Hawks heat up in AAA provincial opener, rally past Royals
In a game of wild momentum swings, Tristan Etienne's efficient dominance was a firm foundation for the W.J. Mouat Hawks to build on.
The 6'9" Grade 11 centre stuffed the stat sheet in the Hawks' opener at the B.C. boys AAA high school basketball championship, racking up 21 points, 18 rebounds, five blocks and three steals as Mouat fended off the Handsworth Royals 74-65 at the Langley Events Centre on Wednesday.
"He's an extremely efficient player," Hawks coach Rich Ralston marvelled afterward. "I don't have an updated field goal percentage for him, but it's probably 70. He scores virtually every time he touches the basketball.
"But our team struggles at times to get him the ball. We're not particularly good passers – and we were terrible at the beginning (vs. Handsworth)."
The Hawks found themselves in a 33-23 hole in the second quarter, as they struggled with turnovers and were unable to keep track of Royals sharpshooter Luka Petkovic at the defensive end.
But they flipped a switch at that point, tearing off a 22-0 run bridging the second and third quarters. Mitch Howden and Jesse Feenstra got a series of key baskets in transition, and power forward Daniel Pawliuk highlighted the scoring binge with a pair of three-pointers.
On defence, Etienne comprehensively closed down the paint, as the much smaller Royals couldn't get anything going inside. That allowed the Hawks to get after Handsworth's outside shooters on the perimeter in both their zone and man defences, and the Royals went seven minutes and 35 seconds without scoring a point.
"Sometimes that's the way things happen when you play against our zone, especially in this shooting atmosphere," Ralston noted, alluding to the cavernous LEC. "It's a little bit different for the kids – by the time Saturday comes around, they'll be used to it. But there's a whole bunch of 1-for-12s out there from the three-point line (early in the tournament)."
Mouat led 45-33 by the time their epic run had ended, but the Royals clawed their way back into it. They trimmed the deficit to 57-52 at the end of the third quarter, and opened the fourth on an 8-2 run to regain the lead.
The Hawks surged ahead again by five points, but they still had to sweat it out in the waning minutes after Howden and Feenstra fouled out of the game on the same sequence.
Howden picked up his fifth and disqualifying foul battling for an offensive rebound with 3:29 remaining, and then Feenstra earned his fifth on an unsportsmanlike call after getting into a post-whistle confrontation with Handsworth's Arman Armini.
Mouat led 67-62 at that point, but Handsworth was in the bonus and went 3-for-4 from the foul line to draw to within two.
"That wasn't something the referees wanted to deal with," Ralston said of Feenstra's unsportsmanlike foul. "It was just his emotions getting away from him a little bit."
Etienne came alive offensively down the stretch, though – he scored 10 of his points in the fourth quarter to take the Hawks home.
"I knew coming into the fourth that is was a close game, and maybe my teammates would need me to score a little more," he said. "And they were definitely looking for me a lot more.
"We just had to stay strong. We knew it would be a tough game – every team that makes it is a good team. Basketball is a game of runs – they went on their run, and we knew we'd have a run of our own too."
Pawliuk (13 points), Feenstra (12), Corey Hauck (12) and Howden (10) also scored in double figures for Mouat, while Petkovic racked up a game-high 24 for Handsworth.
The Hawks move on to the quarter-finals, where they will face the White Rock Christian Academy-Enver Creek winner at 4:45 p.m. Thursday.