Everyone knows about Justin McChesney.
It’s a little hard for the six-foot-ten Prince Rupert basketball star to keep under the radar in a town this crazed about its court heroes.
The B.C. provincial Under-17 player had been sidelined for the majority of the season with an ankle injury and played sparingly in the games he was needed in. The Charles Hays senior boys basketball team’s followers couldn’t really get a good glimpse of what the big man could do in his Grade 11 year.
That is, not until the ‘AAA’ Northwest zones championship last weekend where the forward was absolutely dynamite against the Smithers Secondary Gryphons in an 84-71 victory that gave Charles Hays its fourth-straight senior boys Northwest zone championship.
“I thought he played unreal today,” said Rainmakers head coach Mel Bishop.
With his injury firmly a thing of the past, McChesney stole the show on Saturday afternoon, facing off against the Gryphons and taking the tournament MVP honour.
Scoring 28 points to pace his team and playing on the seniors squad for the second year in a row, McChesney was finally able to let loose and show the zone why he’s considered one of the most dangerous and versatile players in the entire province.
Positioned deep in the paint on the defensive side of the ball, no Gryphon wanted to even go near the towering figure while they were on the attack. This forced the visiting team to try and sink some mid-range jump shots and perimeter looks, but luckily for the Rainmakers star McChesney, his supporting cast this year is just as good.
Rosendo Masocol, or ‘Rosie’ as he’s affectionately known by his teammates and coaches, was a dominating presence as the ‘Makers’ starting point guard and ran the ball with virtually no turnovers on his watch.
He had options – a luxury he wasn’t afforded at the outset of the season when ankle injuries seemed contagious on the squad.
“I just want to use the team, right? I’ve got to get momentum going,” said Masocol, who was named Best Defensive Player of the tourney.
“You’ve just got to get the play going – who’s open, who’s not? You’ve got to talk to everyone. I just wanted to win the game so it worked out pretty well.”
Masocol and McChesney even looked good visually, dominating the game for the home side.
The duo hooked up for the game’s only alley-oop in the fourth quarter when Masocol launched a pass to the basket and McChesney slammed it home for the 72-49 lead. The game’s lone slam dunk came in the third frame when McChesney found the ball under the basket and drove it home to the delight of the packed and loud Charles Hays gymnasium.
“They collapsed on Justin which is a big thing, so they collapsed on [him] and then we had our shooters [take over] and that’s why we had the momentum,” said Masocol.
With so much coverage on the big guy, Kaine Wesley and Perry Terrell tore it up from mid-range and beyond the arc. Wesley notched 16 points and Terrell 14.
And as dangerous as McChesney was in the paint, he showed off his versatility by sinking three three-pointers throughout the game, all from almost the exact same spot.
It wasn’t easy going for the Rainmakers early on in the first quarter. The Gryphons exposed Charles Hays’ defence, sinking basket after basket even when it seemed like the ‘Makers might pull away for good. When all was said and done at the first buzzer, the Rainmakers had a 23-20 lead over Smithers – almost half the total they gave up during their entire game the night before when Charles Hays played to a 67-43 win over the same crew.
Matt Fowler scored 11 points in the first quarter alone on Saturday, part of a 28-point day for the Gryphons’ leading offensive player.
But the ‘Makers settled down on defence and cleaned up their act in the second quarter, which proved to be the difference-maker in the game as the Gryphons never caught up.
“It was a good team effort. I thought defensively it was a little bit of a letdown today – I don’t think we were as strong defensively as we were in our first two games (an 84-35 decision versus Caledonia and the 67-43 victory against Smithers),” said Bishop.
“[Justin] got the three-ball in which was good. When he posts up he puts a lot of pressure on the other team. There were some mismatches inside and Kaine Wesley played very well today.”
Masocol left the game with seven minutes remaining and the ‘Makers struggled without him. Five straight turnovers in their own end gave Smithers life and nine straight points, pulling them to within 14 points at 72-58, but the Gryphons wouldn’t threaten beyond that deficit and never led after the first quarter.
As for McChesney, his never-panic style of play helped tremendously in the win.
“I just kind of let the game come to me. Whatever’s open, I like to go for,” said the MVP.
“I think we just started on the defensive end. We let the offence come to us and no one was forcing anything and we were all just playing as a team.”
The fourth-seeded Rainmakers will need that team effort if they hope to knock off the Lower Mainland’s powerhouses at the B.C. High School Boys 3A Basketball Championships from March 11 – 14 in Langley.
They’ll face 13th-seed Courtenay B.C.’s Mark Isfeld Secondary in their first game at 1:45 p.m. next Wednesday.
“They’ll be ready for us,” said Bishop of the teams awaiting them in Langley.
“We’ll be in the hunt.”