The hoped-for basketball “dream weekend” never quite materialized, as SMUS suffered a series of close defeats in playoff action.
First, the Senior girls took part in the Island AA Championship, chasing one of the two B.C. berths on offer, but in tough against some quality opponents. In Round 1, SMUS met Kwalikum, taking some time to settle but managing to grab a 26-21 halftime lead. Then, with Mia Roberts, Leah Sparkman and Aveen Glen leading the offence, the Blue Jags pulled away after intermission to win 62-36.
In the semi-final, with a provincial berth beckoning, an error-filled first quarter saw SMUS trailing 21-4 against Ballenas and forced to chase the game. The team clawed back steadily, closing to within two points in the final frame, before poor free throw shooting in the 56-49 loss proved its undoing.
The Blue Jags now had to win their last two tournament games in order to qualify for a spot in the B.C. berth challenge. A see-saw battle against host Wellington finally turned in favor of SMUS, with every team member contributing to the 55-41 victory.
In the bronze medal game, SMUS had considerable trouble containing Mark Isfeld’s star guard, who went on to score 33 points. However, down five points at intermission, the Blue Jags, thanks to relentless full court pressure and key hoops by Glen and Hayley Watson, scrambled home to win 53-51.
Despite missing out on automatic B.C. qualification, SMUS did become eligible for a provincial wild card berth, and, on Feb. 23, duly took on Windsor of North Vancouver. The Dukes kept things close to start, hitting the last shot of the half to draw level at 29. However, led by Roberts and Sparkman, the Blue Jags put together a dominant third quarter en route to a decisive 65-49 victory.
With the win, SMUS moves on to the B.C. AA tournament, to be held March 2-5 at the Langley Events Centre. Seeded No. 12 in the 16-team field, the Blue Jags open against Vernon, the Okanagan champion.
At the Junior level, the girls took part in their Islands at Royal Bay in Colwood. Entering the event as South No. 3, the team took on Alberni in its first game. In a tough defensive battle, Alberni prevailed 36-30. Taylor Noel, Emily Stone and Zoe Lott combined for 28 points.
Focused now on reaching the bronze medal game via the backdoor route, SMUS dumped Nanaimo’s Dover Bay 40-33. Stone, Lott and Meredith Selwood all scored in double figures.
In the first of two games the following day, the Blue Jags finally took down nemesis Claremont 48-43. Stone had a fine outing, playing tremendous defence and scoring 15. Noel added 12 in addition to six assists.
In the matchup for third place, SMUS again took on Alberni. Not surprisingly, the game was tight all the way, with the Alberni team squeaking home 38-36. Noel gave a fine all-round performance and was named a tournament All-Star. And, while the team just missed out on provincials, the players gave it their all.
The Junior boys entered their Islands up in Campbell River, with a real opportunity to reach the provincials, especially if they could negotiate a quarterfinal opening game against host Carihi. Unfortunately, the team, for whatever reason, just never fired, as a combination of careless fouls and poor free throw shooting proved extremely costly in a 59-54 loss.
The defeat took away the easier route to a final four finish, and while SMUS beat Reynolds 46-39 in consolation play, this only ensured a crossover match-up with Belmont. In the end, the Bulldogs proved too strong, winning 63-42.
In a game for fifth place, the SMUS did defeat Mount Douglas 49-27. As has been the case all season, Ephraim Hsu and Matt Hagkull led the scoring, while Grade 9s Ty Olynyk and Taevon Downey also chipped in some key baskets.
Any slim avenue to the B.C. tournament now rests in the hands of the provincial seeding committee, which will hand out two wild card “at large” bids to complete the field of 32 teams. Should good fortune shine on the Blue Jags, they will travel to the Langley Events Centre for the February 28-March 1 event.
The Junior boys B squad won over Oak Bay in the opening round of its City tournament, then took out GNS in the semi-final stage.
In the final, versus regular season champion Pacific Christian School, the Blue Jags played another very solid game, scrapping back in the third quarter to close to within four points. In the end however, the Pacers prevailed 48-40.
The Blue Jags finished their campaign with a 7-4 record, while reaching the playoff final represented a one-step improvement on a year ago.
In the South Island Senior boys competition, SMUS, behind Ryan Hindson’s 36 points, defeated Pacific Christian School 80-55 in semi-final action before coming unstuck against Lambrick Park the following evening. Wasting a solid defensive effort, the Blue Jags went an unsightly 2-32 from the three point line to lose 50-39.
The team now looks to regroup for the full AA Island tournament, to be held February 25-27 at SMUS. The Blue Jags will battle North Island No. 3 Kwalikum at 2:15 pm on opening day. The draw and game results are available on the SMUS News website and will be updated throughout the tournament.
(photo courtesy of Christian J. Stewart Photography)