Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
December 30, 2016, Victoria, BC (ISN) – The championship trophy for the inaugural UVic Alumni Invitational High School Basketball Tournament will be heading south of the border this year, as Seattle’s Ballard Beavers dismantled Edmonton’s Harry Ainlay Titans 87-59 in the championship game Friday at the CARSA Performance Gym on the UVic campus in Victoria.
The win capped off a great visit to the city for the Ballard squad, who, in addition to cruising through the tournament with relatively easy wins (79-58 over Lambrick Park, 91-77 over Walnut Grove and today’s win over Ainlay), managed to sneak in a stop at a Victoria Royals hockey game and a visit with NBA legend Steve Nash – a Victoria native – who was at the tournament on Wednesday.
Friday’s championship final was close for all of one quarter, as a game Harry Ainlay squad, playing in their second tournament and sixth game in the last five days and with a number of players battling minor cases of the flu, simply ran out of the gas that propelled them to earlier tournament wins over SMUS (91-81) and Oak Bay (81-71).
They were able to hold their own in the first quarter thanks to some key three-point shooting from Brandon Micklejohn and Sabry Phillips, trailing Ballard 23-17 at the break, but then the skilled and fast Ballard squad began to take over, most notably point guard Fresh Ausar, who in addition to scoring 10 points of his own, quarterbacked the Beavers to an astonishing 39 point second quarter and a 62-29 lead at the half.
Helping Ausar and the Beavers considerably to their 33-point lead was forward Simon Czyzewski who pumped in 15 first-half points, as well as eventual tournament MVP Shay Curcuruto who knocked in 13 points, most of which came in that busy second quarter.
With the game all but over at that point, both teams went heavily to the benches to give their subs some considerable playing time. With the starters watching and cheering on their teammates, the Beavers would extend their lead by one to 74-40 after the third.
Ainlay would work hard to earn a 19-13 win in the fourth quarter, but overcoming a 34-point lead was not in the cards and the Beavers closed out the 87-59 win with ease.
Ausar would finish with 16 point to lead the Beavers, while Sabry Philip and Rutvik Patel, with 10 points each and Micklejohn and Solomon Mollel, with nine points each, would be the high scorers for the Titans.
Oak Bay Takes Third Place With Thriller Over Walnut Grove
The Ballard win over Harry Ainlay in the final was a little anti-climactic given the exciting third place game immediately prior to it that saw the Oak Bay Bays defeat the Walnut Grove Gators 79-78 in an overtime thriller that was as good as it can get.
In a possible preview of the BC 4A Provincial championship, the Bays would jump into an early 11-2 lead before watching the Gators rebound to close within three, 15-12, at the end of the first quarter.
The game would remain excitingly close throughout, with the Bays leading at half 38-30 and after three quarters 48-44, but it was the fourth quarter that really brought the fans to the edge of their seats.
Trailing early in the frame 53-46, the Gators went on an 8-point run to take their first lead of the game, 54-53 with 7:21 left to play. They would up that lead to 56-53, before the Bays fought to take the lead back 60-58. Things would ebb and flow after that with the score tied at 60-60 with 4:00 to play and again at 65-65 with 1:33 to go.
With a late basket and a clutch free throw by Caelan Scott, the Bays would take a 68-66 lead into the final seconds, only to give up a basket to the Gators Ty Rowell with six seconds left to tie the game 68-68 and send it into a five-minute overtime period.
Early in the OT frame, The Gator’s Alasdair Coyle hit a big three-pointer to put Walnut Grove into a 73-71 lead, but that was matched moments later by a three from Oak Bay’s Diego Maffia that put Oak Bay back up 74-73.
A Rowell free throw gave the Gators a 75-74 lead with 1:30 to play, but a key Gator miss after an Oak Bay turnover gave the Bays another chance and with 35 seconds to play, Oak Bay big man Isaiah Romanow went hard to the net for two and was fouled. He made the free throw to give the Bays a 77-75 lead.
Two more free throws by Romanow with 21 seconds to play would bump that lead to 79-75 and that proved to be crucial, as another two-pointer and subsequent successful free throw from the Gators Rowell made the score 79-78 with 15 seconds to play.
The Gators would then foul Romanow quickly and after he missed both foul shots, had a chance for a winning basket but missed. They once again fouled quickly and once again Romanow missed both free throws, but the 3.1 seconds remaining at that point was not enough and the Gators’ James Woods final shot from the top of the key was wide of the mark, giving Oak Bay the thrilling win.
Oak Bay’s Romanow would take home player of the game honours, as he led the Bays with 28 points. Caelan Scott, with 18, Jaden Touchie with 17 and Diego Maffia with 11, also hit double figures for the Bays.
For Walnut Grove, who droped their second game in a row after being undefeated all this season, Jake Cowley led the way with 28 points before fouling out early in the overtime period. The flashy Rowell scored 24 points, while Brett Christensen added 15 in the losing effort.
In earlier consolation play Friday Vashon Island emerged with their first win of the tournament by defeating Lambrick Park 71-64, while Kingston handed SMUS a 74-47 loss.
The All-Tournament All-Star team was also named at the end of the day and included Jaden Touchie (Oak Bay), Sabry Philip (Harry Ainlay), Ariel Mutrware (Harry Ainlay), Valentin Boyanov (Ballard) and Simon Czyzewski (Ballard).
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.