Tough schedules and lots of back-to-back games challenged the Blue Jags basketball squads over the last couple of weeks, but the teams continue to rack up the wins and push toward the playoffs in this week’s Athletics Review.
Senior Girls Basketball
by Lindsay Brooke, Head Coach
The Senior girls basketball team had a busy week with a league game and the Victoria City Police Tournament.
In their third league game of the year, SMUS squared off with the Parklands Panthers. Boasting a much taller team and some decent guard play, the Panthers looked to attack from all positions. SMUS played a stifling defensive game that held the Panthers to just eight first quarter points, while the SMUS offense churned out 29. The Blue Jags cruised to an easy victory, winning 60-36. All the Blue Jags saw lots of floor time. Sophia Ducharme finished with 18 points, Rachel Sibbald and Abbey Piazza chipped in with 10 points each. Claire Williams cleaned up the boards, finishing with 13 rebounds. Grade 11 guard Sam Colby finished the game with six steals and seven boards.
The weekend presented a greater challenge in the highly competitive Victoria City Police Tournament. In its 38th year, the Police Tournament features the top teams on Vancouver Island. In pool play, SMUS opened with the Mt. Doug Rams. Short-staffed due to injury, the Rams were no match for the Jags. SMUS posted a win, 62-21. The Blue Jags had a very balanced attack. Colby led all scorers with 13 points. Erin Hope added 9 points and Emma Donald finished with 10 rebounds.
In their second game of the day, SMUS played another AA team from Vancouver, Windsor. Windsor boasts an athletic, young team with good size. It was an important test for the Blue Jags. The game did not disappoint. There was wall-to-wall action, some hot shooting and aggressive, scrappy play by both teams. The Blue Jags won every quarter and finished with a 53-43 victory. Piazza led all scorers with 23 points. She took care of the ball on offense and finished incredibly well around the hoop. Ducharme finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds (a double-double). Sibbald also finished with a double-double (10 points and 13 rebounds). Jenna Dhillon sliced her way to the basket chipping in 7 points.
The semi-final game featured the Blue Jags taking on the Spartans from Claremont, the #2 AAA team on the island and featuring some strong all-round players. The Blue Jags were in tough. Unfortunately, they got off to an incredibly slow start, down 11-0 to open the game. However, they clawed their way back to 17-13 after the first. Then cut it to 1 point, down 29-28 at the half. An offensive drought mid-way in the third quarter resulted in a deficit that was too much to overcome. SMUS dropped the game 57-43. Piazza finished with 15 points and 9 rebounds. Ducharme added 10 points.
In their final game, playing for third place, SMUS battled another AAA power in Spectrum. Off to slow start on offense, the Blue Jags relied on their lockdown team defense to keep them in control of the game. SMUS exploded out of the gates to start the third quarter. The onslaught proved too much and the Blue Jags cruised to a 53-33 win. Piazza finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Ducharme added 9 points and 9 rebounds (on 3 of 8 shooting from the three-point line). Jocelyne Yan added 5 points, all in the fourth quarter, including making three out of four shots from the foul line.
SMUS finished in third place, their best placing at the Police Tournament in recent years. Abbey Piazza scored a spot on the tournament’s all-star team.
Next up for the Blue Jags is a league game with St. Margaret’s and an exhibition game with Crofton House of Vancouver.
Junior Boys Basketball
The Junior Boys completed an extremely busy two-week stretch of the season, mixing in a handful of league games with two trips to the Mainland to compete against many of the province’s elite teams.
In league play, SMUS remained unbeaten, though not before surviving an unnecessary scare against Oak Bay. A completely comfortable ten point lead with 90 seconds to play melted away in the midst of some turnovers and rushed shots. Order was restored in the extra session, with Jason Scully scoring inside and then Liam Catto and Alex Caton nailing key free throws to earn a 67-61 win.
January 11 and 12 saw SMUS travel to Vancouver College for the prestigious Emerald Tournament. A smooth offensive performance, led by Max Pollen, saw the Blue Jags dismantle Terry Fox with relative ease in round one action. This set up a semifinal matchup against the hosts, still smarting from the overtime defeat three weeks earlier to SMUS in the final of the Oak Bay tournament.
This time, while SMUS scrambled to a 27-24 halftime lead, the finish was markedly different. Dogged by foul trouble, taking a pounding on the boards and losing too many loose balls, the Jags suffered their first defeat of the season. Indeed, the Irish poured on the pressure to advance 54-40.
Nonetheless, just hours later SMUS had a chance to redeem itself against BC #1 Burnaby South, upset victims in its own semifinal versus Pitt Meadows. In a very well-played contest, the Blue Jags, led by Graeme Hyde-Lay’s 16 points, seven assists and seven rebounds, prevailed 48-45.
Less than a week later the team was back in Vancouver, first for an exhibition against highly touted Sir Winston Churchill, then to play in the ISA tournament.
The #2 ranked Bulldogs certainly lived up to the pregame hype, roaring out early against a tired SMUS team en route to leads of 11-2, 28-8 and then 42-16 at half. The Blue Jags stabilized to a degree after the break, matching basket for basket, but the end result was still an unsightly 79-51 defeat.
Despite what had been an atypical performance in a fine season, SMUS was back in the saddle less than 24 hours later, opening the ISA tournament with solid wins over Shawnigan and host St. John’s. David Lee, Grant Nicholson, Matty McColl, Jack Sherrod and Owen Sudul all made big contributions, with the performances helping move the team into the final against St. George’s.
In this championship match, a dominant inside effort from Scully (26 points), strong shooting by Pollen and sterling all-round play by tournament MVP Jake Wilmott, saw SMUS triumph in convincing fashion 71-46.
With the grueling ten games in two weeks stretch finally over, the team, now #4 in the latest BC rankings, will look to recharge their batteries in advance of the Cowichan tournament and then playoffs.
Senior Boys Basketball
Over the past two weeks, the Senior boys basketball team moved to 4-0 in league play and also managed a hard fought victory over visiting Byrne Creek.
Wins over Esquimalt, Vic High and Parkland proved to be very straightforward, with David Wang, Saeed Shokoya, Liam Keeler-Young and Jordan Lane benefiting from the opportunities to play extended minutes. All performed well.
Then, on Saturday, January 19, SMUS took advantage of an offer to play at UVic’s McKinnon Gym, taking on a talented and athletic Bryne Creek team from Burnaby.
In a very close and competitive encounter, the Blue Jags, with 20 points from both Mack Catto and Georgios Ikonomou, prevailed 74-68 in overtime.
The game was tied 30-30 after the first half, and, while SMUS had several chances in the final quarter to extend five point leads, the visitors clawed their way back on each occasion. Both teams then had shots to win the game in a frantic conclusion to regulation (65-65).
Mark Yorath (10 points) and Dawit Workie (11 points) also managed to score in double figures, with the latter making two key steals in the extra frame to consolidate the win. Dave Pollen was also instrumental, notching two key hoops and making several important hustle plays.
SMUS, still ranked the #1 AA team in the province, now heads into a most challenging phase of the season, starting with a January 24-26 visit to Vancouver College for the Emerald Tournament. A highly anticipated opening round matchup versus BC AAA #3 Walnut Grove is in the cards.
Another big event is the February 1-2 Countdown to the Playoffs Tournament, held at Brentwood and Shawnigan, with SMUS on course for a possible semifinal showdown against BC AA #2 ranked Holy Cross.
Finally, on Wednesday, February 6, SMUS will complete local league play by hosting cross town rival Lambrick Park. This game will be streamed live on Sportscanada TV, as part of the BC High School Boys Basketball Game of the Week initiative. Stay tuned for details.