Crusaders prevail over hosts at Kelowna showcase

The Crusaders made an undefeated run against a superb field of teams to win the Interior Savings Western Canada Basketball Invitational in Kelowna, but their biggest test eluded them.

The defending B.C. champion Walnut Grove Gators were seeded number one, but were upended in the semifinals by Kelowna, denying the Crusaders a chance to test themselves against one of the best teams in the province.

The Kelowna event featured top teams from Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan plus a smattering of ranked squads from among the top of the B.C. pecking order.

“There were a lot of good teams there so it’s definitely a confidence booster to have

success in a tournament like that,” said Crusaders coach Matt LeChasseur. “Hopefully we can build off this when the playoffs start this week.”

The Crusaders opened the tourney by beating Regina’s Balfour Collegiate 96-72. Joaquin Bennett-Boire led the way with 23 points while Taylor Browne and Henry Maduabueke helped out with 20 and 19, respectively.

Next up for fourth ranked Holy Cross was the Burnaby South Rebels in the semifinals. Maduabueke had a huge game with 21 points, but the Crusaders needed a buzzer-beating three pointer from Browne at the end to escape with a 69-66 win.

With the host Kelowna Owls pulling off the upset of the Gators in the other semifinal, the championship final was standing room only on Saturday night.

“They haven’t won their tournament in a while so they were really jacked,” LeChasseur said. “The place was packed and there was a really great atmosphere. Kelowna played really well but they had trouble matching up with us.”

Holy Cross seized control of the contest in the second quarter where they outscored the Owls 16-9 to take a 36-30 lead into the break. The Crusaders padded their lead in the third frame before cruising to a 76-64 win.

Bennett-Boire was the top marksman for Holy Cross with 26 points and four assists while Maduabueke chipped in with 21.

“We were treating this tournament as our last opportunity for prepping for playoffs and the guys responded well,” LeChasseur said. “Winning this tournament meant a lot in terms of coming together as a group. We’ve been trying to focus on that and we want to make sure we’re playing at our peak at this time of the year. We worked well as a unit and ran our set plays well so it was a good weekend for us. The guys are buying into it and we’re seeing the results as well.”

Browne, Maduabueke and Bennett-Boire were all named to the tournament all-star team while LeChasseur singled out Bright Dododza and Alex Asperin for their contributions throughout the weekend.