Bilrajbir Lally of the Yale Lions goes airborne to launch a shot vs. Caledonia on Wednesday.

Bilrajbir Lally of the Yale Lions goes airborne to launch a shot vs. Caledonia on Wednesday.

Lions flex muscles early, roll past Caledonia in provincial opener

The outcome was never in doubt for the Yale Lions in their opening game at the B.C. boys AAA high school basketball championship.

The outcome was never in doubt for the Yale Lions in their opening game at the B.C. boys AAA high school basketball championship, but that doesn’t mean their toughest critic was overly impressed.

That would be Lions head coach Al Friesen, who was less than pleased to see his team ease off the gas pedal in the third quarter of their 95-63 victory over the Caledonia Kermodes at the Langley Events Centre on Wednesday.

Friesen could hardly have asked for a better start – the Lions simply overwhelmed their opponents from Terrace in the early going, building a 35-6 lead with seven minutes left in the second quarter.

But from that point until the end of the third quarter, the Kermodes out-scored Yale 42-34, a turn of events which had the fiery Friesen demanding more from the sideline.

His team might be able to get away with a short snooze against Caledonia, but a provincial title is the goal, and against tougher teams in the later stages of the tourney that level of focus isn’t going to cut it.

“We tend to have lapses, and that’s our biggest weakness,” said Friesen, whose team finished third in the Fraser Valley. “It’s what we’ve done all year. When we’re winning, we relax. When we’re losing, we get a little down (emotionally). And by the time we catch ourselves, we’re down 10 or 12 points, and now you’re struggling.

“Against this team, we just come back and score more points. But against a very good team, it’s not that easy. That’s the step we’re trying to get to this year.”

Friesen’s misgivings aside, there were many positive signs for the Lions, most notably the intensity they brought at the start of the game.

“We did everything we planned to do at the start,” Yale point guard Jauquin Bennett-Boire said. “We rebounded, and mentally we were in the game, 100 per cent focused. The guys who came in off the bench played well.

“(Friesen) was disappointed in us in the second half and near the end of the first, because he knows we can do that for 40 minutes a game, and so do we. We’re going to try to do that tomorrow.”

Four Yale players posted double-doubles: JJ Pankratz (25 points, 11 rebounds), Bennett-Boire (21 points, 11 assists), Patrick Vandervelden (16 points, 11 rebounds) and Abraham Falls (13 points, 17 rebounds). Jassi Gill also scored in double figures for the Lions with 11 points and chipped in with five assists.

Patrick Kurek paced the Kermodes with 21 points on seven three-pointers.

Friesen was thrilled with the performance of senior forward Falls, who took it upon himself to dominate on the glass and also swished a trio of treys.

“Abraham did an awesome job for us today,” he said. “He listened and did what he was asked – he got on the glass, got on the floor. . . . We’re going to need him big-time.”

Yale moves on to face the St. George’s-Claremont winner in the quarter-finals at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday.