While SMUS opened the competition with a comfortable win over a flu-ridden and short-staffed PCS squad, the semifinal, against well organized and stubborn Sutherland from North Vancouver, proved to be a much stiffer challenge.
Though jumping out to an early 17-3 lead thanks to some deadly three-point shooting, the Blue Jags had to withstand numerous opposition fightbacks. Sabres’ star forward Grady Zubaidi, on his way to a game high 27 points, was a handful all night, and the game was in the balance entering the final frame.
However, a combined 15-points from Matt Rud and Jason Scully, aided by some stingy defence, secured a 74-57 win in a hard fought contest that was much closer than the final score indicated.
The final therefore pitted the two top-ranked AA schools in the province, with a large and boisterous crowd on hand to witness the action. Again, a hot start saw host SMUS jump to a 9-4 lead, but, behind 6’10” post Matt Neufeld, Lambrick Park clawed its way back. The Lions then took a 23-18 lead in a tight, defensive struggle. Yet, a three point buzzer beater by Jordan Lane saw the teams go to intermission deadlocked at 23.
The second half was marked by a series of momentum shifts. First, SMUS, with Lane adding seven more points, moved ahead 39-31 and seemed in control. But Lambrick Park, behind a flurry of treys, countered with a 14-2 run to close the third quarter up 45-41.
The final period was full of drama, with the Lions’ lead always between two and five points. Then, down 55-51 with 3.43 remaining, SMUS, thanks to a combination of tough defence, good execution and a steady hand at the free throw line, scored the game’s final 13 points to secure the victory.
Rud (12 points and 9 rebounds) was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Lane continued his excellent play of recent weeks by being named to the All-Star team. Scully (16 and 8) and Jake Wilmott (12 points) also contributed handsomely, while Max Pollen set the tone from the first minute to the last with his aggressive on-ball defending.
SMUS, which retained the BC AA #1 ranking, goes from the frying pan into the fire, with the team opening against defending AAAA champion Walnut Grove at the prestigious Vancouver College Emerald Tournament. The Gators are led by 6’5″ senior Jadon Cohee, the consensus top player in the province.