As our athletes ring in 2017, it’s important for us to acknowledge the hard work and effort that many of them put in over the winter break. While a lot of students had the full time off, some of our basketball and squash players were competing in local and international competitions.
The SMUS Senior Boys, still ranked #1 in the B.C. AA poll, recently completed a very demanding series of games over the Christmas break. Saddled by injury and some other non availability, the team managed two wins from six games against top level competition.
At the Oak Bay Gary Taylor Invitational, played December 15-17, the Blue Jags frittered away a comfortable lead versus Cowichan before recovering to win 60-46. The following evening, in front of a packed crowd, SMUS battled hard before falling 63-50 to the home side. In the subsequent bronze medal game, Belmont proved too strong, pulling away in the fourth quarter.
However, the main focus of the holiday period was the inaugural Vikes Invitational, with all games December 28-30 played at the new CARSA facility on the University of Victoria campus. A stellar field, including three Washington state teams, BC AAAA #1 Walnut Grove, Alberta powerhouse Harry Ainlay, in addition to SMUS, Oak Bay and Lambrick Park, was always going to provide intrigue and so it proved.
The Blue Jags, with top scorer Ryan Hindson back in uniform, opened versus Ainlay. Recovering from a nervy start, SMUS moved in front 36-34 late in the second quarter, but could not hold on during a furious, high-paced second half. The Titans’ speed and athleticism were the difference in their 91-81 victory. Incredibly, despite being held off the score sheet in the first quarter, Hindson caught fire to finish with 46 points.
Now on the consolation side of the draw, SMUS then rode a stylish 28-point game from Ben Keep to upend visiting Vashon Island 69-63. While a handsome 16-point fourth quarter lead slid away as the Pirates closed hard, six consecutive free throws by Keep confirmed the SMUS win.
In the tournament finale, the Blue Jags fell 74-47 to a talented Kingston High School team from Kitsap. The Buccaneers’ 19-0 run to end the first half broke open what had been a close game.
Despite the 1-2 record, SMUS took away a great deal from the event, with the talent level of the competing teams far beyond a traditional high school tournament. An immediate benefit was evident, as the Blue Jags opened 2017 in the prestigious St. Thomas More Chancellor Tournament in Burnaby with a comprehensive 66-40 victory versus a big and talented AAAA Handsworth side.
Grade 11s Ephraim Hsu and Triumph Kerins both played consistently during the Christmas period, gaining more floor time as a result. The much anticipated return to the court of 6’5″ Quinn Ngawati, finally back from his international rugby travels, is a further positive as the new year gets underway.
The Chancellor Tournament continues through tomorrow, and we’ll have a full rundown of that tournament in our next Week in Review.
Five members of the squash team travelled to the Canadian Junior Open at Niagara on the Lake before Christmas. Grade 7 student Christian Y. had the top result finishing third in the boys under 13. Grade 7 Alex B. was not far behind as she finished fourth in the girls under-13. Grade 9 Matias Totz had a couple of strong wins, including one against last year’s under-13 national champion. Grade 11 student Brooke Herring lost a close five-setter in the round of 16 to a girl from Mexico, but went on to win the rest of her matches and finish ninth.
Christian and Brooke continued from there to Connecticut to play in the U.S. Open. The tournament saw more than 900 kids from all over the world competing and it is now one of the strongest events in the world. Christian lost his first match to a strong American boy and then won the rest of his games to win the 1st consolation. Brooke won her first two matches and then lost in a very close four games to the fourth seed. She then dropped down into the consolation where she lost another really close match.
It was the first time SMUS has sent kids to the U.S. Open and it won’t be the last! It was a great experience for our kids and a real eye-opener for how strong the level of squash is, not just in the United States, but worldwide.
While many of the other athletes headed home for the holidays, Brooke and Alex travelled to England for the British Junior Open. This is the premiere junior event in the world. Athletes need to be ranked in the top 4 in their age group in their country just to be eligible for the event. This event wrapped up today (Friday) and both girls had some excellent results. Brooke finished 19th while winning a game against the #1 seed from Egypt, while Alex finished one better at 18th. These are two of the top results for Canadians, and are excellent showings considering it was their first time at this event, and they competed without a coach.
SMUS alumnus Grace Thomas ’16 also competed in the British Junior Open, finishing the tournament 12th in the girls under 19.
Both Alex and Brooke are now en route to Edinburgh to compete in the Scottish Open (January 7-9) before heading back home to Victoria. Good luck!
(photos courtesy of British Junior Open)