South locks up league banner

One banner is back.

Now, to defend the big one.

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The Burnaby South Rebels earned full marks for a powerful performance Monday when they bested the New Westminster Hyacks 94-64 to reclaim the Burnaby-New West senior boys basketball playoff title.

They did it despite a case of fatigue from a three-game tourney run in Kelowna on the weekend.

After New West scored first, the Rebels fired off the next 12 points in an early burst of energy, but were up by just six after one quarter. Leading by 11 at halftime, Burnaby South found its legs and reeled off 31 points in the third quarter to power ahead 70-47 and cruised from there.

It wasn’t a perfect outing, but South coach Mike Bell said the players did a good job of pushing through it.

“We played really tired, but after travelling to Kelowna and getting three tough games there, it wasn’t a surprise,” said Bell. “Both teams were a bit sloppy at times (in the third quarter) and we got a few more shots off.”

Grade 12 guard Kyle Kirmaci lit it up for 24 points, two rebounds and two steals, while Sasha Vujisic knocked down 20 points and eight rebounds.

Contributing 10 points, seven boards and four steals was Grade 10 guard Justin Sunga.

It returned the Burnaby-New West banner to the south slope after a two-year reign by the Byrne Creek Bulldogs, which placed third on the strength of a 95-59 triumph over Burnaby North.

In that pairing, the Bulldogs bolted out to a 29-10 advantage after 10 minutes, with Chidubem Nkoloaga cashing in nine of his team’s points. The Vikings closed the gap with a solid second half where they outpaced Byrne 24-19, but the Bulldogs restaked the margin at 76-44, with Sufi Ahmed racking up 20 points over 30 minutes. Jay Esquivel counted 10 points for Burnaby North.

Earning tourney all-star honours were South’s Khan and Kirmaci, New West’s A.J. Chol and Ethan Rivas, Byrne’s Bithow Wan and North’s Curtis Alsop.

The Western Canadian tournament in Kelowna saw the Rebels measure themselves against some talented teams, ending with an 85-74 loss in the final to Vincent Massey of Winnipeg.

The squads were deadlocked 32-32 at halftime, but Massey went on a 27-12 run in the third quarter to grab control. Burnaby South countered in the final 10 minutes, outscoring the Winnipeg team 30-26 but came up short. Sunga fired a team-high 22 points with seven rebounds and eight steals. Khan reached a double-double, scoring 16 points and hauling down 14 rebounds, while the team’s two tall men, Aidan Wilson and Sasha Vujisic, were held to just eight points apiece.

Behind a 27-point, 13-rebound effort from Vujisic, Burnaby South defeated Cardston 78-55 in the opener, with Matt Pineda racking up 12 points and three steals. In the semifinal, the Rebels took down host and honourably mentioned Kelowna 89-55, led by Kimaci’s 32 points and five steals. He tied the tourney record with nine treys in the game.

Picking up the Most Inspirational Award was Khan, while he joined Sunga on the first all-star squad. Kirmaci was named to the second all-star team.

“(Massey) is a very strong team,” remarked Bell. “I think everyone on their starting lineup was six-feet plus. They are tall, long and well coached. … (Khan) did a great job for us (against Kelowna’s shooting guard Hunter Simson) and held him to just three points all game. That was the game right there.

“Justin was just an animal for us in the tournament. He came out and played amazingly.”

The Lower Mainlands start next week, with provincially No. 2-ranked South guaranteed a game at home. Also qualifying for the 4-A tournament are New West, Burnaby North, Moscrop and Burnaby Central.

Byrne Creek, who are ranked No. 6 in 3-A, will kick off its Lower Mainlands next week as well, while 2-A Cariboo Hill will compete for a berth in their zone, beginning Feb. 21 in Vancouver.

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