Vancouver College Collects Third Straight Emerald Championship in 6’8 Abu Khan’s Coming Out Party!
NPH TOP PERFORMERS
- Ryan Sclater– 38 points
- Jesse Crookes- 21 points
VANCOUVER,BC–When the Vancouver College Fighting Irish devised a game-plan for the championship final of their home tournament, it likely didn’t involve taking away their offensively-dominant backcourt.
Cole Penman and Isaiah Solomon, two talented lead guards who share the Irish’s point guard responsibilities just as well as they share the basketball, had been instrumental in Vancouver College’s first two wins of the 47th annual Emerald Tournament.
And even apart from Penman and Solomon – shooting guard and three-point assassin Erickson Evangelista had been the catalyst in a convincing semifinal win over Burnaby South the night before.
So why rely on 6-foot-8 Abu Khan to do all the work?
“Part of it was that his teammates didn’t have confidence in him,” said Vancouver College co-head coach Lloyd Scrubb.
“Now he’s had a couple good games and he’s really starting to get built up. He’s the key.”
He certainly was the key to the Irish’s 83-69 win over the Terry Fox Ravens in the tournament’s final on Saturday, Jan. 21. Khan had 29 points and 15 rebounds, capturing the tournament’s MVP honours in the process.
The senior post player restored a consistent inside presence to a team that was sorely lacking one in the first half of the year, and has been for the last few seasons.
“I think the last legitimate big man we had, in my memory being here, was Marc Trasolini, and we’ve not had anybody since then as it’s hard to find another player like that,” said Scrubb.
“But it’s a luxury right? We’re basically football players and a few guards, so having someone like Abu, with his wingspan, just makes such a big difference on the defensive end.”
Khan’s ability to step up when it mattered couldn’t have come at a more important time. Terry Fox’s 6-foot-7 do-it-all Ryan Sclater was burning VC in the opening minutes of the final as the Ravens burst out to an 8-2 lead, much to the dismay of a packed house of passionate Fighting Irish fans.
Sclater, along with point guard Daniel Collins, anchored the Raven’s defense and caused an array of problems for the home team in the first quarter. Collins had five steals in that opening frame, but the Irish weren’t ready to melt down and end a two-year streak as Emerald champions.
Evangelista, the hero of the semifinal, picked up where he left off a night before by connecting on a three to give the Irish a 13-12 lead with just over two minutes to go in the first.
Sclater and sixth man Jesse Crookes both responded with deep buckets of their own, and put the visitors up 18-17 heading into the second stanza.
Then the Irish opened the second with a 15-4 run, advancing them to a 32-22 lead midway through quarter. This time it was Fox’s turn to respond, as they turned up the defensive pressure and finished the first half on an 11-4 run, cutting the deficit to 36-33.
Sclater and Crookes combined for 29 of the Ravens 33 point in the first 20 minutes, with 18 and 11 respectively. Khan had already pumped in 16 as he managed to continuously find holes in Fox’s interior defence.
“We say this all of the time: ‘Hey guys, so they’ve had a little run, so let’s make a stop, and we got to have 40 minutes of concentrating and not making silly mistakes,” said Scrubb.
“But those things happen in a game. They’re a tough team, they’re not going to give up, and we knew that coming in so we expect it, and then we just had to refocus and keep battling.”
Vancouver College bolted out to another big run in the third and looked poised to put the game away before it even reached the final frame. Down 13 and running down the clock for the last possession of the quarter, Crookes patiently waited for his opportunity to attack the stifling Irish defence.
The only problem is that there was no opportunity, so Crookes was forced to heave up a desperation shot from beyond the arc before the buzzer sounded.
And he nailed it.
But in the fourth and deciding quarter, the Fighting Irish wouldn’t let the Ravens gain any momentum. The closest Fox got was within eight points after a three from Sclater at the three-minute mark, but untimely fouls and offensive struggles led to their demise.
“They were better in the half court than we were, that’s what it comes down to,’ said Terry Fox head coach Steve Hanson. “Against their pressure we were attacking, and when they got back we didn’t score. They had a tough time in the half court. Offensively, we just weren’t very good tonight.”
Despite Vancouver College’s lockdown defence, Sclater was able to unload for a 38-point performance, garnering him the award for the best offensive player in the final. Justin Sanvido, one of the stars of the varsity football team, was assigned to Sclater for most of the game, and was awarded the honour of best defensive player in the final.
“Cole got into some early foul trouble, and Justin just works so hard that we put him on him [Sclater] in the second half,” said Scrubb. “So for Ryan to go up against Cole, who’s a very tough defender, then Justin, it makes it difficult for him. It doesn’t matter who you put on him, but he worked hard for those 38. He probably could have had 50 if we didn’t have those guys guarding him.”
Crookes finished with 21 points for Terry Fox, while Evangelista had 19 and Solomon contributed with 17.
In the consolation final, Nick Irvine paced Burnaby South with 29 points, guiding the Rebels to a 62-55 win over a scrappy Mission Roadrunners squad. The two Lukes, (or Lucs), Morris and Comeau, combined for 40 points on the night, 18 for the former and 20 for the latter.
In Saturday’s earlier games, Walnut Grove beat W.J. Mouat 77-48 to take fourth place, while Oak Bay took care of White Rock Christian Academy by a score of 73-65 to finish seventh.
First-team All stars
- Burnaby South – Nick Irvine
- Walnut Grove – Jadon Cohee
- Mission – Luke Morris
- Vancouver College – Justin Sanvido
- Terry Fox – Ryan Sclater
Second-team All Stars
- Burnaby South – Gino Pagbilao
- Walnut Grove – Paul Getz
- Oak Bay – Evan Woodson
- Vancouver College – Erickson Evangelista
- Terry Fox – Jesse Crookes