Basketball reached a fever pitch in the past two weeks, with reaching provincials a main focus for SMUS teams. In the end, as is invariably the case in highly competitive Island qualifying events, there were highs and lows.
First, the Junior girls took part in their Island event, held at Belmont Secondary School in Langford. Unfortunately, the Blue Jags struggled out of the gate in their opener versus Wellington, the North No. 1 seed. Never finding any offensive rhythm, SMUS missed a glorious chance to get to the semifinals after a 35-32 defeat.
This result necessitated slugging through the back-side of the draw, which was always going to be difficult. Indeed, despite a two-point victory over Brentwood, the team was then knocked out by the hosts.
For the Senior girls there was also disappointment. Fresh off a dominant victory in the South Island event, SMUS entered the Islands as top seed. Based on the season’s results, everything pointed to a top-two finish. However, nothing in sport is guaranteed, and while the team opened with a comfortable win over Alberni, it all came undone in a difficult semi-final game against GP Vanier. Up 15 at the half, and with a BC berth tantalizingly close, the momentum swung in favour of the Towhees in the second half, who edged home by 48-44.
SMUS did bounce back the following day with wins over Parkland and Ballenas, but, as third place finisher, the Blue Jags now faced a dreaded challenge game, to be played in the Lower Mainland versus Little Flower Academy. A slow start forced the team to chase a 31-8 deficit, and, while cutting away into the lead, there was no way back.
For seniors Zoe Lott, Georgia Haydock, Meredith Selwood, Isabella Leong, Jordan Stonehouse and Kiri Ngawati, it was an especially bitter pill to not reach the BC AA tournament.
On the boys side, there was happier news, at least in terms of reaching BC tournaments. The Junior boys traveled to Nanaimo for what promised to be a hotly contested 10-team Island event. Izzy Helman, Ethan Brownsey and Kyle Ferguson led the way in an opening 60-50 victory over Ladysmith, with Tadeo Allerding then controlling the boards in a tense encounter versus Oak Bay. SMUS, thanks in part to a late three-pointer and two free throws by Helman, advanced 54-50 to reach the final.
In the championship game, the Blue Jags opened well versus tournament favourite Claremont, before a second-quarter swoon allowed the opposition to grab a 10-point halftime lead. After intermission, despite the best efforts of tournament All-Stars Helman and Allerding, SMUS could only get within a single possession on one occasion, as the Spartans triumphed 52-48.
With the second place finish, SMUS entered the Junior Boys provincial tournament February 23-26 in Langley. Seeded 15th in a 32-team field, the Blue Jags opened versus Fraser Valley powerhouse Terry Fox. This was a nip-and-tuck battle until midway through the fourth quarter, when the Ravens spurted ahead by nine points. The Blue Jags narrowed the gap to 55-51, but fell just short of advancing to the Sweet 16.
Substituting liberally in the lower bracket, the team split its four games, defeating GW Graham and Sahali, but falling in overtime to Magee and by one point to Eric Hamber in their final game of the year. Ferguson had several key hoops in pressure situations while Liam Erlic proved productive on his move to the starting unit.
The Senior boys did what was required to reach both the South Island and Island AA finals, too. In the latter game, at the very end of a thrilling battle at Ladysmith Secondary School, a Tristan Kuhn trifecta with a few seconds remaining rattled in and out as Brentwood escaped with a 72-70 win.
Kuhn, Noah Helman and Karter Fry were named to the tournament All-Star team, with Will Kinahan also performing extremely well.
SMUS now awaits the BC AA draw, with the provincial tournament set for March 6-9 at the Langley Events Centre.
Hoops also took place at Grade 8 level. In the ISAs, held at Collingwood, the Grade 8 boys won three of four games en route to a 4th place finish. The Grade 8 girls then followed with a perfect 3-0 mark, dominating early against Southridge, defending champion York House and Crofton House en route to three comprehensive victories. The team now moves on to its own provincial championship this weekend in White Rock.
Finally, in squash, SMUS co-hosted the prestigious Pacific Northwest tournament over the mid-term break. Ellie Ross and Christian Yuen both performed strongly in their respective U17 events, with Jay Herring losing to the eventual U17 champion in a dramatic quarterfinal, which went to extra points in the fifth and deciding game.
Alden Weymar and Lucas Quon also turned in fine efforts, while Sofia Quon gained a silver medal in the girls U15 event.
Spring sport is on the horizon, with both the Senior boys and Junior boys rugby squads set for exhibition action March 4 at Claremont.