Burnaby South had its best finish at the B.C. high school boys’ basketball championships since the Rebels last won the provincial banner in 1979.
The Rebels finished in fifth place at the B.C. quad-A championships, following a workman-like 60-57 victory over the fourth-ranked Gleneagle Talons at the Langley Events Centre on Saturday.
The final placement was also the best finish of any Burnaby district school since Burnaby Central last placed second in 1991.
South, ranked 10th going into the championship tournament, also defeated defending champion and former No. 1-ranked Walnut Grove 80-57 to advance to the fifth-place matchup.
The day before, South lost 74-60 to the top-ranked and eventual bronze medalists Tamanawis Wildcats.
“Those two teams we beat were both ranked No. 1 at some point in the year,” said South head coach David Smith. “It’s not easy to come back after a loss like that. It showed a lot of character.”
Second team all-star Jermaine Haley led South with a game-high 22 points with four blocked shots and four steals in the final. He also led all scorers in the win over Walnut Grove with 26.
Teammates Martin Bogajev chipped in with 21 and Tyus Batiste came away with 16, while Djordje Obradovic added 13 points and nine rebounds against the Langley school.
“Obviously we feel great. Losing to the No. 1 team in the province was a tough one. In our Walnut Grove game, we came out – we were mad. We were mad we lost to the top team,” said Obradovic. “We came out to win those two games and we are proud.”
But the win over Gleneagle was unlike most Rebel victories.
In the early Saturday morning matchup, South had to don its collective hard hats and let its pick-pocket defence do much much of the work.
It resulted in 21 points off turnovers and kept the Talons’ shooters below 33 per cent shooting for the first three quarters.
“I think everyone is happy with that win, but unhappy we’re not playing in the final,” said Haley, who was named player of the game on Saturday. “After the (loss), it was a bounce-back game and we wanted to prove we could play better and we showed that against Grove and Gleneagle.”
Against the Talons, Smith started his senior bench in a classy move that is seldom seen on the final day of the championship side of the draw.
South led by a point after the opening quarter and took a 19-17 lead midway through the second stanza on back-to-back dunks by Haley, his first two of three in the quarter.
Nick Trninic came on in the third quarter and played some quality minutes, finishing off a three-point play to go up by nine heading into the final quarter.
The final result was closer than it needed to be as South made just one of eight free throws down the stretch, allowing Gleneagle to close the deficit to three.
“It probably won’t sink in for a couple of weeks, but we really did accomplish something here. We did pretty good – really good,” Smith added. “It was a real challenge bringing this team together and playing as a team, and it’s a tribute to those kids who really put in the time.”
Senior South point guard Taylor Smith earned a Telus scholarship following the provincials.
In the championship final, Sir Winston Churchill won its first-ever B.C. high school title 67-64 over Holy Cross.