Five Vancouver teams swept to B.C.'s high school boys' AAA basketball championships March 13 to 17 at the Langley Events Centre, and the Fighting Irish of Vancouver College reached the Final Four to make the deepest run of city schools in a deeply talented tournament.
Port Coquitlam's Terry Fox Ravens were crowned provincial champs after scoring in the final seconds of Saturday's final, beating Langley's Walnut Grove Gators 75-74.
But the curse of Vancouver College's Fighting Irish-if you believe in such things-wouldn't be broken this year.
The Irish have competed at provincials more than any other school in B.C. but their 47 appearances in the tournament's 67-year history haven't translated to a championship since 1967.
They have won as many championships- five-as they've been the runner-up and have an overall record of 113 wins and 61 losses, including their 2-2 output this year. Two single-point games kept the Irish from adding two more to the win column.
In their first game March 14, they defeated Belmont 73-44 and in the Elite Eight held on to a slim lead to defeat the No. 1 ranked Kelowna Owls 78-76. Against the Walnut Grove Gators Friday night, a win would have put the Irish through to the championship final but they couldn't dig out of an early two-digit deficit after relinquishing an early lead. They lost 61-60 to a Gators team already expected at future championship finals.
In the consolation game Saturday night, the Irish met White Rock Christian to play for pride and third place. The dispirited Irish started the St. Patrick's Day match slowly and trailed the holy-named Christian Warriors by as much as 23 points before the half.
In the locker room, head coach Lloyd Scrubb had a few choice words for his team.
"We challenged a few guys on their effort and said, 'You can do better.' We talked about what we would run on defence and we executed on those things and it seemed to work out."
In the latter 20 minutes, Vancouver College closed the gap and improved from 41 to 56 per cent from the field. After trailing by 16 at the half, the Irish outscored White Rock 22-19 in the third quarter and 35-23 in the fourth.
But the damage was done. The Irish came up just short, losing 95-96 to finish fourth.
"We play for this," said Scrubb. "But you get knocked out of life and you have to pick yourself up. For us, it's part of Vancouver College tradition-we're not going to come out here and give a half effort. Obviously, we didn't play our best to start the game but by the end we showed how we can play."
St. George's Saints lost an over-time thriller in the opening round but rallied to win their next three, including a victory over Mount Douglas in their final game to finish sixth overall.
The Point Grey 'Hounds, unranked through the regular season, went 2-2 to finish just outside the top 10.
Kitsilano's Blue Demons lost three in a row, including a resounding 65-106 defeat to Mount Douglas, before winning their fourth and final game of the tournament.
The Tupper Tigers opened with a win before losing to Pitt Meadows, the No. 1 team from the Fraser Valley. Two more wins put them at 13th overall.
Tupper's Cameron Smythe etched his name in the record book as one of the all-time leading scorers in tournament history. With 179 points in five games (including a 50-point performance against the Mount Baker Wild on Saturday), Smythe became the all-time greatest point scorer at a single B.C. championship.
He edged out Adam Friesen of Yale whose 169 points in five games stood for 12 years.
After 13 games in three consecutive tournament appearances since 2010, Smythe slips behind former Richmond Colt Pasha Bains for the second alltime best career points total. He had 278 points and 21.3 average points per game, behind Bains' all-time best 317 total and 26.4 game average.
Isaiah Solomon of Vancouver College was named a first-team all-star while teammate Cole Penman and Tupper's Smythe were named to the second all-star team. St. George's Milan Mitrovic was named to the third all-star team.
Penman and Smythe each received one of five Telus scholarships from the tournament sponsor for sport, academics and community work.