BasketBlog: Live from the Abbotsford Police Tournament

The Abbotsford Police City Basketball Tournament crowned its champions on Saturday at Columbia Bible College.

Jauquin Bennett-Boire of the Yale senior boys basketball team drives to the hoop against Mouat's Corey Hauck.

Jauquin Bennett-Boire of the Yale senior boys basketball team drives to the hoop against Mouat's Corey Hauck.

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.

SENIOR BOYS: Mouat Hawks 83, Yale Lions 60

Tristan Etienne, in many ways, represents the heartbeat of the W.J. Mouat senior boys basketball squad, the steady rhythm of his game laying the foundation for the rest of the team to thrive.

The 6’9″ centre’s multi-faceted skills sparkled on a city-wide stage Saturday evening – he played a pivotal role as his Hawks beat the Yale Lions 83-60 in the finale of the Abbotsford Police City Basketball Tournament.

Watching Etienne play, it was hard to imagine that just two weeks ago, he was sincerely worried about his cardiac health.

Etienne was sidelined during the opening week of the high school hoops season due to concerns about an irregular heartbeat. But after undergoing a battery of tests, he was given a clean bill of health, and he couldn’t be happier to be back on the court.

“It was scary, but everything turned out good,” Etienne said with a grin after the win over Yale.

“I just went through some tests to make sure my heart was fine. We went in to Vancouver for the day – I missed school. All the tests showed up good, so I’m allowed to play full-out.”

Etienne’s counting stats – 11 points, nine rebounds, three blocks – hinted at his impact on Saturday, but his immense influence on the defensive end was harder to quantify.

At this point, we should mention Etienne is only in Grade 10 – he’s still a work in progress, but is considered one of Canada’s best players in his age group.

“He’s a great basket defender,” Mouat coach Rich Ralston observed. “Yale’s very good off the dribble, and our guys were having a hard time keeping them out of the lane. But when you’ve got size like that around the basket, it really helps. In the second half, he changed a lot of shots.”

The Hawks, ranked No. 4 among AAA teams in B.C., got off to a ragged start on Saturday. Yale, a smallish but scrappy team loaded with talented guards who can slash to the hoop or knock down the trey with equal dexterity, led 14-11 after one quarter and 28-25 at halftime. A big issue for Mouat was atrocious free throw shooting – they went just 9-for-23 from the charity stripe in the opening half.

But midway through the third quarter, trailing 31-27, Mouat caught fire on a 21-3 run, and Etienne had his fingerprints all over it. At the offensive end, he alternated a pair of buckets in the paint – including a deft up-and-under post move – with three-pointers from teammates Corey Hauck and Jesse Coy. He finished the sequence by swatting away a shot by Yale’s Abraham Falls in emphatic fashion.

By the time the dust had settled, the Hawks led 48-34, and they cruised from there.

Coy, after scoring just two points in the first half, blew up for 23 after the break en route to a game-high 25. Grade 11 power forward Daniel Pawliuk also had a big game for the Hawks, notching 22 points and 11 rebounds.

The Lions have a young phenom of their own – Grade 9 guard Jauquin Bennett-Boire. He tied J.J. Pankratz for team-high scoring honours with 17 points, including a pair of spectacular baskets late in the second quarter to secure a lead for his team heading into the break.

Ralston came away extremely impressed with Bennett-Boire.

“He’s a tough guard,” the Mouat coach noted. “You need someone who can look him in the eye who is his equal athletically who can keep him out, and we didn’t have anyone to do that today.”

SENIOR GIRLS: Yale Lions 68, Mouat Hawks 47

It’s hard to even guess when the last time would have been that the Yale Lions beat the W.J. Mouat Hawks in senior girls basketball.

Suffice it to say, it’s been awhile. For years now, the Lions have run second locally to the powerhouse Hawks, who won the B.C. AAA title last season.

Current Lions head coach Euan Roberts, in his three seasons at the helm, hadn’t tasted victory over Mouat. That all changed on Saturday evening, as Yale blasted the Hawks 68-47 in the final of the Abbotsford city tourney.

“It’s not the same Mouat team that put a whooping on us,” Roberts noted with a chuckle, alluding to the fact that five grads from last year’s Mouat squad are currently playing post-secondary basketball.

“But it’s nice to beat them any time, really. They’re a good program with good players, and they worked really hard.”

Both teams got off to rough starts offensively on Saturday – Mouat led 14-13 midway through the second quarter.

But the Lions put together a 14-2 run to take control, with Jessica Collins leading the way. The senior forward racked up eight points in the spurt.

Yale took a 27-20 lead into halftime, then reeled off a 17-2 run to open the third quarter, thus draining any suspense out of the proceedings.

Collins racked up a game-high 20 points, and picked up the player of the game award. The versatile forward is the Lions’ very own Swiss Army knife, equally adept at grabbing a rebound, bringing the ball up the floor, posting up, or driving to the hoop.

“She does a lot,” Roberts said of Collins. “The only advice I usually give her is to go into the game and be cold, as in cold-hearted. Just rebound, push the ball, run the floor – do what you have to do to help us win. And to her credit, she did an excellent job tonight.”

Hailey Kendall (13 points) and Chantel Ewert (10) also scored in double figures for Yale. Mouat’s player of the game was Grade 11 forward Carmelle M’Bikata, who scored 15 points.

JUNIOR BOYS: Yale Lions 54, MEI Eagles 44

On the junior boys basketball scene, the Yale Lions seem to have cornered the local market on versatile, athletic perimeter players.

