In a riveting weekend’s play, SMUS captured the 2012 ISA Senior Boys championship, winning three games in the space of just over 24 hours in a highly competitive tournament played at Brentwood College.
On Day 1, the team opened against Collingwood of West Vancouver. A slow start, complete with rushed shots and questionable decision-making on the break, saw the Blue Jags down 27-25 at intermission. However, a much more polished attack in the second half, allied to more solid defence, saw SMUS eventually run our comfortable 63-45 winners. The three senior guards, Dawit Workie, Georgios Ikonomou and Mark Yorath, in fine form all tournament, combined for 26 points, while post Mac Catto contributed a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
This victory propelled SMUS into the semi-final against heavy favourites and BC AAA #6 ranked St. George’s. Though down early 17-7, the Jags just refused to go away. Wayne Lin and Matt Rud teamed up to make life difficult for Saints’ star pivot Drew Urquart, while relentless full-court pressure forced multiple turnovers.
Up five at the break after a 25-10 run, SMUS then extended the lead to as many as 11points. Dave Pollen and Keiler Totz chipped in some timely hoops and, with Catto controlling the boards, the Jags took a 48-37 advantage with 6.34 to play in the final quarter.
Then it all went sideways. St. George’s, unable to control Workie, Ikonomou and Yorath, switched to a zone defence, taking away dribble penetration and instead choosing to concede open three-point shots. SMUS, collars perhaps tightening under the pressure, proceeded to misfire on eleven consecutive possessions, all the while seeing the Saints chip away at the lead. A rack of free throws allowed St. George’s to claw all the way back to 53-53. But then Yorath, with the final three of his team high 15 points, stepped up at the crucial moment, connecting from beyond the arc as SMUS claimed the prize 56-55.
Only a few hours later, the team, with Workie and Ikonomou in particular banged up from their efforts vs St. George’s, was back on court for the final. Host Brentwood, BC AA#5, lay in wait, much more rested having played the earlier semi-final, and not having been taxed particularly in wins over WPGA and Southridge. A jam-packed home gym was an additional obstacle for SMUS, with the partisan crowd so noisy it was, on many occasions, virtually impossible to hear the referee whistles or the horn on the score clock.
Perhaps not unexpectedly, and with star forward Jordan Charles dominating proceedings, Brentwood jumped out to an early 18-4 lead. Fortunately, a gutsy final two minutes of the half saw the Blue Jags notch eight consecutive points, getting to the break only six in arrears despite being thoroughly outplayed.
The final two quarters seemed to have a recurring theme, with SMUS fighting back to within a single basket before Brentwood would pull away again. The final home surge, which saw a 40-39 lead become a 47-39 margin, seemed to be a final hill too steep for SMUS to climb.
Yet, in a wonderful display of resilience and determination, SMUS came through in the final three minutes, limiting Brentwood to a pair of free throws. The team defence, rock solid all weekend and with Lin, Pollen and Totz taking turns shadowing Charles, again stood firm. Finally, after a day of frustration, a few shots found the mark. Two trifectas from Ikonomou, part of his team high 17, fueled the comeback, while Lin, under huge pressure and with the crowd in full voice, knocked down two foul shots to tie the game with 36 seconds to play.
The final half minute had a little bit of everything. SMUS came up with two more fine defensive sequences, with Ikonomou capping a superb all round game by taking a charge on the potential game winning drive. Lin got to the defensive board, drew a foul, and converted again from the line. The 51-49 final score was sweet indeed.
Certainly this was a win for character. SMUS shot the ball horribly all weekend, but particularly versus St. George’s and Brentwood. Somehow, in these two games, a series of gritty plays, tough defence and timely rebounds offset a 14-66 effort from the three point line.
Moving to 5-0 on the season, SMUS is certain to hold on its BC AA #1 ranking for at least another week. Next games are December 7 and 8, with North Island powers Mark Isfeld and Wellington set to visit as part of a Junior-Senior Jamboree.