March madness heats up as basketball provincials approach
Yale Lions senior boys basketball coach Al Friesen saw the worst and the best of his team within a span of 24 hours at the Fraser Valley AAA tournament last week.
On Friday evening, the No. 2-ranked Lions’ focus level was up and down like a yo-yo as they fell 86-68 to the No. 1 Walnut Grove Gators in the Valley semifinals. Grove star Jadon Cohee shot the lights out to the tune of 39 points, and when the Gators did miss, they often gobbled up the offensive rebound, leading to a bushel of second-chance points.
It marked Yale's second defeat to Grove in two weeks, having also lost in the Fraser Valley East league title game.
But on Saturday, facing the W.J. Mouat Hawks with the Valley bronze medal on the line, the Lions put together a tough-minded performance en route to a decisive 77-48 triumph over their crosstown rivals.
“We’re still young – we have a Grade 10 and two 11’s (in the starting lineup) – and we still have mental letdowns,” Friesen said. “When we fall asleep or feel sorry for ourselves, we let runs occur.
“Against Mouat, runs occurred, but they were short. We competed a whole lot harder on the glass, consistently from start to finish. They didn’t have many second opportunities, and it was tough for them to score.”
Jassi Gill led the Lions with 27 points vs. the Hawks, while JJ Pankratz scored 19 and Jauquin Bennett-Boire had 16.
Bennett-Boire was named a Fraser Valley first team all-star, while Pankratz and Gill were second-teamers along with Mouat point guard Corey Hauck.
Yale and Mouat both move on to the AAA provincial championship, which runs next week (March 12-16) at the Langley Events Centre (LEC). Both Abbotsford teams open on Wednesday – the Hawks take on the Handsworth Royals of North Vancouver at 10 a.m., followed by Yale vs. the winner of Tuesday’s play-in game between Burnaby Mountain and Caledonia at 11:30 a.m.
A third local team, the Abbotsford Senior Panthers, very nearly qualified for provincials, but they dropped an 82-75 decision to the Terry Fox Ravens last Thursday in a do-or-die game for a berth to the B.C.’s.
• On the senior girls AAA scene, the Mouat Hawks and MEI Eagles are in action this week as the provincial tourney tips off at the LEC.
The Hawks had locked up their spot at provincials by virtue of their fourth-place finish at the Fraser Valleys, while the Eagles – the Valley’s sixth-place finisher – earned a berth with a 62-47 win over the Kitsilano Blue Demons in a zone crossover game last Wednesday.
The Yale Lions also had a shot at a B.C.’s berth via the crossover, but they fell 69-59 to the Burnaby South Rebels.
Mouat opens its provincial tourney run vs. the Kelowna Owls at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, while MEI takes on Handsworth at 7 p.m.
• The Abbotsford Christian Knights senior girls are in Kamloops this week for the AA provincial championships.
The Knights, who finished third in the Fraser Valley, open against Wellington of Nanaimo at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
• The St. John Brebeuf Bears have the opportunity to chase a provincial title in Abbotsford this week.
The Bears are the No. 8 seed heading into Single A senior boys provincials, which run Wednesday through Saturday at the University of the Fraser Valley.
Brebeuf opens at 12 p.m. Wednesday vs. St. Ann’s.