Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
December 29, 2016, Victoria BC (ISN) – Seattle’s Ballard Beavers accomplished something no other senior boys high school basketball team has done so far this season, beating Langley’s Walnut Grove Gators 91-77 in semi-final action Thursday at the UVic Alumni Invitational High School Basketball Tournament at the CARSA Performance Gym on the UVic campus in Victoria.
The loss was the #1 ranked Gators first loss of any kind in the 2016-2017 season and it bumps them out of contention for the title at the eight team tournament that is being sponsored by Passion Sports of Victoria and with the support of the UVic athletic department and Vikes basketball alumni.
Ballard, who play in the highly competitive Seattle Metro League, will now move on to play Edmonton’s Harry Ainlay Titans in Friday’s 2:15 pm final, as the Titans pulled out a 81-71 win over the Oak Bay Bays in Thursday’s second semi-final. Oak Bay and Walnut Grove will meet in the third place game which precedes the final at 12:30 pm.
Ballard 91 Walnut Grove 77
In this highly anticipated game between two top programs, Walnut Grove showed early why they are the top ranked 4A team in the Province, as their big men 6’8″ Andrew Goertzen and 6’5″ Brett Christensen combined for 19 first quarter points to give the Gators a 25-19 lead after a quarter of play.
More importantly, Goertzen, Christensen and 6’9″ Jake Cowley intimidated the Ballard shooters on defence, limiting the Beavers to a number of low percentage and unsuccessful perimeter shots and used their height to out-rebound the Beavers on many occasions.
Walnut Grove continued to dominate on the boards during the second quarter and at one point ,upped their lead to 10, but the Beavers went on a 12-2 run to end the quarter and climb within three, 46-43, at the half.
“The last three minutes of the first half were critical for us,” said Ballard Head Coach Mike Broom following the game. “That gave us some confidence heading into the break and given that they were killing us the entire first half on rebounds, gave me an opportunity to make some adjustments moving forward and to emphasize to my guys that they really needed to focus more on boxing out their opponents if we were to have any chance.”
That advice seemed to pay off, as the Beavers and Gators played a fairly even third quarter, with Ballard’s Fresh Ausar (11 points) and Walnut Grove’s Ty Rowell (15 points) effectively trading baskets and with Walnut Grove leading 69-65 at the quarter break.
To begin the fourth, Broom and the Beavers changed their defensive tactics a bit, going to an extended zone configuration and that seemed to cause the Gators some difficulty, as after the teams traded a pair of baskets, Ballard went on a 13-0 run to take an 81-71 lead with 4:20 to play.
The Ballard defence continued to hold strong, as they limited the Gators to just six more points the rest of the way, scoring 10 more of their own to close out the 91-77 win.
“We really listened to our coaches advice about blocking out their big guys,” said Ballard point guard Ausar after the game. “We also knew that if we attacked them more aggressively on the offensive side, we could have some success and in that fourth quarter that is what we did and we finally started to hit some shots and come away with the win.”
Ausar would finish with 17 points on the night, finishing second to Ballard’s leading scorer Shay Curcuruto, who notched 22 on the evening. Also hitting double figures for the Beavers was Simon Czyzewski with 16 points.
Walnut Grove would see four players hit double figures, including Rowell who led all scorers with 27 points, Goertzen with 18, Christensen with 17 and James Woods with 10.
Harry Ainlay 81 Oak Bay 71
This was a close game for the most part, but early on it did not look good for the hometown Bays, as the Titans came out of the gates with some early jump and opened an early 11-4 lead. After a quick time-out, the Bays regrouped and went on a 13-4 run to close the quarter with a 17-15 lead.
After a see-saw second quarter that saw the teams exchange the lead four times, the Titans closed the quarter with a 6-2 run to take a 34-31 lead into the half.
In the third quarter, the Titans would hit five shots from three-point range, including two each by Miles Washington and Brandon Micklejohn to outscore the Bays 23-13 and open up a 57-44 lead at the break.
That would be too much for the Bays to overcome and despite outscoring the Titans 27-24 in the final frame, the Titans would prevail 81-71 and advance to play Ballard in Friday’s final.
Leading the way for the Titans was Sabry Philip who scored 19 points, including two via impressive dunks. Also hitting double figures was Lars Ishimwe with 13, Abdullah Shittu with 12 and Washington with 11.
For the Bays, point guard Jaden Touchie led all scorers with 23 points while Isaiah Romanow, with 17 and Diego Maffia with 14, also contribute double digit scores in the losing effort.
In other consolation action Thursday, the Kingston Buccaneers defeated the Lambrick Park Lions 78-62 while the SMUS Blue Jags topped Vashon Island 69-63. Lambrick Park will now play Vashon Island at 9:00 am Friday in the 7th / 8th place game, while Kingston will meet SMUS at 10:45 am in the 5th / 6th place game.
The 3rd / 4th place game between Walnut Grove and Oak Bay takes place at 12:30 pm, while the championship final between Harry Ainlay and Ballard takes place at 2:15 pm.
All games are at the CARSA Gym at UVic and admission is $5 at the door for adults and $2 for students.
More photos from these games will be available on Christian J. Stewart’s web site at http://christianjstewart.zenfolio.com/basketball. Follow Christian on Twitter at @cjs_photography and ISN at @islandsports1.