The pressure was on this past week as basketball swung into playoff mode.
At Junior boys level, SMUS traveled to Brentwood to compete in the Island Tournament, with four berths to provincials on the line. In opening round action, the Blue Jags, after taking some time to get rolling, dispatched Wellington 63-43, with Ben Keep, Jasper Bosley and Gabe Kingsley-Nyinah all scoring in double figures.
Given this result, the team advanced to the semi-finals against Nanaimo. This low-scoring slug-fest was decided in the final 30 seconds, when, with the shot clock running down, an Islander guard nailed a three-point bomb to confirm the outcome.
The defeat relegated SMUS to a crossover meeting versus Claremont the following morning, with the winner of the game still able to qualify for provincials. Happily, with Keep notching 25 points and Bryn Haydock making several huge fourth quarter plays, the Jags prevailed 59-46.
SMUS now moves on to the 32-team BC Junior Tournament, to be held at the Langley Events Centre February 25-28. The team opens against WJ Mouat. Games will be streamed online at www.bchighschoolbasketballchampionships.com/jrboys/.
Back at home, the Senior boys entered South Island play, securing a 61-41 win against a stubborn Shawnigan side. Graeme Hyde-Lay (22) and Jake Wilmott (16) paced the attack. The following day, on the back of an excellent defensive performance and 21 points from Jason Scully, SMUS knocked back Lambrick Park 61-47.
With the victories, SMUS retained the BC No. 1 AA ranking, in advance of the Island Tournament February 26-28 in Kwalikum. The Jags meet Ladysmith in the first round.
The news wasn’t as good for the Senior girls, who, in dropping Island games to Mark Isfeld and then Carihi, saw their season come to an end. A bright 31-15 start versus Isfeld, fueled by Chloe Keeler-Young and Leah Sparkman, was undone by a poor close to the first half, with the Ice then riding the shift in momentum to a 68-51 win. In consolation play, but still with a chance to gain the third Island berth to BCs, SMUS, despite a solid defensive effort, never got untracked offensively in a 48-35 loss.
The Blue Jags now set their sights on the 2015-16 season. While Sarah and Emma Loughton graduate this spring, eight players return, with guard Mia Roberts well on the mend from knee surgery.
The recent spectacular weather can only mean that spring sports are about to get underway. Indeed, in prepping for a March 14-31 tour to Spain and Portugal, the Senior and Junior boys rugby teams kick off the exhibition season on March 3 versus Brentwood.