The Semiahmoo Thunderbirds gave the Eastside Catholic Crusaders all they could handle, but in the end, their long-distance attempt at the buzzer was off the mark.
The last-second shot from Torian Lee would have forced overtime as the Surrey school lost 80-77 against the Sammamish, Wash.-based Crusaders as the two basketball teams staged an exhibition game at Langley Events Centre on Friday night.
The Crusaders play out of the Seattle Metro League while Semiahmoo is currently the top-ranked BC School Sports 4A Boys Basketball rankings.
Semiahmoo led 21-19 after a quarter and extended the lead to 10, 35-25 at the half.
“I don’t know if I can say it …but it was a lot of curse words,” said Eastside Catholic coach Brent Merritt on what was said inside the locker room during the intermission. “Just turn up the intensity. We were lazy, we weren’t playing defence, we weren’t solid, we weren’t staying in front of our guys, we weren’t boxing out. You name it, we weren’t doing it.”
The players must have taken the message to heart as they came out and quickly took control in the third quarter, using their size advantage to pound the ball inside to take a 63-59 lead with a period to play. Yabi Aklog – a freshman (Grade 9) 6-10 forward/centre who was just recently promoted to the Varsity team – led the way with 11 of his 15 points in the quarter.
“We came out strong, really intense. They just wore us down a little bit in the third; we didn’t rotate on the big and I thought he really took it to us,” Lee said, adding that rotating and talking on defence were their team’s biggest problems on the night, and both can be fixed with practice and communication.
The Thunderbirds did have a better fourth quarter, even knotting the score at 70 but Eastside Catholic’s Nate Krohn hit a 3-pointer for the wing to give his team the lead for good. Semiahmoo did have opportunities, including grabbing a pair of offensive rebounds to get shots off in a one-possession game, but they could not convert.
The Crusaders’ Jacob Cofie – a 6-10 Grade 11 who plays all 3 positions and has received six NCAA scholarship offers already – led his team with 25 points while Cole Bekkering (19 points) and Lee (18 points) led Semiahmoo.
Merritt was impressed by the Canadians, especially Lee.
“They are a very talented team and I liked the way they moved the ball,” the coach said.
“And (Lee) is pretty fast – we saw him on film a little bit (but) it didn’t do him justice. We have some pretty quick guards too, but they were like ‘coach, he’s so fast, I need to back off him’ and that’s the first time I have had our guards say we have to give him a little space, so huge compliment to him; he’s a great player.”