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STM Knights win AAA boys' hoop banner

St. Thomas More won its first B.C. high school provincial boys' basketball title in almost 40 years with defensive win over Charles Hayes on Saturday
St. Thomas More's Terrell Jana, in white, was named a second team all-star following the Knights' win over Charles Hayes in the AAA boys' basketball final on Saturday

The St. Thomas More Knights won their first B.C. high school boys’ basketball banner in nearly four decades at the Langley Events Centre on Saturday.

The No. 2-ranked Knights defeated upstart honourable mention Charles Hayes Rainmakers 53-38 in the championship final of the B.C. AAA boys’ championships to win their first provincial title in 38 years.

The Knights played stout defence and rode twin double-doubles by Andrew Flett – with 11 points and 10 rebounds – and tournament MVP Reese Morris, who had a game-high 16 points and 12 boards.

“It means the world to me, to play for my coach, my teammates, my parents and make everyone proud. It feels great,” said Flett, who was named player of the game in the final.

STM coach Aaron Mitchell was similarly elated.

“I could tell you of our struggles, but every team has them,” he said after the game. “We had our struggles, but we fought, we fought and we fought. We got the shots when it mattered. I’m just blown away.”

STM allowed the Rainmakers the opening basket by 6-10 first team all-start Justin McChesney, but the Knights took the lead after that and never relinquished it, jumping out to a 15-7 lead.

But unlike STM’s tighter-than-necessary 73-71 win over top seed Abbotsford in the semifinal the night before, the provincial champs had to rely on defence before offence to get the job done.

“We are a physical, athletic school. What’s going to win it for us is defence,” said Mitchell.

J.J. DesLauriers, who led the Knights with 25 points in the win over Abby, had no problem scrapping out the win at the other end of the court.

“Every practice we do defensive-minded practices, he said. “We let defence score our points – boards and transition. Team defence won it for us. … It’s the greatest feeling ever.”

But the difference maker in all our of STM’s wins was the consistent play of Morris, who garnered a total of 88 points in the tournament, including 20-plus games in the first three contests.

In the championship final, Morris had seven points in the opening-quarter run and came up big at key moments of the second half, nailing a three-pointer in the third quarter to give STM a double-digit lead.

He also started the final frame with a three and a putback on the following possession to push the lead to 17 points.

But it was Drew Belgrave’s lone three-point bucket with two minutes to go that was the dagger in the heart of any Charles Hayes comeback.

“It’s the best moment of my life. The best basketball moment I’ve ever had,” said Morris. “My shots weren’t dropping, I knew that, but (the team) pulled us through. I’m so proud.”

Junior guard Terrell Jana earned a spot on the second all-star team, following a tournament 52 points, 18 assists and 16 steals.

In the semifinal, STM showed the poise of a champion, leading the No. 1-ranked team in the province coming into the tournament for all but a brief moment in the third quarter.

Leading by just three points heading into the final stanza, Jana put the Knights ahead by nine points with an early three-point play.

Later, Morris upped the lead to a dozen on an offensive putback.

But Abby made it interesting, raining five fourth-quarter threes in an attempt to get back in the game.

At the end of the semifinal, one Knight player yelled out, “It’s our year.”

On Saturday, the Knights went out and proved it.