Athletics Review: Grit Leads to Good Showing in Duncan

Senior Boys Basketball

The Senior boys basketball team rang in the New Year up in Duncan, taking part in the Cowichan Showcase Tournament.

A deep field included BC AAA #6 ranked Oak Bay, in addition to prairie powers Harry Ainlay (Edmonton), St. Mary’s (Calgary) and Sheldon-Williams Collegiate (Regina).

SMUS opened against Sheldon-Williams in the first round. A superb defensive effort, led by Georgios Ikonomou, shackled Cougars’ star guard Ryan Delwo en route to a 78-57 win. Matt Rud (19 points), Keiler Totz (17 points) and Mark Yorath (12 points) led five players in double figures.

The victory set up a quarterfinal showdown against a fast and athletic Harry Ainlay outfit. In what was unquestionably the game of the tournament, both teams tore up and down court for the full 40 minutes. The Blue Jags, again featuring balanced scoring in support of a career high 29 points from Ikonomou, opened up a 49-44 halftime lead. On two occasions, the team extended the lead after the break to six points, but each time the Titans would respond. Finally, up 84-81, SMUS could only watch as a last second Harry Ainlay three-pointer hit the back rim and bounced away.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a 9:00 am semifinal against Belmont the next morning was going to be a mental challenge. And so it proved. A poor start, in a game destined to became a low-scoring grind, saw SMUS slip behind early by eight points. Some gritty work by Dawit Workie, Dave Pollen and Wayne Lin allowed the Blue Jags to scrape their way back to 25-25 at half. In the end, SMUS managed to advance by a score of 54-46.

On the other side of the draw, Oak Bay had enjoyed a much easier passage, and the Bays’ superior energy in the championship final was evident as they roared out to a 10-0 lead after only three minutes. In a game SMUS never led, the Blue Jags fought back to within one point on three separate occasions, but found the early deficit too much to overcome. Heavy foul trouble and some wayward shooting hampered any consistent rhythm, and, while the team had done a fine job in overcoming the non-availability of post Mack Catto (sore knee), his absence this time was noticeable.

Nonetheless, one final fightback had SMUS within four points at 58-54 with 31 seconds left to play. Yet, Oak Bay hung on to hand the Blue Jags just their second loss of the season.

Despite the disappointment, there were many positives, starting with Ikonomou and Rud being named to the tournament All-Star team. Also, Jordan Lane made a welcome return from an ankle injury while Liam Keeler-Young played some useful minutes in pressure situations.

SMUS now has something of a gap in its schedule with just three league games, against Esquimalt, Vic High and Parkland, and a sole exhibition versus Fraser Valley’s Byrne Creek, on the docket between now and January 24.