The Senior boys basketball team took part January 23-25 in the prestigious Vancouver College Emerald Tournament. In a field loaded with ranked AAAA teams, SMUS won two of its three games, one in front of NBA superstar Steve Nash and fellow alumnus Chris Isherwood ’92.
On Day 1, the Blue Jags took on defending AAAA provincial champion Walnut Grove. Even though the Gators were without star point guard Jadon Cohee, they put on a defensive clinic, using their strength, rebounding and discipline to build an early 20-6 lead. Though SMUS managed to close the gap to eight points with ten minutes to play, the last quarter was not kind, in what was a 78-53 final score. Only Graeme Hyde-Lay, with 18 points and 6 rebounds, did himself justice, in what overall was a disappointing performance.
Relegated to the consolation side of the draw, but still up against BC powerhouse Pitt Meadows, SMUS then bounced back with one of its best efforts in recent memory. Perhaps it was the arrival of Nash, which certainly energized the crowd, but, for whatever reason, the Blue Jags overturned a four point half time deficit to outscore the Marauders by 21 points after intermission to win 82-67. Matt Rud (24) and Danny Wu (20) paced the attack, with Hyde-Lay chipping in an additional 14. But everyone played a part, with Jason Scully, Jake Wilmott, Max Pollen and Jordan Lane among those who made countless big plays.
In their last game, SMUS struggled to regain the same form, falling behind by as many as 13 points early on to Mount Boucherie. A late second quarter run reduced the margin to 33-32 at half, but more indifferent Blue Jags defence and rebounding, in addition to careless turnovers, soon saw the Bears back up double digits.
Then, in an almost surreal finish, the Blue Jags, down 65-58 with under four minutes to go, exploded for a 23-2 game ending run. Wu’s red hot shooting continued (29 points), while Rud (16) and Wilmott (14) also hit key shots.
With the victories, SMUS retained its BC AA #1 ranking, ahead of another big challenge in the Countdown to the Playoffs tournament at Brentwood.
Meanwhile, the Junior girls remain one of the best kept secrets in provincial hoops and a team on the cusp of consistently excellent results. At the ISAs held at Crofton House, they moved easily to the final, using a balanced attack and miserly defense to first defeat Brentwood 51-16 and then the hosts 44-12.
The gold medal game, against York House, was a thrilling back and forth affair. Three trifectas by Robyn Noel, allied to some stifling full court defensive pressure, pulled SMUS level after a slow start, and the deadlock remained with just four minutes to play. The teams then traded three pointers before the Tigers nailed the winning hoop to prevail 55-52. The Blue Jags were left to rue some costly turnovers and missed open looks. Nonetheless, the whole squad had played extremely well under demanding conditions.
Back on the Island, SMUS dispatched a physical Stelly’s outfit 36-24, after leading by only a single point at half time. Then came a real duel against league leading PCS. An extremely close and competitive encounter saw the Blue Jags enter the fourth quarter up 40-36. The Pacers battled back to tie the game at 50 with under a minute to play, and then, after a defensive stop, hit the game winner with six seconds left. A last ditch SMUS effort to tie came up just short. Both teams gave an excellent display, with Olivia Donald not only guarding well but also leading all scorers with 20 points.
With government exams set for January 27-31, all SMUS hoop teams have a week off before resuming action.