Defence wins championships and the Charles Hays Rainmakers defensive unit delivered, resulting in a second consecutive provincial title.
The Rainmakers turned a four-point game at the half into a double-digit lead in their 67-45 victory over the King George Dragons on Saturday at Langley Events Centre in the championship final of the BC High School 2A Boys Tournament.
It was the top two teams playing for gold and the No. 1 ranked (and defending champion) Rainmakers held the No. 2 Dragons to a 16-for-56 (28.6 per cent) shooting performance from the field. The Dragons trailed by nine after one quarter and cut the lead to four at the half with a trio of triples in the period. But an 11-0 run to start the third extended the lead to double digits and the Rainmakers never looked back, winning their third 2A title and fourth title overall having won the 4A crown back in 1964.
The defence also came through in the 2019 title game.
“Those are two of our best defensive games in the last two years and we saved them for the last game of the season,” said the Rainmakers Kai Leighton, selected the Most Valuable Player. Leighton had 21 points, 15 rebounds, two assists and three steals in the championship game.
After a great first quarter, the Rainmakers struggled and had just 29 points at the half, well behind their usual pace as they entered the final averaging 77 points the first three games.
“Our defence was constant all game but our shots weren’t really falling, It’s a zone defence so you have to make them work, you have to swing the ball and eventually the shots will start falling,” Leighton said.
The team would shoot 12-for-32 over the second half, including five-for-14 from beyond the arc over those final 20 minutes. And while the Rainmakers got their shots to drop, the Dragons could not buy a bucket, making just seven of their 27 field goals, just under 26 per cent.
Charles Hays coach Mel Bishop (who now has three provincial titles) said the attention the team paid to defence all season during practice paid off, especially with the team not as big as last year’s championship squad.
He complimented the play of Leighton as well as point guard Tyler Jones, whose shiftiness and elusiveness runs the offence and forward Brendan Eshom, an underrated, tough defender who never gets beat.
The Rainmakers received all their offence from four players with Leighton and Jones (21 and 19 points, respectively) leading the way. Caden Pagens had 15 points and eight rebounds and was the Championship Player of the Game.
Nikola Guzina (17 points) and Alejandro Rios (13 points) led the Dragons.
“Give credit to them. They played a good game, they came out, they wanted it. My boys for sure wanted it. I think our shot just didn’t bounce,” summed up King George coach Darko Kulic. “I am not going to complain, I am just going to say good game to Hayes.”
The Dragons were making their ninth appearance at provincials and the second-place finish matches their result from two years ago.
The fiery King George coach was emotional when talking about his team.
“I will love these boys forever. If you ask me right now to get hit by a bus for any one of them, I will bleeping get hit by a bus for everybody on that team.”
In the bronze-medal game, Brentwood College topped Lambrick Park 81-52.
All-Stars and Awards:
King George’s Nikola Guzina was named the Best Defensive Player and the J.L. Crowe Hawks were selected the Most Sportsmanlike Team.
Cormick Brown (Lambrick Park), Jansen Balmaceda (St. Thomas Aquinas), Shaw Blaisdell (Brentwood College), Tyler Jones (Charles Hays) and Gareth Wintjes (King George) were First Team All-Stars.
The Second Team All-Stars were Juan Navarro (Brentwood College), Bergren Van Lent (George Elliot), Cameron Sale (D.P. Todd), Isaac Manji (Mulgrave) and Rory Goodwin (St. Thomas Aquinas).