A slow third quarter may have cost the St. Thomas More Knights a second B.C. high school boys' basketball title.
The Burnaby independent was outscored 16-5 in the opening 10 minutes of the second half and never quite recovered en route to a 70-56 loss to Mission Roadrunners in the boys' gold-medal final in Kamloops Saturday.
"We got caught up in their slow style and they killed us on the boards," said STM head coach Aaron Mitchell. "We feed off transition and our half court, and we couldn't do that against their two-three zone."
First team tournament all-star guard Denzel Laguerta led the Knights with 14 points, including three from beyond the arc. Grade 11 forward and second team all-star Giovanni Trasolini chipped in with 10 points and nine rebounds.
STM's best quarter was the second. Honourable mention all-star Mikey Carney sparked a Knights' rally, gunning two three-pointers to close the deficit to 26-24.
Ben Hieltjes shaved the gap to a single point with a pair of successful free throws with three minutes left in the opening half.
Junior call-up Jalen Jana, who had 13 points in the game, kept the deficit at one point with a transition bucket with seven seconds left on the clock in the second quarter.
"There is no way we aren't happy. We had an amazing run," Mitchell added. STM won a previous B.C. AA title in the 1980s. The Knights also made it to the final four last season.
The fourth-ranked Knights upset provincial No. 3 G.W. Graham 72-55 in the semifinal on Friday to advance to the championship final against the topranked Roadrunners.
Carney had a monster game for the Knights, scoring 22 points and grabbing nine rebounds in the win.
The senior STM guard went eightfor-11 from the floor, including two-of-three from downtown, while netting all four of his free throws.
In the pivotal second half, STM outgunned Graham 23-8 in the third quarter that included nine points from Carney in a runaway 17-0 scoring streak to start the quarter.
"I knew we had good kids and it would pay off this year. Our goal was to get this group to the provincials," Mitchell said.
STM opened the provincials with a 67-42 win over Abbotsford Christian on March 7.
Laguerta led the squad with 18 points, while Carney and Andrew Morris added 17 and 14 points, respectively. Trasolini also shot in double figures for the Knights.
On the second day, STM moved into the final four following a 65-45 victory over No. 6-ranked St. Michael's University School on Friday.
Four Knights reached double-digit scoring in the game, including Trasolini, who scored a double-double with a team-high 15 points and 10 boards. Morris added 14 points, while Carney and Laguerta posted a dozen points apiece.
Luke Morris of Mission was named the MVP at the B.C.s.