The small school from South Surrey almost climbed to the top of senior boys high school basketball in this city.
But in the championship game of the Surrey RCMP Classic, the Southridge Storm fell 73-65 to the defending champion Tamanawis Wildcats before 450 fans Saturday night at Enver Creek Secondary.
“It was tough, I think we had opportunities to pull it out,” said Southridge head coach Steve Anderson. “But in the end, Tamanawis did a good job and hit buckets when they needed to.”
The runner-up finish was the best-ever by the Storm, currently ranked number-one in a provincial poll of Senior 2A teams. The best previous result by Southridge was a third-place finish in 2009, one of just three top five-placings in the 24 year history of the tournament
Tamanawis is two tiers higher, listed as an honorable mention in the 4A category, but was given a very tough test Saturday night.
“It was a tough game,” said Wildcats coach Doug MacKenzie. “They’re a very disciplined team, they just run their set and they don’t make mistakes.
Our guys really had to compose themselves to get some big stops and run our offense.”
The championship game was deadlocked 35-35 at half time, and although the Storm took a brief five-point lead early in the second half, the Wildcats surged to a 58-50 advantage with seven minutes to go.
The momentum swung in favour of Southridge for the next five minutes, starting when Dominic Clayton hit a trey and Hunter Hughes followed up seconds later with an easy layup after a steal. Sam Chan of the Storm then went to the line, was successful on his first attempt, then missed the second. But Hughes out jumped everyone to put back the rebound and pull Southridge into a 58-58 tie.
Hughes added another field goal with just under two minutes to play for a 61-60 Storm lead, but it was all Wildcats over the final 100 seconds. Grade 9 point guard Miguel Tomley hit a three-point shot from the top of the arc to put Tamanawis in the lead at 63-61, and the Wildcats went six-of-10 from the free-throw line in the final minute to stay in front.
Despite the loss, Hughes was recognized for his huge game in the final, earning the tournament Most Valuable Player (MVP) award. The six-foot-seven Grade 11 forward scored 32 points, dominated the boards with 23 rebounds, and was a force defensively with five blocks.
“He’s a fabulous player,” said Anderson. “He can finish it under the basket, grab a rebound. I tell you, we basically rode his back down the stretch and he helped us get to this position. It was wonderful that they acknowledged his play although we didn’t win the tournament.”
Hughes became the fifth player from a team which lost in the championship game to win the MVP award. Ravi Athwal of the Enver Creek Cougars was the most recent MVP from the losing team, winning the honor in 2006.
Tomley, the Player of the Game for the Wildcats, was another impressive young player in the tournament. The Grade 9 point guard netted 17 points, and was a go-to player in the final minutes.
“We’re very confident in what he can do,” said MacKenzie. “He’s a very skilled player and a very confident player.”
Gary Sahota was the top scorer for the Wildcats with 18 points, with Sagar Dulay adding 16 and Harnoor Sangha adding 12.
Chan also scored in double digits, contributing 16 to the Storm total.
The Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers claimed third place in the tournament by defeating the Fleetwood Park Dragons 69-43. Tweedsmuir, which fell 79-61 to Southridge in Friday night’s semifinal round, was paced by Justin Rudio with 18 points, Justin Mason with 13 and and Aldrin Valencia with 12.
The Dragons, who trailed just 28-23 at the half, got 10 points from Emeka Okuma and placed fifth. Fleetwood Park dropped a close 73-67 decision to Tamanawis in the other semifinal game Friday night.
The Semiahmoo Totems earned a fourth place finish with a 75-49 victory over the Enver Creek Cougars. Brian Spanier with 19 points paced the Semiahmoo scoring, which also received 15 points from Curtis Harvey, 14 from Johnson Hu and 11 from Patrick Dujmovic.
Enver Creek was led by Harsimran Nagra with 16 points and Andrew Murison with 14.