Hawks get defensive to clinch provincial berth

The W.J. Mouat Hawks unleashed a secret weapon on Tuesday evening to score an upset victory over Pitt Meadows and punch their ticket to the B.C. AAA boys basketball championship.

Mouat’s Mackenzie Thompson (left)

Mouat’s Mackenzie Thompson (left)

The W.J. Mouat Hawks unleashed a secret weapon on Tuesday evening to score an upset victory over Pitt Meadows and punch their ticket to the B.C. AAA boys basketball championship.

All season long, the Hawks had relied almost exclusively on man-to-man defence. But a surprising switch to a match-up zone in the second half of Tuesday’s Fraser Valley Tournament quarter-final at Pitt Meadows paved the way for a 55-43 upset victory.

Mouat’s smothering D held the Marauders, B.C.’s No. 7-ranked team, to just 18 points after halftime – nine points in each quarter.

“We’d been working on the zone for quite some time in practice, but we hadn’t shown it,” Hawks coach Sean Beasley said. “It was something we’ve been holding on to, and if we needed to pull it out, we would.”

The pivotal playoff date with the Marauders and their star UBC-bound shooting guard Malcolm Williams was an opportune time to test-drive the zone. Williams was limited to just 10 points.

Senior small forward Gurminder Kang had a prime-time performance for the Hawks, scoring a game-high 22 points while spearheading the defensive effort.

“He’s the kind of player who makes it tough as a coach to take him off the floor,” Beasley said. “He’s just a non-stop ball of energy out there.”

After an uneven regular season, Tuesday’s win represented a fulfillment of Mouat’s potential.

The Hawks began the year ranked No. 9 in B.C., but a series of subpar results – most notably, a pair of losses to Brookswood during league play – torpedoed their stock to the point that they weren’t even in the top 20 heading into the playoffs.

Injuries contributed greatly to the tailspin. Star Grade 11 power forward Cam Friesen suffered a season-ending knee injury in early January, and 6’9″ centre Jamin Lockert (ankle) and forward Desmond Bassi (broken nose) were added to the injured list during the Fraser Valley East playoffs.

“We’ve managed to play through adverse conditions and prepare ourselves,” Beasley said. “It’s a special moment for these guys.”

Bassi underwent surgery to reset his nose on Tuesday afternoon, but there was no way he was going to miss the game against Pitt Meadows.

“He wanted to be on the floor, and he gave us invaluable minutes,” Beasley said of Bassi, who scored six points.

The balance of the Fraser Valley Tournament runs Thursday through Saturday at Thomas Haney Secondary in Maple Ridge. The Hawks face Walnut Grove in the semifinals at 7:45 p.m. on Friday.

IN BRIEF:

• In other AAA boys quarter-final action, the Yale Lions dropped a 64-39 decision to the Terry Fox Ravens, who are the Valley’s top seed and ranked No. 5 in B.C. Yale is still alive for a provincial berth, but they must win a do-or-die game against Gleneagle on the consolation side (Thursday, 6 p.m. at Thomas Haney).

• The MEI Eagles and Abbotsford Collegiate Panthers senior boys both saw their seasons come to an end. The Eagles fell 70-52 to Gleneagle, despite 16 points from Steven Dhaliwal and a 10-point, 10-rebound effort from Raj Sidhu. The Panthers lost 73-50 to Enver Creek.