Hawks, Lions head into Christmas on a high note with tournament victories
Weekend tournament victories by the W.J. Mouat Hawks and the Yale Lions illustrated that there's more than one road to success in high school boys basketball.
To put it in automotive terms, the hulking Hawks are the basketball equivalent of a monster truck, while the pedal-to-the-metal Lions would be a Lamborghini.
Both teams shifted into high gear at pre-Christmas tourneys.
The Mouat boys won their home Hawkball event on the strength of a couple extremely impressive defensive performances. Employing the prodigious wingspans of 6'11" centre Sebastian Muermann and 6'9" power forward Tristan Etienne in a 2-3 zone, the Hawks smothered the previously undefeated and AAA No. 8-ranked Enver Creek Cougars 63-47 in the semifinals. In the final, they crushed the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers (like Mouat, an honourable mention in the AAA poll) by a score of 62-41.
Meanwhile, at the Rod Thomson Mountain Madness Invitational at Burnaby Mountain Secondary, the No. 2-ranked Lions showcased their scary offensive potential in a 103-62 victory over the Delta Pacers in the gold medal game.
"We shot the ball really well, and when we do that, we are really tough to handle," Lions coach Al Friesen noted.
"We still have a ways to go to be able to say we have a legitimate inside game, but one piece at a time, I guess."
As inside games go, Mouat boasts an awfully impressive one in the ever-improving duo of Etienne and Muermann. Etienne picked up Hawkball MVP honours, scoring 10 of his game-high 20 points vs. Lord Tweedsmuir in the fourth quarter on a variety of putbacks and post moves. Muermann, who scored eight points in the final, was named to the tourney all-star team.
The Panthers boast a pair of sharpshooting guards in Paarus Sahi and Pavan Lehal, and they combined to hit 14 three-pointers in a semifinal win over the MEI Eagles. But against Mouat, with Etienne and Muermann patrolling the paint, the Hawks' perimetre players are able to aggressively chase Sahi and Lehal off their preferred shots from beyond the arc.
"We can really get out on the shooters because we have the big guys to help," Etienne noted. "Teams that think they can break our zone by shooting threes are going to have a tough time, because they'll always have a guy in their face."
MEI finished fourth at the Hawkball, dropping a 72-71 decision to Enver Creek in the bronze medal game. The Eagles rallied from a late 70-63 deficit and had three shots at a go-ahead basket, but they just couldn't get the ball to go down. Josiah Allison, MEI's Grade 11 shooting guard, was a tourney all-star after averaging 25 points per game.
"We're a young team with a lot of Grade 11s, and these games are great experiences to learn what it takes to compete with these top teams," Eagles coach Jon Schmidt analyzed.
The Lions are already in that upper echelon, but they endured a scare in the semifinals of the Burnaby Mountain tourney. After leading the No. 5-ranked Tamanawis Wildcats by double digits in the second half, the Yaleans watched the Surrey squad battle back to within a point at 81-80 with 15 seconds left.
The Lions had the ball and were inbounding at halfcourt, but Jassi Gill dribbled into a double-team and turned the ball over. Tamanawis went the other way for a go-ahead layup with five seconds remaining.
Yale inbounded the ball to JJ Pankratz, who spotted Gill standing near where he'd originally turned the ball over. Gill collected the pass, took a dribble and pump-faked a defender into the air, then knocked down a buzzer-beating three-pointer.
The final wasn't nearly as dramatic, as Yale blew out Delta behind a 37-point outburst from Pankratz. Grade 10 guard Jauquin Bennett-Boire (19 points in the final) was tournament MVP, while Gill (15 points) and Pankratz were first team all-stars and Abraham Falls was named the tourney's top defensive player.
"They (Delta) wanted to run, but they weren't able to control us," noted Friesen, whose team won the Abbotsford Police City Basketball Tournament earlier this month.