Lions roar past Heritage Woods at Valley Battle

Al Friesen, head coach of the Yale Lions, says his smallish squad will have to play a "controlled crazy" style this season.

Yale guard Sid Sethi drives to the hoop against Heritage Woods on Wednesday.

Al Friesen, head coach of the Yale Lions senior boys basketball team, says his smallish squad will have to play a “controlled crazy” style if it hopes to succeed this season.

It sounds like an oxymoron, and it’s certainly a fine line for a team to walk.

But the Lions walked it effectively on Wednesday evening, as they blew out a solid Heritage Woods Kodiaks team 80-58 in the opening game of the Valley Battle, an annual AAA high school hoops showcase hosted by the University of the Fraser Valley.

“Controlled crazy,” for Friesen, means his team needs to push the ball on offence and pressure the ball on defence to make up for its height deficiency. They were very effective in transition on Wednesday, and it yielded a win over a more-heralded Heritage Woods side that was an honourable mention in the B.C. rankings.

“We have to play in a helter-skelter but controlled manner,” Friesen explained. “If we do, I think we can surprise a lot of teams and be very competitive. If we don’t, we’ll lose by 20. If we do it, but we don’t do it well, we’ll lose by 40.”

The Lions got strong contributions from senior guards Trevor Berge (25 points), Landon Gartner (17) and Sid Sethi (14), but it was Jauquin Bennett-Boire who raised the most eyebrows. The Grade 9 phenom, who moved to Abbotsford from Saskatoon over the summer, posted 18 points and nine rebounds.

Afterward, Friesen said the 6’1″ guard is the best Grade 9 he’s ever coached, and that’s a strong statement considering the number of players the Lions have sent on to the university ranks in recent years.

“I’m sure he’s one of the best Grade 9 guards in the country,” Friesen said of Bennett-Boire. “He’s dunking now in practice, and at times, you forget he’s in Grade 9. He’ll do silly things at times, and then all of a sudden he’ll just blow by a guy, and the contact comes, and he just finishes. How many Grade 9s can do that? Most of them would be falling on the ground.

“He does some things you can’t teach. If I can teach him a few other things, he could be a special player.”

The back half of the Valley Battle doubleheader was considered the marquee match-up, as No. 3-ranked W.J. Mouat took on No. 5 White Rock Christian Academy. WRCA ultimately prevailed 63-50.

Mouat, missing star frontcourt players Cam Friesen and Tristan Etienne due to injury, struggled mightily on the offensive end in the first half – too many Hawks possessions ended with fadeaway three-pointers being launched as the shot clock ticked down.

Trailing 35-23 at the break, Mouat cut the deficit in half early in the third quarter, as some nice ball movement yielded treys on back-to-back possessions by point guard Amrit Dubb. But the Warriors pulled away late in the fourth, as Mouat surrendered a series of costly offensive rebounds.

Jesse Coy paced the Mouat offence with 22 points, while Mac Thompson notched a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Tyus Allen (18) and Vartan Tanielian (16) were the top scorers for WRCA.

Afterward, Hawks coach Rich Ralston said his team has a long way to go, but he wasn’t overly worried about the defeat.

“Everyone’s a work in progress, and we are as well,” he noted. “White Rock will be one of the teams vying for a Valley title, and I’d like to think we’d have an opportunity to be one of those teams as well. But we’ve got 35 games until we have to worry about that.”

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