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BasketBlog: Championship Saturday at the Abbotsford city hoops tournament

Mouat
Mouat's 6'10' centre Sebastian Muermann rises to challenge a shot by Yale point guard Jauquin Bennett-Boire during the senior boys final.
— image credit: John Morrow photos

Editor's note: The Abbotsford Police City Basketball Tournament championship games are running all day Saturday at Columbia Bible College. We'll be updating this page with post-game summaries throughout the day. For a complete game schedule, click here.

SENIOR BOYS: Yale Lions 89, Mouat Hawks 80

Size certainly matters in basketball, but it isn't everything.

The Yale Lions offered compelling evidence of that in the senior boys championship game at the Abbotsford Police City Basketball Tournament, as their perimetre skill and pedal-to-the-metal pace trumped the towering height of the W.J. Mouat Hawks.

Phenomenal underclassman took the leading roles in this drama. Jauquin Bennett-Boire, Yale's explosive Grade 10 point guard, poured in a game-high 30 points. Tristan Etienne, Mouat's 6'9" Grade 11 centre, was as conspicuous by his absence as his presence – he spent long stretches on the bench in foul trouble, though he still managed 18 points in just 22 minutes.

"They're very good," Mouat head coach Rich Ralston acknowledged afterward, speaking of the No. 2-ranked Lions. "They can score the ball in an infinite number of ways. They have guys that can shoot, guys that can put the ball on the floor. You have to pick your poison."

The Mouat senior boys present their own match-up issue – their starting lineup boasts more height than most university teams, between Etienne and 6'10" senior centre Sebastian Muermann.

In the early going on Saturday, the Hawks' bigs dominated as Mouat built a 21-12 lead after the first quarter.

But the Lions have their own array of premium talent, headlined by Bennett-Boire and SFU-bound swingman JJ Pankratz.

Both of those players knocked down three-pointers to loosen up the Hawks' defence, and Etienne was forced to the bench after picking up his third personal foul with more than seven minutes remaining in the second quarter. Yale took advantage of his absence to claim a 40-36 lead at halftime.

Etienne picked up his fourth foul early in the third, heading to the bench once more, and Yale stretched the lead to 61-53 after Jassi Gill knocked down a pair of treys late in the frame.

Mouat got to within 68-65 with just over five minutes left in the fourth, but Yale pulled away down the stretch. Bennett-Boire had a massive three-point play with 2:56 remaining to restore the Lions' eight-point lead, and they were never seriously threatened again.

It was an awfully impressive performance by the Yaleans, but head coach Al Friesen said his team will boost the tempo even more over the course of the season to make up for their lack of traditional big men.

"This was not a fast game, if I have my way with these guys," he said with a chuckle. "We're coming full-bore – everything but the kitchen sink is going to come out defensively. We're coming after you the full length of the floor.

"If we can get to that point, then we'll be playing to our strength over a 40-minute period. We'll give up some horrible shots, some dunks, but we'll also create some massive runs in the second half."

Bennett-Boire put on a show, but Friesen felt he had to battle through more than his share of hand-checking.

"They (the refs) say, 'He's strong,'" Friesen said. "You know what, why are they messing with God's handiwork? A foul's a foul. I don't get it.

"But he (Bennett-Boire) is amazing. Nice boy, and an amazing player."

Ralston had his own beef with the refs, asserting that all three of Etienne's first-half fouls were questionable.

"We'll never beat them if Tristan plays 22 minutes," he said. "But that's part of the game. You don't always get every call."

Bennett-Boire and Muermann, who scored 22 points to pace the Hawks, were named players of the game for their respective teams.

Yale got major offensive contributions from Pankratz (20 points), Gill (16) and Anoka Athaya (14), while Corey Hauck (11) also scored in double figures for Mouat.

SENIOR GIRLS: Mouat Hawks 75, Yale Lions 72

Comeback wins over higher-ranked foes are becoming par for the course for the W.J. Mouat senior girls hoopsters.

At their home tourney last week, the Hawks – ranked No. 15 among B.C. AAA teams – rallied for a 60-56 win over the No. 4 Maple Ridge Ramblers in the fifth-sixth placing game.

On Saturday, the Mouat girls found themselves trailing the No. 11 Yale Lions by 12 points late in the second quarter, but they regrouped and pulled off a thrilling 75-72 victory in the finals of the Abbotsford Police City Tournament.

