game would mirror the easy SMUS exhibition win of three weeks ago were rudely shattered, as the Bays moved smartly to an early lead. Slowly, the Blue Jags, behind the 3-point shooting of Georgios Ikonomou and Keiler Totz, regained control, and a 9-point lead early in the third quarter in the low scoring contest looked like ot might be just enough.
It wasn’t! Oak Bay, behind point guard Liam Horne, steadily ate into the margin, with the SMUS offence coming up dry posession after possession. With less than two minutes to go, the Bays led 40-36.
Fortunately, SMUS did not panic, with Lindon Carter narrowing the deficit to two points. After a defensive stop, Steve Whillans, with 22 seconds remaining, hit a contested jumper in the lane to tie the score. There was still time for great excitement, as, after an Oak Bay turnover, Ikonomou had a chance to win the game, only to see his layup spin out. Then, on the return rush, Horne so narrowly missed a twisting layup of his own at the buzzer.
On to overtime. Oddly enough, the extra three-minute session proved something of an anticlimax, as SMUS, with Whillans and Wayne Lin dominating inside and on the boards, scoring early and often. Then, good foul shooting by Colton Stockus, Monty Fraser-Brown and Trenton Schulz-Franco capped what, in the end, was a 53-45 win.
Oddly, the team must now move on to City playoffs, with a February 24 semifinal matchup against Oak Bay, and hopefully a subsequent final vs PCS. Then, the group will begin preparations for the BC Tournament, to be held March 11-13 at Pinetree SS in the Fraser Valley.
Junior Boys Basketball
The Junior boys basketball team, who had completed league play at 5-2, opened City playoffs February 15 against Reynolds. Balanced scoring offset a slow start, and, with reserves Johhny Sipos and Alex Davies contributing in all areas, the team ground out a 50-33 victory. This win guaranteed a much anticipated semifinal matchup at Lambrick Park, with the squads having split a pair of two point games played earlier this season.
Not surprisingly, this Lambrick Park game was as close as the previous encounters, with the hosts jumping out to an early lead and staying in front by 25-23 at halftime. No more than two points separated the teams through the third quarter and into the final frame. Then, a SMUS spurt, fueled by two tough Joe Erlic drives, took the Blue Jags to a 46-40 advantage. Not to be outdone, the Lions roared back immediately, with an offensive rebound basket and transition three point play cutting the deficit back to one.
Yet, SMUS answered right back. Erlic, with the last of his 20 points, hit a foulline jumper, which was followed by a corner three from post Liam MacLure. 51-45 SMUS, with only 2.30 to play. Excellent defence by guards Mark Yorath and Dawit Workie, and steady all round play from Derek Hyde-Lay and Dave Pollen then never did allow Lambrick Park room to mount a comeback. Forced to foul, the hosts could only watch as SMUS went 8-10 from the foul line down the stretch in what finished a 59-51 victory.
With the win, SMUS moved into the City final against Mt. Douglas. Things looked ominous, as the Rams, who had hammered SMUS 57-30 in league play just two weeks earlier, jumped out to an early 9-2 lead behind the deadly shooting of point guard Elliot Rowe. However, the Blue Jags refused to buckle, and some Mark Yorath free throws closed the gap to 17-11 at quarter time.
The second period saw some terrific play from both sides. A Joe Erlic trey finally knotted the scores at 24, before SMUS found a way to edge in front 30-28 at half time.
The Rams again took control after intermission, and led 39-37 with 20 seconds to play in the third quarter. Then came one of the game’s defining moments. A Rowe jumper missed the mark, which allowed Yorath to corral the rebound and find Erlic open at the midcourt line. With no time on the clock, Erlic fired a picture perfect 40′ jumper, which found nothing but the bottom of the net and gave SMUS the lead 40-39.
The Blue Jags defence was starting to take its toll, and, when Derek Hyde-Lay then hit back to back threes, SMUS opened up a 47-40 advantage. Try as they might, Mt. Douglas could not make any inroads into the lead, as two final free throws, courtesy of Dawit Workie, secured a 58-49 home victory.
Erlic led all scorers with 24 points, while MacLure, Yorath and Hyde-Lay each added 10. Post Jeff Nashima also played a strong all round game, with wing Dave Pollen chipping in five key points as well.
With the win, the team qualified as South #1 for the Island Tournament, to be held February 25-27 in Campbell River. The team will then host the BC Junior Invitational March 4-6.
Grade 9 Girls Basketball
A somewhat bizarre twist left SMUS with a straightforward road to the BCs, as an opening Island Tournament pool game versus a pesky Spencer team was eventually ruled a forfeit after the Langford-based school had to be closed temporarily due to a fire. As a result, the Jags had only to face and defeat St. Andrews to reach the final and secure provincial qualification.
This was duly accomplished via an all-round team effort and aggressive play, as SMUS won decisively 58-29. Allie White led all scorers with 18 points while Hannah McElderry added 16.
The next day, SMUS took on Dover Bay in the Island final. A combination of players away due to representative soccer commitments and a difficult opponent that pressed relentlessly made for a long afternoon, as the Nanaimo-based Dolphins secured a 55-25 victory.
Nonetheless, SMUS worked very hard and did many good things throughout the game. Once again, White, with 12 points, paced the offence, with Rachel Sibbald adding 9 points. While the team did not end up winning the Island championship it still advanced to the BCs, which will take place March 4-6 in Vancouver.
Significantly, for the first time ever, five of six SMUS teams, from Grades 9 to Senior, qualified this season for their respective provincial championships. No other co-ed school in BC this year has been able to match this feat.