It wasn’t so much that the Ballenas senior boys basketball team took its foot off the gas in its regular-season finale last Tuesday night, coach Taylor Wilson said. It was more a case of running out of fuel.
The visiting Wellington Wildcats used a big third quarter to break open a close game and raced to an 85-64 Mid-Island AAA victory over the short-handed Whalers in Parksville.
Enjoying his second huge game in a row in his home gym, Ballenas grade 12 guard Liviano Canil scored a game-high 43 points. But Wellington’s inside-outside tandem of post Alex Staniforth (36 points) and guard Brooks Branchi (29) proved too much for a Whaler team missing two regulars to injury.
One week earlier, Ballenas took the Island’s top-ranked Nanaimo District squad down to the wire in a close loss that Wilson said was his squad’s strongest showing of the year. He wasn’t willing to call Tuesday’s loss a step backward.
“It’s not a big step back; the effort was still there,” Wilson said. “We just ran out of gas. And we had a hard time keeping track of their two dangerous players.”
The Whalers will make a return trip to Wellington beginning Thursday as the Nanaimo school hosts the North Island AAA championships. Wilson said Ballenas, the No. 3 seed from the South division, will face Carihi of Campbell River, the North’s No. 2, in the opening round.
The tourney will determine the North Island’s four representatives to the Vancouver Island championships, the provincial qualifier. Following the Nanaimo game, Wilson said the Whalers could be on the cusp of provincial qualification, if they maintain that high level of play.
And their chances may have improved a bit.
“We got some good news this week, that Kootenay was giving up one of its two provincial berths because they didn’t have enough teams this year,” Wilson said. “So now the Island will have four spots, and we’re ranked fifth. We just have to find a way to move up one place.”
AAA Senior Boys Basketball
Wildcats 85, Whalers 64
Wellington 29 17 25 16—85
Ballenas 25 15 14 10—64
Wildcats — Alex (10) 36, Brooke (11) 29, Justin (14) 6, Zhaksyekow 4, Romando 4, Yas (8) 4, Yas (5) 3, Josh (6).
Whalers — Liviano Canil 43, McKee 7, Kano 6, Matheson 4, Brot 3, Sequi 2, Elliott 2, Rodway, Bingham.