The Lions’ impressive array of slashers and shooters were too much for the MEI Eagles in the city tournament final, as they raced out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter en route to a 54-44 victory.

“We don’t really have a traditional big guy who sits down low and grabs rebounds and puts the ball back in for us,” noted Lions coach Adam Friesen. “But we have a lot of kids who can dribble and shoot, and a number of them have great quickness to go along with that. When we’re hitting shots, we’re tough to guard.”

Yale guard Jassie Gill spearheaded the Lions’ attack, knocking down six three-pointers on his way to a game-high 22 points and player of the game honours.

“He’s a keen kid who’s in the gym pretty much seven days a week, so his success is no surprise,” Friesen said.

Sasha Otanga chipped in with 14 points for the Lions, while MEI’s best offensive option was lanky sharpshooter Tony Hao, who notched 15 points.

Things might have turned out better for the Eagles if they hadn’t spotted the Lions an early 15-3 lead. MEI actually out-scored Yale by two points for the rest of the game and drew within seven points in the fourth quarter, but were unable to overcome the early deficit.

“We just never recovered,” noted Eagles bench boss Arnie Dick. “We had some good looks early, but we didn’t hit. That’s been the story for us this year, even in our wins. We tend to miss a lot of early shots.”

JUNIOR GIRLS: MEI Eagles 62, Yale Lions 54

Basketball is a contact sport, and MEI’s Taylor Claggett wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Yale Lions simply had no answer for the Eagles’ rugged Grade 9 centre – Claggett shot an astounding 24 foul shots in the junior girls final, making half of them in her team’s 62-54 win. She earned player of the game honours after leading all scorers with 26 points.

“She embraces contact,” Eagles head coach Samantha Hill said of the 5’10” Claggett. “She’s a water polo player, so she’s strong and fit, and she loves getting dirty down there.”

Watching the Eagles and Lions battle tooth and nail for local supremacy on Saturday, it’s not hard to imagine the two deep and talented teams building a terrific rivalry by the time this age group reaches the senior level.

MEI had a lot of offensive success in the paint, courtesy of Claggett and Tessa Ratzlaf (13 points), with point guard Grace Tadrous doing a good job pushing the ball in transition and feeding the post.

“This whole tournament, all our games have been close,” Claggett said. “But I think at the end, we played more as a team.”

Yale got a big game from Taylor Lundrigan, who racked up 21 points on a variety of gritty drives to the hoop. Kristina Collins (nine points), Anna Marie Lepine (eight) and Abby Klassen (seven) also chipped in offensively.

Eagles coach Hill is best known locally for her stellar university playing career with the Trinity Western Spartans and the UFV Cascades. She’s now in her third year as a coach in the MEI program.

“I love it – this is my passion,” she said. “I was given so much as a player, and now this is my chance to give back.”

GRADE 8 BOYS: Fraser Falcons 46, Chief Dan George Wolves 27

In Grade 8 basketball, equal playing time is mandated for the first three quarters of the game. The upshot is, teams make hockey-style line changes, with full five-man units subbing in every four minutes.

Given those guidelines, W.A. Fraser Falcons head coach Bobby Braich has a rare luxury, in that he has two terrific point guards to run the offence for each of his two lines. Stellar play from floor generals Riley Braich – the coach’s son – and Matthew Kerc-Murchison sparked the Falcons to a decisive 46-27 win over the Chief Dan George Wolves in the Grade 8 boys final.

The younger Braich turned in a flashier offensive performance, pouring in a game-high 13 points. Kerc-Murchison registered just two points, but his heady play earned him player of the game honours.

“We have two very balanced lines and two very good point guards, so we can control the tempo,” Bobby Braich noted. “We don’t really have to worry about substitutions, and a lot of other teams don’t have that much depth.”

The Falcons were nursing a slim 20-16 lead at halftime, but a switch from a man-to-man to a zone defence after the break effectively combatted the Wolves’ size in the post, and led to fast-break opportunities. They scored the first seven points of the third quarter, then tore off a 12-0 run bridging the third and fourth quarters en route to a comfortable win.

Afterward, when Kerc-Murchison was announced as player of the game, the look of utter surprise on his face was priceless.

“I don’t think I should have won it,” he explained with a shrug. “I think our No. 12, Leon Tran, should have won it. But it is what it is.

“It was a good experience playing in the city final.”

Matt Fraser also had a big game for the Falcons, scoring 12 points. Merrick Paq-Man (seven points) and Payton Gibson (six points) paced the Chief Dan offence, while Joel Klammer was the Wolves’ player of the game.

GRADE 8 GIRLS: Fraser Falcons 41, Howe Bulldogs 24

For head coach Chris Harvey and the Grade 8 girls basketball team from Fraser Middle School, familiarity breeds success.

Harvey has worked with this group of girls for the past three seasons, dating back to when the players were in Grade 6. That comfort level shone through in the city final – the Falcons raced out to a 20-point lead in the first half over the Howe Bulldogs behind a withering full-court press, and they cruised from there.

“We really came into this season a few steps ahead,” Harvey said, alluding to his long history with the Falcons. “They know what I want, and they hit the ground running. It’s up to us now to keep working hard to stay ahead of the rest.”

Fraser teammates Jade Bird and Gabrielle Moore tied for game-high scoring honours with nine points apiece, while Mikayla Gravelle (pictured right) picked up player of the game honours after posting five points.

Tianna Sarra and Gurbeen Toor, with six points each, paced the Bulldogs, while Howe’s player of the game was Anna Hadzovic.