Pulling one out of the fire.
That’s what the Charles Hay Secondary School (CHSS) junior boys’ basketball team have had to do a few times this season to keep a winning record in 2014-15. They certainly had to do it again on Saturday to have a shot at repeating as Coastal Clash champions as the school hosted the 14th annual eight-team competition last weekend.
With Charles Hays 1 (a squad of first-stringers from the school team) winning their opening game versus the Smithers Secondary Gryphons, 64-41, the victory set up a semifinals berth against Centennial Christian.
What the Rainmakers didn’t plan for was the insane shooting percentage that Centennial would bring in what would prove to be the toughest challenge on their way to claiming the 2015 Coastal Clash title.
Down seven points at the half and eight points after the third quarter, the Rainmakers first-stringers finally found their game after fighting from behind all game with only 1:13 left in the semifinal.
From a 60-55 deficit to a 65-60 win, the ‘Makers booked their ticket to the final.
“Yeah, where did those guys come from?” said Rainmakers junior boys coach Kevin Sawka after beating Nisga’a Elementary Secondary School (NESS), 45-33 in the final and claiming their (at least) third-consecutive Coastal Clash title.
“They caught us off-guard, especially in the beginning, and they shot unbelievably. I’m sure this sounds ridiculous but I’m sure they were in the 80 per cent range for FG% which is unheard of,” said the coach.
“We took our last time-out and I told the boys, ‘Look. There’s basically three possessions left in this game. We’ve got to score-stop-score-stop. That’s how it’s got to happen and anything less than that and we ain’t winning this game,” said Sawka.
Kolby Jones hit two big threes, James Benner scored a basket and a couple free throws ensured the win in the shortest 1:13 of the boys’ lives.
Facing Nisga’a in the final, the starting five of Quinn Leighton, Ben Rabel, Cody Schaeffer, Benner and Jones got the lead early, with the tone set by a three-pointer beyond the arc by Leighton just eight seconds in.
A 13-12 first-quarter advantage would only grow to a 26-17 lead at the halfway mark with Jones providing excellent direction and Leighton and Schaeffer doing yeoman’s work on the perimeter and on the inside.
The ‘Makers never relinquished their lead and defeated Nisga’a 45-33 to take the title for Charles Hays I. Jones finished the game with 15 points while Leighton had 12. Benner notched eight and Rabel had four.
For Nisga’a, Charles Leeson led the way with 17 points and Denovan Stevens had six while Shamos Barton sank five.
Leeson, a tournament all-star, caused all sorts of trouble for the ‘Makers.
“They had two good shooters there. [Leeson] was shooting the lights out for them and if we didn’t keep him down the score would have been a lot different and maybe the outcome of this game would have been a lot different,” said Leighton, who was named tourney MVP.
“A bunch of our team’s sick. We usually have more solid ball movement and we came out sloppy against Centennial but the guys really came together in the end,” he added.
“We played [Nisga’a] earlier in the first weekend in Kitimat and I think it was a close contest in the first quarter and we really blew it open in the second quarter, but that’s December basketball and December basketball’s not necessarily January basketball and January basketball’s not necessarily February basketball … the goal for me is to get these guys peaking by zones,” said Sawka.
“There’s still improvement to be made, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but they’re working hard in practice.”
Coast Tsimshian, Caledonia, Mount Elizabeth and Charles Hays II also participated in the Clash.
Centennial’s Eric Veldman, Caledonia’s Dylan King, Coast Tsimshian’s Kyler Wesley and Leeson and Jones were named all-stars. Next action for the CHSS junior boys ballers is this weekend in Terrace.