Credibility for Clayton

Its first-ever championship at the Surrey RCMP Classic is more than just a milestone to Clayton Heights Secondary School.

“It’s a big step for our program,” said coach Bill Ruby, walking off the floor after the Nightriders clinched the Junior boys title at the all-Surrey tournament. “The Clayton Heights (boys) basketball program has been almost non-existent as far as success goes. Something like this is a good step for the program.

“It gives us confidence. Last year, we couldn’t compete against the top two or three teams in Surrey. Now we’ve shown we can.”

The Nightriders completed a four-game run through the competition with a 52-39 victory over the Princess Margaret Lions in Saturday afternoon’s championship game at Enver Creek Secondary School, two days after defeating the Fleetwood Park Dragons 51-46 in a semifinal contest.

Clayton Heights ran away from the Lions in the opening quarter, using a full-court press to create turnovers and frustrate Princess Margaret’s offence. Chris Fischer scored 12 of his game-high 19 points in the first quarter, as the Nightriders sprinted to a 17-3 lead before Princess Margaret settled down and began to chip away at the deficit.

The difference was cut to eight points by halftime, and after Clayton Heights turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions early in the third quarter, the Lions had pulled to within two.

“I thought they handled our press better after the first quarter and a half that’s obviously when we took the lead,” said Ruby of the Princess Margaret comeback. “And they got the ball to their best player, Gary Heer, and he did a job on us.”

Four straight Clayton buckets late in the third quarter increased the advantage back to 10 points, and the Lions didn’t get closer than five points the rest of the way.

“What can you do? You get down 17-3 and it’s pretty much impossible to come back,” said Lions head coach Ryan Sperling.

“But I’m proud of our guys. Injuries caught up to us, we had a few guys banged up and couldn’t go. And we ran into foul trouble, our number 21 (six-foot-three forward Karman Grewal) fouled out and that hurt.”

Jordan Ghag’s 10 point-effort in the second half helped Clayton hang on to the lead, and the tournament’s Most Valuable Player finished the game with 14. Heer paced the Princess Margaret offence, netting 13 points.

“We knew being up a little bit early wouldn’t make that much of a difference, we knew they would come back hard,” said Ruby. “We expected it, we knew we had to play hard the whole game.”

Fischer, Grewal and Heer were first team all-star selections, as were Vinnie Chand and Tsavo Neal of the Fleetwood Park Dragons.

Second team selections were Jag Dahia of the Tamanawis Wildcats, Amar Nijjer of the Queen Elizabeth Royals, Sam Shury of the White Rock Christian Academy Warriors, Shane Kim of the North Surrey Spartans, and Hamish Singh of the Kwantlen Park Timberwolves.

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