"The girls have definitely learned how to fight this year," enthused Hawks coach Tara Burton, whose team also erased a six-point fourth-quarter deficit against a very good MEI squad in the semifinals of the city tourney. "They don't give up. They looked down (vs. Yale), but they scratched and clawed. They were awesome.

"We've come back against three excellent teams now, and it'll pay off down the road."

The Lions came bursting out of the gate, building an early 11-3 lead, but Mouat came back to close the gap to 17-15 at the end of the first quarter.

Yale appeared to hit some turbulence with six minutes remaining in the second quarter, as star point guard Hailey Kendall picked up her third foul. But head coach Euan Roberts elected to leave her in a little longer, and Kendall rewarded his faith by exploding for 10 points in the next three minutes. When she took a seat just prior to halftime, Yale led 39-29.

But there's no quit in the Hawks, and sibling duo Carmelle and Penielle M'Bikata took over the game in the second half. They took turns breaking down the Lions in the post, and brought Mouat back to within 56-54 at the end of the third quarter.

The Hawks maintained the momentum in the fourth, surging ahead for the first time. With Mouat nursing a 72-69 lead in the final minute of regulation, Kendall had a three-pointer rim out; on the ensuing Mouat possession, she picked up her fifth and disqualifying foul.

Carmelle M'Bikata, a senior centre, finished with 34 points and the player of the game award, while her Grade 10 sister Penielle notched 13 of her 17 points in the second half. Serena Sarowa also scored in double figures for Mouat with 14 points.

Kendall (20 points) was Yale's player of the game, and Kristine Heinrichs (18 points) also had a productive outing for the Lions.

JUNIOR BOYS: MEI Eagles 49, Abby Senior Panthers 43

The MEI Eagles' triumph in the junior boys final illustrated the value of strong guard play.

With backcourt stars Jordan Loewen and Nathan Allison running the show, the Eagles were in control from the outset and claimed a relatively comfortable 49-43 victory.

"Those two are very special players, for sure," MEI coach Arnie Dick acknowledged. "At this point in the season, we're looking good."

Loewen and Allison would be classified as combo guards – they seamlessly shift between the point guard and shooting guard spots, taking turns bringing the ball up depending on the situation.

While the Panthers struggled to find their offensive rhythm in the early going, MEI built a 24-10 halftime lead as their guards set the tone.

The Eagles took a 39-24 lead into the fourth quarter, but the Panthers got hot from beyond the arc to cut the deficit to single digits. Allison came through with a huge play with 47 seconds remaining, though, drawing a charge on Mandaraka Koal on the fast break – the fifth and disqualifying foul on the Panthers' most dangerous scorer – to effectively snuff any hope of a comeback.

Loewen, MEI's player of the game, finished with 16 points, while Keaton Boughen (10 points) and Allison (eight) also contributed offensively.

Koal racked up a game-high 22 points for Abby Senior, while Arjen Mann scored eight.

While the Eagles' guards were terrific, Dick wanted to see more from the supporting cast. The Panthers are an awfully athletic team, and Dick felt his charges got "kind of tentative" after having a few shots swatted in the first half.

"Some of the guys have got to get tougher," he said. "The other guys (besides Loewen and Allison) got a little bit timid in their shooting, instead of going up strong. They'd blocked a few shots, and it seemed to get into our heads."

There was no shortage of highlight-reel plays in this one.

In the third quarter, Eagles swingman Boughen collected a pass thrown behind him on the fast break, then flipped a no-look shot over his head while being fouled. It went in off the glass.

Not to be outdone, Koal and Moeiz Athaya of the Panthers each came up with huge LeBron James-style chase-down blocks off the glass, denying the Eagles apparent layups on the fast break.

JUNIOR GIRLS: Mouat Hawks 65, Hansen Hurricanes 17

The W.J. Mouat Hawks left not a shred of doubt as to who the best junior girls basketball team in the city is.

Taking on the Rick Hansen Hurricanes in the final, the Hawks opened the game on a 31-0 run encompassing the entire first quarter and most of the second. The 'Canes didn't get on the board until there was 3:04 remaining in the second, when Revine Gill knocked down a pair of free throws.

The Hawks cruised from there, and in the aftermath, forward Amanda Thompson offered a simple equation to explain her team's success.

"We pushed the ball really well, and we finished all our layups," noted Thompson, whose team's dominant run to the title included a 75-17 win over Abby Christian and a 72-24 triumph over MEI.

"We were really pumped up for the finals, and we wanted to win."

The Hawks were relentless defensively, surrendering just five field goals all game long – and none in the first half – en route to the lopsided triumph.

