Brentwood College School survived a scare on Saturday morning on their way to winning the Countdown to Playoffs senior boys basketball tournament, jointly hosted by Brentwood and Shawnigan.
Before they could face Shawnigan in the tournament final, Brentwood had to get past Abbotsford’s Mennonite Educational Institute in the semis.
Up by double digits at halftime against M.E.I., B.C.’s seventh-ranked AAA team, Brentwood narrowly managed to hold off a second-half surge.
“We were up by a lot, but not playing great,” Brentwood head coach Blake Gage said. “They started playing great. They had a chance to tie it, but we got a big block and won by two.”
Brentwood won that game 81-79, then went on to defeat Shawnigan 72-41 in the tournament final later on Saturday. Brentwood beat Seycove 92-58 in the first round on Thursday, then defeated Mark R. Isfeld 91-41 on Friday.
The defending provincial AA champions and top-ranked team of that size throughout the 2017-18 season, Brentwood had only lost once this year, and wanted to keep that record intact through their own tournament.
“Mostly, we want to get better and make sure we’re playing good basketball going into provincials,” Gage said. “But any time you’re in your own gym in front of your own fans, you want to represent well.”
This is believed to be the first time Brentwood has won the Countdown to Playoffs tournament in back-to-back years, and they did it against a pretty competitive field packed with AAA and AAAA schools.
“The guys should be pleased and proud and excited for the weeks ahead,” Gage said.
Shawnigan is also ranked in the AA top 10, and Brentwood knew there was potential for a showdown with their co-hosts in the tournament final.
“We thought it was a possibility for sure,” Gage said. “We know they’ve been getting better and better all year. It was kind of neat to have the co-hosts facing off in the final. That’s good for the tournament.”
On their way to the final, Shawnigan beat Reynolds 86-58, G.W Graham 74-55 and Guildford Park 70-58.
“The Countdown weekend was a success for us, reaching the final for the first time,” Shawnigan head coach Vito Pasquale said. “Neat to have the two host schools face each other. Getting slightly better at competing with BCS; still learning how to deal with their tough team game. Good wins against solid teams like Reynolds, G.W. Graham and Guildford Park, so plenty of positives moving forward to playoffs next week.”
Shawnigan jumped out to an early lead in the title game, at Brentwood’s gym, but Brentwood bounced back quickly.
“Our bench did a really good job,” Gage said. “We went to the bench early in the game. By the end of the quarter we were up about five or six, and about 13 at the half. In the second half, our depth started to show. We played four games in three days, but we have a lot of guys we can go to, and they were pretty fresh. It went from 13 to 20 or 25 pretty fast.”
After playing their last league game against Gulf Islands this week, Brentwood will host the South Island championships on Feb. 13-17. Finishing in the top four and advancing past that tournament is likely, but not guaranteed, Gage said, as the South Island zone is particularly strong this year.
“More than anything, we want to be playing good basketball,” he said. “That usually equates to wins, but the wins aren’t going to be satisfying if we’re not firing and clicking into provincials.”