Tristan Etienne’s surprise return to the lineup provided a huge emotional spark for the W.J. Mouat senior boys basketball team, and he helped power the Hawks to a second-place finish at the Fraser Valley East AAA playoff tournament.
On Jan. 11, the 6’9″ centre underwent open heart surgery to repair a hole in his heart, and was expected to miss the rest of the season.
But the Grade 10 athlete made an unusually quick recovery, and was cleared to return to game action last Thursday.
Hawks coach Rich Ralston held Etienne out of Thursday’s FV East quarter-final, a 66-64 win over Abbotsford Collegiate. But Etienne was raring to go, and he played limited minutes in Friday’s 72-63 semifinal win over the Yale Lions, and Saturday’s 73-61 loss to the Walnut Grove Gators in the final.
“Against Yale, he was very important,” Ralston said of Etienne, who played 12 minutes in the semifinal win and registered four points and five rebounds. “He was in the game when we broke it open in the fourth quarter, and he shut down anything coming to the basket. It’s what he does best.
“It was a good emotional lift for our guys, too. They play with more confidence when he’s back there.”
The Hawks got a team-high 20 points from Jesse Coy in the win over Yale, while power forward Daniel Pawliuk had a huge performance with 11 points and 21 rebounds. In the final against the Gators, B.C.’s No. 6-ranked AAA team, Mackenzie Thompson led the way with 20 points and eight rebounds.
Yale nearly knocked off Mouat in the semis – they led by 10 points midway through the third quarter before the Hawks rallied. But the Lions bounced back to beat Sardis 79-64 in the third-place game, and head coach Al Friesen is feeling good about his youthful team’s chances heading into the Fraser Valley Tournament.
“We’re playing better than we were at the start of the year,” Friesen said, noting that his smallish squad is most successful when pushing the pace offensively.
“When we score in the 70s, we have a legitimate chance of winning some of those games, and that’s what we’ve done well over the last little while.”
In other FV East playoff action on Saturday, Maple Ridge knocked off Abby Collegiate 71-58 in the fifth-sixth placing game, and Chilliwack downed the Bateman Timberwolves 63-55 in the seventh-eighth game.
All eight teams move on to the Fraser Valley tourney, which runs at various gyms around the region over the next two weeks. The top seven teams in the 32-team draw advance to provincials.
Opening-round elimination games run on Wednesday evening, and the schedule for Abbotsford’s teams is as follows:
• No. 6 Mouat vs. No. 27 Gleneagle, 5:30 p.m. (at Mouat Secondary)
• No. 8 Yale vs. No. 25 Dr. Charles Best, 8 p.m. (at Yale Secondary)
• No. 19 Abbotsford Collegiate vs. No. 14 Elgin Park, 6:15 p.m. (at Terry Fox Secondary, Port Coquitlam)
• No. 32 Bateman vs. No. 1 Pitt Meadows, 8 p.m. (at Pitt Meadows Secondary)
A complete Fraser Valley Tournament schedule can be viewed at fvbball.org.