It was the King George Dragons and the Santa Margarita Eagles taking home the hardware from the 2023 Tsumura Basketball Invitational Boys Tournament.
With the 32-team tournament split into a pair of 16-team brackets, the Dragons won the Select 16 title 76-64 over the St. Thomas More Collegiate Knights while the Eagles soared to an 85-32 victory over the St. Patrick Celtics in the Super 16 championship game. Both games were played on Saturday at Langley Events Centre, wrapping up four days of basketball action.
King George 76 St. Thomas More Collegiate 64
Having a depleted line-up with injuries and sickness during a busy stretch, the King George Dragons had every excuse to not be at their best. Yet there they were at the end, hoisting the championship trophy following a 76-64 win over the St. Thomas More Collegiate Knights.
“It was just grit. Nine games in 11 days with six kids playing a lot,” marveled Dragons head coach Darko Kulic. “We just showed the heart of a champion.”
While they many not have had their full complement of players available, the ones who were able to go, more than did their job. The Grade 12 trio of Faisal Shawwa, Andre Novicic and Darko Karac led the way with 29, 18 and 15 points, respectively. Karac was also selected Most Valuable Player.The Knights – who only have two Grade 12s on the roster – were led by 30 points from Grade 11 guard Shane Deza.
“All credit to STM – wonderful coaching, wonderful team, wonderful players – they are going to win some big, big (games),” Karac said.
But in Saturday’s final, the experienced Dragons built an eight-point advantage late in the third quarter and then maintained that cushion through to the final buzzer, holding the Knights to 10 points over the final 10 minutes. It was the second straight game the team used a strong fourth to secure the victory after they erased an 18-point second-half deficit in Friday’s semi-final, holding their opponent to nine points in the fourth quarter of a 72-71 win over the Heritage Woods Kodiaks.
“One of the big things with (Seattle Seahawks coach) Pete Carroll is you don’t win it in the first, you don’t win it in the second, you don’t win it in the third, but you win games in the end, in the fourth,” Kulic said. “They never stopped.”
Other Day 3 scores:
St. Michaels University School 77 G.W. Graham 52
South Kamloops 69 Wellington 66
Claremont 66 Steveston-London 59
North Delta 72 Sullivan Heights 48
Centennial 97 Sir Charles Tupper 69
Sir Winston Churchill 83 Heritage Woods 76
A.R. MacNeill 86 South Delta 65
Santa Margarita 85 St. Patrick 32
The Santa Margarita Eagles came north with work to do.
The California squad came to Langley Events Centre and the TBI and head coach Justin Bell wanted to use the trip as a way to bond and set the path for what lay ahead.
“We started our season 3-3 and our defence wasn’t as good as it needed to be,” he admitted. “And sometimes at home it is hard to focus when they have so many distractions and things going on, so it was good to get away and get them to understand what being a team is and putting all the pieces together.”
“(Here) we were able to bond, we had a lot of team meetings to talk about our defensive effort and get guys into their roles.”
In Saturday’s championship final – which pitted them against another Catholic school in Vancouver’s St. Patrick Celtics – the teams were tied at 8 late in the first quarter before the Eagles found another gear to the tune of a 20-2 run into the next period. By halftime, the score was 48-15 and Santa Margarita was on their way to a fourth-straight blowout victory.
Offensively, the Eagles were the model of consistency with 83, 83, 84 and 85 points per game, while on the defensive end they allowed an average of 40.25 points per game. The 38 and 32 points they allowed in the semi-final and championship game were their two best defensive performances over the four days.
Tobias Averill was named the Most Valuable Player, largely based on his defensive play at the tournament.
He also shared the Eagles scoring lead on Saturday as both he and Ethan Rhee finished with a dozen points apiece. Jovin Sunner and Ethan Santa Juana had eight points each for the Celtics.
Other Day 3 scores:
Fleetwood Park 76 Byrne Creek 71
Elgin Park 65 Dover Bay 61
Spectrum 60 Burnaby South 56
Holy Cross 59 Terry Fox 49
St. George’s 94 St. Mary’s 71
Brookswood 76 Walnut Grove 69
Kelowna 109 Lord Byng 81
Up next will be the Tsumura Basketball Invitational Girls Tournament, which once again features 32 of the top teams in a pair of 16-team brackets. All TBI games are free to attend. For those unable to make it out to LEC, game can be streamed free of charge at TFSETV.ca. For schedule and scores, please visit www.langleyeventscentre.com/tbi