Athletics Review: Many Roads Lead to Provincials

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This week’s Athletics Reviews sees our SMUS basketball teams fight hard and take different routes to earn berths in the Provincial tournaments. In the end, it won’t matter how they got there, but that they have a chance to bring a title home. Our coaches check in with the highlights.

Junior Boys Basketball
by Reagan Daly

The Junior boys team were up in Courtenay for the Island basketball tournament this past weekend. The host team, G.P. Vanier, were joined by four qualifiers from the north zone, while SMUS was joined by three teams from the south and one from the mid-Island zone to round out the eight-team field.

The first round game was a rout from the tip, with SMUS dominating an over-matched NDSS squad, the number-four seed. The boys won in a lopsided affair by 50 points, with the player of the game going to Jason Scully.

The semi-final game featured the top two teams on the Island, and the boys squared off against Cowichan High School, who they had lost to just a couple weeks earlier by a single point. Playing with great emotion, the boys jumped out to an early 24-8 lead, and never looked back. While Cowichan did make a run in the third quarter, the final result was 53-42, and the 11-point margin was as close as they came in the second half. The player of the game was Alex Caton, who made some timely shots in the final quarter.

SMUS was hungry for the title in the final. While Oak Bay had come close to knocking off the boys in an overtime game earlier in the year, in this game they would not be close. Hot shooting by the dangerous SMUS back court gave the boys an insurmountable 39-8 lead at half time. Each player on the team saw considerable floor time in the second half and the boys closed out the game 78-36, bringing home the Island title. Graeme Hyde-Lay was named player of the game with Jason Scully named to the tournament All-star team. Max Pollen scored 25 points in the final and was named the Island MVP.

The boys will now re-focus for the provincial tournament run next week at Vancouver College.

Senior Boys Basketball

Despite a very successful exhibition and league season, and a convincing South Island AA title, the Senior Boys were still left with it all to do at the full Island Tournament, held February 23-25 at Wellington SS in Nanaimo.

In opening round play, SMUS, behind Mark Yorath’s game high 21 points, easily dispatched NDSS 95-45. This win set up a rematch of the South zone semifinal, with the Blue Jags matched against Brentwood.

This semifinal seemed to be going nicely to script, with SMUS leading 26-19 late into the second quarter. However, a poor final two minutes saw the game tied at halftime. Indeed, some of the errors on display may have been a precursor of things to come, as the Blue Jags stumbled out of the blocks after intermission.

Then, still only down 45-42 entering the final period, SMUS immediately conceded eight straight points. Any scramble back was then blunted, with Brentwood nailing down its free throws in the last minute and prevailing 65-53.

This loss set up a potentially season-ending crossover game versus Shawnigan. In an erratic opening half, the Blue Jags’ continued loose play was a real cause for concern, and a 24-20 lead at the break little comfort. Eventually, thanks to a 23-3 third quarter run, SMUS gained control, although Yorath (22 points) was the only one who seemed able to find the basket with any regularity.

With the win, SMUS met Lambrick Park, semi-final losers to host Wellington, for the third Island berth to the BC Tournament. For whatever reason, the Lions immediately blitzed out to a commanding lead, and did not let up en route to a 63-45 victory.

Fortunately for SMUS, the Island zone, based on overall strength, had been granted an extra half berth to provincials. After a day to reflect on the many disappointing aspects of play in Nanaimo, the Blue Jags put on a clinic in dismantling Howe Sound runners-up Elphinstone 94-57. Matt Rud, Keiler Totz, Georgios Ikonomou, Wayne Lin and Mack Catto all scored in the double figures, with Yorath notching nine points in addition to ten assists.

However, in a surprising move, the tournament committee opted to set the provincial draw prior to the challenge game and base the pairings on zone finish as opposed to the full season. As a result, as Island 4, SMUS has been seeded 9th in the BC draw, with a tough opening round matchup against talented King George of Vancouver.

Nonetheless, the team must grasp its challenge berth reprieve with both hands, and look to hit the March 6-9 provincials in Kamloops in top form. Regardless of the draw, with current BC #1 Holy Cross a possible quarter-final opponent, SMUS, highly ranked all year and with multiple wins against top AA, AAA and prairie teams, has the capacity to do real damage.

Senior Girls Basketball
by Lindsay Brooke, coach

The Senior girls basketball team played their best basketball of the season this past weekend at the AA Island Championships. In the first game of the tournament, the Blue Jags faced the Kondors of Kwalikum. The Kondors were no match for the swarming defense of the Jags and they could not contain the offensive explosion of the 3-point shooting machine, Sophia Ducharme. Ducharme finished with 28 points on 6 for 9 shooting from behind the arc. Abbey Piazza added 17 points and Claire Williams chipped in with 9 points. SMUS opened up an impressive third quarter lead and was then able to rest the starters and get all the girls ample minutes. SMUS won easily 64-37.

collisionIn the semifinal game against Shawnigan Lake, SMUS got out of the gates early, leading 37-21 at the break. The Blue Jags went on to win 64-39. The dynamic duo of Piazza and Ducharme combined for 34 points. Rachel Sibbald had some solid play in the first quarter to finish with 8 points. Senior guard Kate Cluley played some steady minutes at the point, finishing with 5 points and connecting on several backdoor passes. The Jags have made strides recently on their free throw shooting and shot over 58%, including two apiece for Grade 11 players Emma Donald and Sam Colby in the fourth quarter.

In the Island final, SMUS played the Wellington Wildcats, ranked in the top four all season and boasting a big, veteran squad. The Wildcats jumped out to a 23-6 first quarter lead. Stunned, the Blue Jags focused on defense and clawed their way back into the game, thanks to the sound play of Claire Williams and Sophia Ducharme on the boards. Rachel Sibbald exploded offensively in the second quarter to cut the lead to 9 points at the half. The Jags continued to chip away at the lead with Jenna Dhillon — playing as an undersized small forward — came up with several defensive rebounds and stops. With just three minutes left, SMUS had cut the lead to four points. Unfortunately, that was as close as they would get. Wellington went on to win 63-54. It was a courageous effort by the Blue Jags that showed a lot of heart and determination. Ducharme finished with 20 points and Sibbald added 12 points. Both Sophia Ducharme and Abbey Piazza were named to the Island All-star team.

Next up for SMUS are the AA Provincials in Kamloops from March 6-9. They are seeded 11th in the tournament and will open play against the #6 seed St. Thomas More of Vancouver.

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