White Rock Christian finishes third at hoops provincials

Through the first few days of BC High School Boys Basketball Championships, the White Rock Christian Academy Warriors proved to be giant killers, knocking off a pair of higher-seeded teams.

But in semifinal action Friday, WRCA's streak was snapped after a 73-64 loss to perhaps the only team that was hotter than they were – Port Coquitlam's Terry Fox Ravens, who one game before had knocked off a tournament favourite themselves, the No. 2-seeded Pitt Meadows Marauders.

The Warriors, who were seeded 14th and had to win a play-in game last Tuesday simply to advance to the tourney's main draw, rebounded Saturday evening in the bronze-medal game, beating the Vancouver College Fighting Irish 96-95.

Terry Fox, meanwhile, went on to capture the provincial title with a one-point victory over Langley Walnut Grove Gators.

"It was an excellent week," said WRCA coach Dale Shury. "I told the guys on Saturday before the game, that it was more rewarding to win that night and get bronze, than it would be to lose the gold-medal game and finish second, and they went out and played a good game."

Senior forward Jake Newman led the Warriors in scoring throughout the tournament, and was at his best Saturday, leading his team with a 32-point, eight-rebound effort. He averaged 23.4 points-per-game, good for fourth-best in the tourney, and was named to the provincial first-team all-star squad.

"Jake really put this team on his back," said WRCA point guard Tyus Allen.

White Rock forward Kristophe Baerg was named to a third-team all-star, and WRCA was also awarded the School Spirit Award, which they've won numerous times in the past.

Before losing to Terry Fox, White Rock pulled off a pair of upsets, first beating No. 3 seed St. George's 63-62 in overtime in the opening round, and then knocking off the rival Tamanawis Wildcats in the Round of 8 Thursday.

Against the Saints, WRCA saw a late lead evaporate, and then needed a basket from Newman with nine seconds left in overtime to finally retake the lead. St. George's Declan Chung had a chance to win the game with a pair of free throws with 2 seconds left, but missed both.

"I never thought we were going to lose," said Shury. "I was confident we'd hold on to win – even if, in the end, we were the ones who had to make a comeback."

The irony of winning the game thanks to a pair of missed free throws was not lost on Shury, who pointed out that if his squad hadn't missed so many foul shots themselves, the game never would not have got to overtime.

"Coming down the stretch, we had so many free throws, so many chance to ice the game, but just couldn't do it," Shury said.

"We had a couple hundreds fans out to watch, a lot of students from the school… maybe the boys missed those free throws on purpose just to give the fans full value for the money, I don't know."

The third-place finish is the Warriors' best since finishing second in 2010, and is a marked improvement over last season, where they failed to qualify for provincials at all, breaking a 12-year streak.

And it brings a positive end to an often tumultuous year for the Warriors, who struggled on the court at times after Christmas, and could have seen their season derailed at the start of the playofffs when head coach John Dykstra resigned his post.

"It was a very important win for our school, considering we didn't make it last year," Shury said. "And the guys are a real resilient bunch. They were able to put all the off-the-court distractions aside and just go play basketball."

It's the second time in five years that WRCA finished in the top-four despite having to win a Tuesday's play-in contest. In 2007, the Warriors were a 14-seed, and had to beat Caledonia (Terrace) to advance to the main draw. From there, they advanced to semifinals, where they lost to Kitsilano, and ended up placing fourth.

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