Even with silver medals hanging around their necks, it was hard for the Holy Cross Crusaders to see the silver lining to losing in the biggest game of the basketball season Saturday night.
Vancouverâ€™s Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs grabbed the lead early in the second-quarter and never surrendered it for the remainder of the contest en route to a 67-64 win in the title game of the B.C. Senior Boys 4A Basketball Championships at the Langley Events Centre.
â€œLosing in the final is tough, I know all about how hard it is,â€ said Holy Cross coach Matt LeChasseur, who lost in overtime of the class AA final in his playing days.
â€œIt was a still a great year for us. Weâ€™re really proud of what we accomplished. We only have 700 or so kids in our school and we competed against schools with a lot more athletes. Iâ€™m really proud of our basketball program, both girls and boys. This was a unique group of kids and Iâ€™m really proud of their focus this week. It hurts to lose a game like this, but I hope they will be able to look back on this experience with fond memories.â€
After the second quarter, the sixth-seeded Crusaders stayed within striking distance of the second-ranked Bulldogs throughout the contest, never falling behind by more than seven points, but never getting closer than a single point.
Holy Cross had no answer for Bulldogs star Mindy Minhas in the second half. The Churchill sharpshooter scored at will, repeatedly sucking the life out of Crusader rallies.
Minhas was at his lethal best in the final minute of the fourth quarter. Holy Cross cut the gap to a single point and then delivered some of their best defence of the night to deny the Bulldogs a clear view of the hoop as the shot clock ticked down. With one second remaining on the ticker, Minhas calmly stepped back toward half court and delivered the dagger â€” a fall away three pointer than crushed the Crusadersâ€™ hopes for good.
â€œThatâ€™s Mindy, thatâ€™s what he does,â€ said a bemused Crusaders guard Jauquin Bennett-Boire. â€œMindy plays club (basketball) with me and heâ€™s an unbelievable player. I knew he was going to do that, that he was going to hit something like that. The only way to stop him is to get your hand right in his face or heâ€™s going to hit it. Heâ€™s one of the best players in recent B.C. history in my opinion. He hits clutch shots like that all the time.â€
The Crusaders were actually lucky they were within striking distance of the Bulldogs at the end at all. Several Holy Cross starters ran into foul trouble, but they did not pay the price. While Minhas was sizzling with 30 points in the game, the rest of the Bulldogs were stone cold, especially from the charity stripe. Churchill shooters missed on a dozen free throws in the fourth quarter alone, hitting on just 11 of 31 attempts.
Bennett-Boire led the Crusaders with 21 points, most of which came in the opening half. Jonathan Kongbo helped out with 20 points and a dozen rebounds.
â€œItâ€™s the not the ending that we wanted,â€ LeChasseur said. â€œIt would have been nice if the refs would have let the game go a little more, but at the end of the day we just didnâ€™t execute our game plan thoroughly enough. Our shot selection down the stretch wasnâ€™t the best. Our kids got a little bit tight, but hats off to Churchill. They played well and made the plays they needed to down the stretch.â€
The weekend began with the possibility of two Surrey teams meeting in the final. The Crusaders held up their end of the deal by beating a Cinderella Sardis team 73-58 in one semifinal, but the top-ranked Tamanawis Wildcats were tripped up 68-66 in a controversial finish to the other semi.
While rising toward the net in the final minute of play, Tamanawis star Sukhjot Bains was brought down hard in the key and was then amazed to learn he was whistled for the foul on the play.
The Wildcats then beat Sardis 70-56 on Saturday to finish third overall.
â€œItâ€™s tough to accept because weâ€™ve beaten both the teams (Holy Cross and Churchill) in the final,â€ said Wildcats coach Mike McKay. â€œWeâ€™ve beaten all the top teams in the province this year except Walnut Grove because we never got to play them. With all the time our guys and our coaches have put in itâ€™s hard to take knowing how the semifinal unfolded and what happened. There were multiple fouls that should have been called in that game, not just the one at the end.
â€œOur guys were pretty devastated after the game and even today before the third place game. Both teams were flat, but our guys worked hard to get a win in the final game for our seniors. We played well enough to get the win.â€
Minhas was named the tournament MVP while Bennett-Boire, Kongbo and Bains were all first-team all-stars. Bains was also honoured as a recipient of a Telus scholarship.