With the game tied and time winding down, Caleb Ezedebego encountered the situation every kid growing up pictures as they practice hoisting jump shots from all over the court.
The Grade 11 guard caught the ball, eyed up the situation and sank a three-pointer to put the Westsyde Whundas ahead for good as the Kamloops school defeated Victoria’s Lambrick Park Lions 73-71 in the championship final of the 2020 BC School Sports 2A Boys Basketball Tournament on Saturday afternoon at Langley Events.
The championship title is a first for the Whundas basketball program, who’s finished second back in 1982. “I can’t even describe the feeling; I am just shaking to my core, I just feel so happy right now,” Ezedebego described of his emotions. “I am just feeling overwhelmed and just so happy the shot went in.”
“I got the ball and saw that I had a little bit space, and I knew this is my chance.”
While Ezedebego was on the court coming up with the clutch shot, assistant coach Alex Toplak said he offered up a little prayer. “Just praying, visualizing the ball going in and hoping it lands,” he said. And while prayer may have been part of his strategy, so too was his decision to remain shoeless during all four games at the provincial tournament, something he has done dating back to the city playoffs. Toplak admitted he thought about abandoning his newfound superstition of just wearing socks as he paced the sidelines during the semi-final, but his players convinced him to continue.
The Whundas led for just 5:41 of the game as the second-seed Lions were up by as many as 14 points in the second quarter before Westsyde shaved the lead to three at the half, only to see Lambrick Park limit them to a dozen points in the third quarter to build that advantage back to 10. “I thought when we were down in the second half, it might have been the killer for us, but these boys continued to grind and outwork them and bring it home,” said Toplak, who is a former player for the Whundas, just a few years removed from high school.
Westsyde’s offence finally got on track as they had shot a combined 8-for-39 (20.5 per cent) in the first and third quarters but in the fourth quarter, they went 7-for-13, including four of six from beyond the arc, and 13 for 20 from the free throw line as they outscored Lambrick Park 31-19 over those 10 minutes.
Ezedebego – who was named Most Valuable Player – finished with 24 points and nine rebounds while fellow guard Caleb Gremaud scored a team-high 26 points and was named Championship Player of the Game, as well as a First Team All-Star.
“We have so come close a couple of times, even in my (graduation) year in senior, we got upset … it was a tough loss, but to be here with the boys and helping bring it home, it really means everything,” Toplak said.
Lambrick Park’s Wyatt Bransema Stokes led all scorers with 29 points, also adding seven rebounds and five steals. Bransema Stokes was also named a First Team All-Star, alongside Dylan Gage (Brentwood College), Mac Steenburgh (West Point Grey Academy) and Aubrey Dorey-Havens (Windsor).
The Second Team All-Stars Ethan Mesfin (Pacific Academy), Buchanan Fritz (Brentwood College), Jose Zuluaga (King George), Rohan Sall (Southridge) and Cailen Hamilton (Westsyde). Lambrick Park’s Aidan Grew was named the Most Outstanding Defensive Player and Brentwood College was the Most Sportsmanlike Team. Brentwood College also finished in third place after defeating the West Point Grey Academy Wolves 64-50.