He was the Lion King.
On Saturday, dynamic Yale guard Jauquin Bennett-Boire scored a game-high 44 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Lions to a thrilling 69-63 win over Terry Fox to capture the 2015 B.C. High School Boys 4A Championship.
“There’s no words in the dictionary for this,” said Bennett-Boire during a post-game scrum. “It’s the biggest moment of all our lives. Basketball means so much to all of us and we’re going to remember this for the rest of our lives.”
Prior to the championship game, Bennett-Boire admitted he had pre-game nerves and was even nauseous. It was a high-stakes game, and there were 4,876 screaming fans inside the Langley Events Centre.
“My last game [at Yale]. We had to win…” he said. “I’d never seen the LEC that packed.”
But once Bennett-Boire stepped onto the court the crowd noise and nervous energy faded quickly.
“Once I start to play, I don’t notice the crowd.”
Bennett-Boire’s hardwood heroics were elevated in the fourth quarter when he nailed a momentum-shifting three-pointer with just under two minutes remaining to give his team a 63-61 lead. Then he went six-for-six from the free throw line down the stretch to seal the victory, scoring the last nine points of the game for his team.
“It came down to who was making their free throws,” said Yale coach Euan Roberts, “and we made our free throws. [Bennett-Boire] came up big for us in scoring and rebounding.”
Bennett-Boire, who also had five steals and three assists in the final, was named tournament MVP. But when it comes to accepting personal praise, he preferred to dish off the accolades to his teammates.
“All the hard work paid off. We came together to win a championship,” he said. “It’s just a team [effort], 100 per cent.”
Bennett-Boire’s backcourt partner Riley Braich also played a significant point-scoring role during the tournament, including pouring in 45 in the tourney opener. In the final, Terry Fox focused on shutting down Braich by face-guarding him – assigning guard Jomari Reyes to shadow him so closely that he frequently had his back turned to the play. But the sharpshooter still managed 14 points and was named a tournament first-team all-star.
“He’s the best shooter I think I’ve seen,” said Bennett-Boire. “He works at it every day.”
Yale’s role players were spectacular. Throughout the Fraser Valley playoffs and provincials, forwards Tamikah Otanga and Mike VanderWerff provided tireless rebounding at both ends of the court, while Terry Kwon and Matt Kerc-Murchison did an excellent job of defending the opposition’s top players.
All season long the Yale coaching staff — which includes Bennett-Boire’s dad, Wayne Bennett — preached playing strong D.
“Five players playing on defence as one,” said Bennett-Boire.
“It’s just fantastic. It feels like we really accomplished something,” said coach Roberts about the victory. “[Our team went] from the bottom of the honourable mentions [in pre-season rankings] to the top of 4A basketball.”
Roberts said being left out of the Top 10 pre-season rankings didn’t really bother the team. In fact, it provided extra motivation for the Lions.
“We felt we were one of the top teams in the province.”
And with a lot of parity in the 4A division this year, the Lions just wanted to make it to the provincials, where “anything can happen.”
“[We] felt we could win with this mix,” said Roberts. “It was a fantastic run to finish the season 8-0.”
Bennett-Boire returned to Yale secondary this year after spending the last school year at Holy Cross in Surrey, where he led the Crusaders to a runner-up finish at 4A provincials.
“[Yale] is my home. I came here as a kid in Grade 9. To finish my Grade 12 year is a blessing, honestly.”
The MVP guard has already received scholarship offers from NCAA Division 1 schools but has yet to decide where he will attend.
This marks the third time Yale has won a provincial senior boys basketball title, with the other championship seasons coming in 2007-08 and 2009-10.
It’s the sixth championship for an Abbotsford team in B.C.’s largest high school boys basketball tier. The MEI Eagles won it all in 1962-63 and 1969-70, and the Abby Senior Panthers were the champs in 1982-83.