British Columbia HS championship semi-final: W.J Mouat vs Vancouver College
Vancouver College: Reiner Theil-23 points, 7 rebounds/ Isaiah Solomon- 24 points, 5 assists
W.J Mouat: Gurminder Kang-19 points, 13 reounds
LANGLEY,BC–The scenery may have changed a bit, but the results remain the same. This week, the Langley Events Center is serving as the new home for the B.C. Boys AAA Basketball Provincials. Friday night fans gathered to see some great semi-final action. The first game featured the Vancouver College Fighting Irish versus the W.J. Mouat Hawks, where the VC dominated 74-56 quite fittingly, 24 hours after St. Patty’s day. Call it the luck of the Irish!
The two teams are almost complete opposites of one another in terms of their history. For W.J. Mouat, this appearance in the provincial tournament is just the eight time a team from Mouat has competed, and its best showing as well. The previous best was a sixth place finish. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish have the most decorated program in the history of the tournament. 2011 marked the 46th time the school has attended provincials, and it is seeking its sixth provincial championship.
However, the aformentioned history lesson remains irrelevant when the two teams hit the big stage.
The game got off to a relatively slow start. Both teams struggled to hit their shots. Mouat’s Gurminder Kang hit the game’s first shot to give Mouat the 2-0 lead. But it was the only lead they would enjoy, as Vancouver College would go on a 9-0 run and would never look back. The end of the first quarter had the Fighting Irish up over the Hawks by a score of 26-14.
With Van College senior star Reiner Theil in foul trouble early, juniors (grade 11) Cole Penman and Isiah Solomon led the attack for VC. Solomon had 15 points at halftime to lead the offense. Cole Penman provided the defense, grabbing rebounds and coming up with steals a plenty throughout the half, which ended with the Irish on top 37-22. Kang led the way offensively for the Hawks with eight points. Sunvir Johal added another four.
Vancouver College used a smothering full court press for the entire game that caused the Hawks plenty of problems. “We increased the pressure on them,” said assistant coach Jeremy Alexander at halftime. “We’re going to keep it up for the rest of the game.”
The third quarter was a back and fourth affair to little avail for W.J. Mouat. Every time they would put a run together, Vancouver College responded right back with a run of their own. Kang and Jesse Coy each had a big third quarter, combining for 13 points. However, coming back off the bench, Reiner Theil came to life, scoring nine points in the third.
The story of the quarter, unfortunately, occurred with four minutes remaining. While going to block a shot, Cole Penman came down hard and awkwardly on his right ankle. He would come off while being carried by two teammates and grimacing in obvious pain. He would not return for the rest of the game.
The Hawks could not make up any ground, and once again saw themselves down by 15. The score going into the fourth quarter was 54-39.
While Mouat players Jesse Coy, Gurminder Kang and Sunvir Johal attempted to mount a courageous comeback, the story of the second half was Reiner Theil. The Hawks as a team scored 17 points in the final frame, Theil scored 13 by himself. Theil, who had only three points in the entire first half, scored 20 in the second half to finish the game with 23. Not to be outdone, Isiah Solomon finished with a game-high 24 points, five assists and was named player of the game. Gurminder Kang was the high man for the Hawks, finishing with 19 points. Coy and Johal scored 12 and 10 points respectively.
In the end, the Mouat Hawks suffered from turnovers and poor free throw shooting. The up-tempo defense of the Irish forced the Hawks to run more than they wanted to. This either forced turnovers by the Hawks or led to free throws. However the Hawks only shot 10-of-22 (45%) from the line, compared to Vancouver College who went 11-of-12 (92%).
As the horn sounded, the final score showed a dominant 74-56 victory for Vancouver College. The Fighting Irish will be making their ninth trip to the finals, where they hope to win that elusive sixth championship. The Irish have not won a provincial title since 1967 when they defeated David Thompson Secondary 56-41. They will face the R.C. Palmer Griffins for British Columbia High school Basketball supremacy.
PHOTO COURTESY: RON HOLE