Neither team wanted their season to end this way, playing for third as the opening act to the AAA B.C. boys basketball championship final.
On Saturday night at the Langley Events Centre, the Kitsilano Blue Demons and St. George’s Saints met in the third-place consolation game after losing in Friday’s semi-final to White Rock Christian Academy and Walnut Grove, respectively.
St. George’s came away with the win, defeating Kitsilano 85-66.
(Walnut Grove appeared in their second consecutive championship game, this time coming out on top with a 59-53 win over White Rock.)
The low-energy third-place game had little to compare to the last time the West Side Vancouver rivals met, except for the result. A year ago February, Saints beat the Demons by two points in the Lower Mainland final, a thrilling game decided in the last second after an embattled season of off-court politics.
Both teams rallied Saturday night for a competitive game, their last of the 2013 campaign.
“This could have been the B.C. final,” said Saints head coach Bill Disbrow before tip-off. “This is not going to be easy. I think our guys are ready to play very hard. It’s not fair to do anything but your best and we’re going to try like hell. I’m sure Kits is ready. I think they’re B.C.’s most talented team and it’s not going to be easy no matter what.”
Kitsilano, however, wasn’t at their best. By the third quarter, St. George’s had knocked down 18 points off Kitsilano turnovers, and Deklan Chung, who had a game-high 29 points, sunk a three-pointer to give the Saints a 31-point lead.
The graduating senior was named the player of the game. He also took home honours as the best defensive player of the tournament.
“I feel like it’s a great way to end my high school career,” said Chung. “I felt like we brought it and we played our game. We just stayed positive and these guys, everyone has such a good attitude that it was easy.”
Players off the Kitsilano’s bench saw more minutes than they had all season, and the fresh faces brought renewed energy along with 29 points in the losing effort. The Demons outscored the Saints by six points in the fourth quarter, but trailed by an insurmountable margin.
Kitsilano centre Luka Zaharijevic said losing to White Rock Christian the night before was a “heart breaker.” The Demons lost 72-74, the winning points coming with only five seconds left in the game. Kitsilano had 2.9 seconds for a sideline inbound play but could not get a shot off.
“I’d rather lose by one, two instead of 15, 20,” he said. “I felt like we just gave 150 per cent yesterday. We have nothing to hang our heads about.”
Zaharijevic had 24 points and 15 rebounds against White Rock and followed that double-double with another; he had 15 points and 14 rebounds against St. George’s. In the two games, he went seven for eight from the line.
“I think we were just very tired from last night’s game,” he said after the loss to St. George’s. “We gave it our all, we left it all on the floor. Our legs looked pretty heavy. We didn’t have much energy but we never quit. It was the fatigue factor.
“Over all our season was amazing. We are proud.”
The Kitsilano players, coaches and several parents boarded a flight Sunday morning bound for China. The team will tour and play for two weeks.
Before the game, Kitsilano assistant coach Trevor Mills said the key to winning was motivation. “The key is definitely getting up for the game, getting focused, raising the intensity and coming back after the loss last night. We’re leaving first thing tomorrow but first thing first is taking care of business and taking the game seriously.”
He said the mood after the loss to White Rock, which lost the championship 53-59 to Walnut Grove, was “healthy mourning.”
“We worked really hard this season and we know that we had a lot of good things happen. There was definitely a solemn moment but I think the boys helped each other through it,” he said. “One of the things we did in the locker room was that we went through it like any other game. We went through the game plan and took it like any other game with a bit of an emphasis for the seniors since it’s their last time.”
Disbrow said motivating the Saints for the third-place game was essential but not easy after a 60-71 loss to Walnut Grove, a team that draws hundreds of loud fans to the Langley Events Centre, which neighbours the school.
“We really believed we would be in the final. I’m sure [Kitsilano] had the same feeling. It isn’t an easy thing. Because this team has gotten along so well — there is so much love in our locker room — that they want for each other to have their last memory be a good one, a positive one. And the only thing that really makes you feel good is how hard you work at it. Even if it doesn’t work out, if you busted your butt you can deal with that. But if you don’t, then it’s different.”
Zaharijevic and St. George’s Drew Urquhart, a six-foot-seven Grade 11 student who will continue to stand out next year, were named to the first all-star team. Chung was named to the second all-star team and Churchill’s Mindy Minhas, whose Bulldogs finished 13th overall, was named to the third all-star team.