Seen here in the South Island AA final Shawnigan and Brentwood met once again in the Island championship game at SMUS last weekend, and are both bound for provincials. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Seen here in the South Island AA final Shawnigan and Brentwood met once again in the Island championship game at SMUS last weekend, and are both bound for provincials. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Brentwood and Shawnigan meet again in Island AA final

Brentwood College School and Shawnigan Lake School squared off once again in the final of the Island AA boys basketball championships last weekend.

The result of the teams’ fourth meeting in a tournament final this year was the same as the other three, but the final score — 62-49 in Brentwood’s favour — was by far the closest.

“The final was interesting,” Shawnigan head coach Vito Pasquale said. “I decided to change our approach to how we defend them after four straight losses by substantial double digits. At the start of the game and the end of the third quarter, there was a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel.”

The final game at the tournament hosted by St. Michaels University School was tied 14-14 after the first quarter. Brentwood pulled away after that, but Shawnigan came on again in the third quarter to make it 50-47 with six or seven minutes left to play. Perhaps feeling too confident at that point, Shawnigan missed a couple of dunks and two free throws down the stretch, leaving six points on the floor that might have made a big difference.

“I think it was a result that gave us some confidence,” Pasquale said. “At least we gave them a game.”

Shawnigan beat Brooks 112-33 in their first-round game, then defeated Lambrick Park 96-53 in the semifinals. Brentwood, meanwhile, downed Pacific Christian in their opener, then knocked off SMUS 80-29 in the other semi.

Brentwood head coach Blake Gage was quick to acknowledge Shawnigan’s effective play in the final.

“They’re a really good team,” he said. “They played really well, and they made things hard for us. We didn’t shoot the ball well, and they had something to do with that. Even though they didn’t necessarily block a lot of shots, they changed a lot of our shots.”

While the offence wasn’t clicking, the Brentwood boys stepped up their play in their own end.

“Even though we weren’t as good offensively, we did a good job in the defensive end,” Gage noted.

In addition to winning the Island title, Brentwood cleaned up in the individual awards. Gage and assistant coach Liam Sullivan shared the Coaches Shield, and Brendan Sullivan was named tournament MVP. Bruno Chan was picked as the Best Defensive Player and joined Nathan Pasloske on the tournament all-star team. Shawnigan’s Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape, Sergio Pereira and Scott Leslie were also named all-stars.

Both Brentwood and Shawnigan qualified directly to the provincial championships in Langley on March 7-10. As defending champs and the top-ranked AA team all season long, Brentwood goes in as the favourite, but Gage knows it won’t be a cakewalk to repeat.

“There are a lot of good teams out there, as people know,” he said. “Things have to go your way a bit. We have to stay healthy, play hard and play well. It’s rare for any team to have a chance to repeat. The boys know that and they’re proud of that. If we play hard, stay healthy and play smart, I like our chances to at least make a deep run.

“Everyone will be gunning for No. 1. We get every team’s best game every time. We know that, so we better bring our best.”

If the pattern holds, Shawnigan will face Brentwood in yet another tournament final. Shawnigan hasn’t reached a provincial title game since 1975, when it was a single-A school. The team’s best asset at provincials might be that they’ve flown under the radar most of the year.

“Not too many know about us except Brentwood,” Pasquale pointed out. “I wouldn’t want to meet us en route to the final or in the first couple of games.”