Thompson racked up 13 of her game-high 15 points in the first quarter and earned player of the game honours, and teammates Selyen Singh (13 points) and Denelle Hauck (12) also scored in double figures.

Hansen's player of the game, Jasmine Gill, notched a team-high seven points.

GRADE 8 BOYS: MEI Eagles 56, Howe Bulldogs 53 (2OT)

Every time it seemed the Grade 8 boys title game had reached its dramatic peak, the MEI Eagles and the Howe Bulldogs continued to up the ante.

After opening a 15-point lead at halftime, the Eagles needed two overtimes to finally finish off the scrappy Bulldogs.

"Great basketball," MEI coach Pat Johnson marvelled afterward. "It'll be fun to see this rivalry in the years to come."

After watching their girls team rally from a huge deficit against the Fraser Falcons in the previous game, the Bulldogs boys almost completed a similar comeback against MEI.

The Eagles led 26-11 at half thanks to an explosive offensive performance from point guard Ty Powell, who racked up 15 points over the first two quarters.

But the Bulldogs battled all the way back, taking a 41-38 lead with less than three minutes remaining in regulation. MEI responded with a 6-0 run to claim a three-point edge, but Powell fouled out with one minute left.

With the final seconds ticking down and MEI nursing a 45-43 advantage, Howe forward Austin Lal grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a buzzer-beating fadeaway jumper to send the game to OT.

In the first extra session, the Eagles held a late one-point lead, but missed six consecutive free throws in the final 31 seconds. Bulldogs point guard Kenan Hadzovic was subsequently fouled on a midrange jump shot with one-tenth of a second remaining, and he rattled in the first free throw and rimmed out the second to set the stage for another overtime.

Howe's Zach Plummer banked in a straightaway three-pointer to give the Bulldogs a 53-52 lead with 35 seconds left in the second OT, but the Eagles surged ahead on four straight free throws from Kyle Claggett, and Howe wasn't able to get off a desperation shot in the dying seconds.

The victory was a special one for Johnson. He taught at Howe Middle and coached the boys basketball team for 12 years before moving over to MEI in 2011.

"The Howe guys are always hard-working," he said. "They're all little brothers of guys I coached in the past. They're intense, they never give up, and you saw that happen with the girls. It's an attitude at that school – they just work hard.

"In the end, we just hung in there," he added. "We dug down deep and filled in where we had to."

Powell poured in a game-high 21 points before fouling out, while Claggett (10 points) and Carson Bargen (nine points) also chipped in offensively. Tre Pankratz (six points) earned player of the game honours for MEI, while Hadzovic (11 points) was Howe's player of the game.

GRADE 8 GIRLS: Howe Bulldogs 32, Fraser Falcons 30

Championship Saturday tipped off in style with a barn-burner between the Howe Bulldogs and Fraser Falcons.

The Falcons, the defending city champs, appeared to be in cruise control behind their withering full-court press – they reeled off an 11-0 run bridging the third and fourth quarters to take a 28-19 lead.

But the Bulldogs lived up to their name, clawing back into it with point guard Anna Hadzovic and centre Gurbeen Toor spearheading the comeback effort.

Toor's putback with 26 seconds left gave Howe its first lead of the fourth quarter at 29-28, but Fraser's Hannah Boulanger hit a running bank shot to snatch the lead right back.

Alisha Gandha took over at that point, though. After absorbing a foul on her way to the hoop, she hit one of two free throws to knot the score 30-30. On the ensuing inbounds pass, she came up with a steal and was fouled again. This time she knocked them both down, and the Bulldogs hung on for the win.

"It was a lot of pressure," Gandha said with a grin, reflecting on her clutch free throws. "It's so crazy, getting the win. It feels so good.

"It's amazing to put a (city championship) banner on our wall. It's my dream."

Bulldogs coach Kyle Leinweber lauded his players' resilient mindset, and their ability to break Fraser's press when it mattered.

"I'm super proud," Leinweber said. "They dug real deep. They found it late in the game, and they figured it out."

Gandha was named the Bulldogs' player of the game after tying Toor for team-high scoring honours with seven points. Boulanger paced the Falcons with 11 points, while Selah Pankratz picked up a player of the game award after a nine-point outing.

The MEI Screaming Eagles marching band (pictured above) entertained the crowd during the senior boys and girls games, and combined with the Abbotsford Skipping Sensations on a pair of choreographed halftime performances. -- John Morrow photo

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