The 2014 Vancouver Island Senior Boys AA Tournament concluded on Saturday, February 22 in the most dramatic manner possible, as SMUS, following a Danny Wu layup with 0.2 seconds left on the clock, edged host Lambrick Park 74-72 in a thrilling contest.
Of course, the event had started days earlier, with the Blue Jags putting on an offensive show in round 1 action vs Kwalikum. All 13 players hit the scoresheet in a comprehensive 93-36 victory. Matty McColl, notched a double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds), while Liam Keeler Young, Liam Catto and Alex Caton contributed 8 points apiece in a very balanced team effort.
In the semi-final, sterling defensive work led by Matt Rud and Jason Scully limited Highland star post Nic Tancon to only 17 points. After a slowish start, the SMUS offence kicked into gear, registering 42 points in each half en route to an 84-65 triumph. Graeme Hyde-Lay shook off the effects of a sprained ankle to register 16 points, while Jordan Lane turned in another solid all-round performance with 13 points, four steals and seves rebounds. Scully chipped in with 14 points and 9 boards, while Wu topped all SMUS scorers with 19.
The final, with BC #1 ranking again on the line, was a riveting affair from start to finish. The host Lions, behind senior PG Ismail Abdulahi and 6’10” post Matt Neufeld, took immediate control, jumping out to a 9-2 lead and then extending to 22-11 just minutes into the second quarter. Yet, with Scully scoring 11 of his team high 21 in this frame, SMUS hung tough, closing the gap to 35-33 at halftime.
The Blue Jags came roaring out of the gate after intermission, cracking off a 13-2 run to lead 44-37, and then extending the margin to eleven at 53-42. Then, in an ongoing pattern, Lambrick Park fought back, ending the third period only five points in arrears.
The final 10 minutes, played in front of a noisy crowd, had SMUS up 64-55 before the Lions scored five straight. The Blue Jags then led 66-60, 68-62, and 70-64, before a Neufeld three and then another bomb knotted the scores at 70 with 1.16 to play.
After a SMUS miss, a beautiful Lambrick Park passing play produced a layup. Yet, Wu was then on hand to grab an offensive rebound and draw a foul with 31 seconds remaining. Cool as ice, he hit both from the charity stripe to tie the game at 72.
Then came a simply amazing finish. Following a timeout, Lambrick Park held the ball for as long as possible, with Abdulahi attacking the hoop with just seconds to play. Under pressure from Scully he could not convert his shot. With the entire crowd fully expecting overtime, Rud corralled the rebound and had the presence of mind to a fire a long outlet pass to the streaking Wu. The senior guard, though under pressure on the catch, gathered cleanly, took a dribble and nailed the winning layup as time expired!
While Wu and Hyde-Lay were named to the tournament All -Star team, and Scully captured MVP honours, this was a team effort in every sense of the word. Rud, while held to 9 points, did a superb defensive job on Neufeld in addition to snaring 15 rebounds. Lane again chipped in with key timely plays, while Max Pollen exhausted himself as a feisty defender, making life miserable for the Lambrick Park ballhandlers.
With the win, SMUS moves on to the BC AA Championships, to be held March 5-8 in Langley. The Blue Jags enter as the tournament’s top seed and are set to open against Mt. Elizabeth of Kitimat in round one action on March 5.