A thrilling final at the Foote Athletic Centre last Saturday saw Brentwood College School win a fourth straight AA boys basketball Island title.
Brentwood came back from behind more than once to knock off Lambrick Park 75-73 in the gold-medal game, securing the zone banner and a berth in the provincial tournament.
After a back-and-forth first half, Brentwood found themselves down by 15 points in the third quarter. The hosts managed to cut the deficit to four, but Lambrick was ahead by double digits again by the end of the quarter.
“It would have been easy to get discouraged, but we never stopped coming,” Brentwood head coach Blake Gage said. “We kept fighting and clawing.”
Brentwood went on a run in the fourth quarter, and led with three minutes left to play. Lambrick countered to pull even, but Brentwood sank a jumper with 10 seconds left to play and held on for the win.
Needless to say, the atmosphere was charged in Brentwood’s gym.
“I was definitely not sitting down for the last few minutes,” Gage said. “Not too many people in the gym were. It was a really good high school basketball game.”
Brentwood has a long-running rivalry with Lambrick, and Gage expected that, if his team advanced to the final, they’d be facing the Lions. Both teams were ranked in the top 10 in the province going in, Lambrick third and Brentwood eighth.
Gage wasn’t counting on a fourth straight title, but he knew his players had it in them to achieve.
“I’d say we were the underdog,” he commented. “But if we played well, it was possible.”
The players may not have been at their best, but they did what was necessary at the Island tournament.
“We played hard,” he said. “We did some things well. We maintained our focus. The guys worked and stayed within what we were trying to do.”
Brentwood opened the tournament with a 73-41 win over Highland, with Shaw Blaisdell named Player of the Game. The hosts then defeated Shawnigan Lake School 90-31 in the semifinal, with Justin Watt taking Player of the Game honours. Dylan Gage was named Player of the Game for the final.
Juan Navarro took home the tournament MVP award.
“He was outstanding in all aspects of the game,” Blake Gage said of Navarro. “Defensively he was a rock for us.”
Jack Napier-Ganley was named the Best Defensive Player at Islands.
“He does it all,” the coach commented. “What he is is a great competitor. Basketball is not his main sport, but he’s got a great sports IQ. You’re not gonna outwork him.”
Blaisdell was a first-team all-star and Watt was picked for the second team.
“He had an excellent tournament,” Gage said of Blaisdell. “He worked hard at both ends. I was really pleased with the way he played.”
Shawnigan finished fourth in the tournament, losing the bronze-medal game to Pacific Christian by a single point, 68-67. Pacific earned the right to challenge Lambrick for the second provincial berth on Tuesday, but lost 102-72.
Shawnigan beat Pacific 64-58 in the first round, then lost to Brentwood in the second round. They beat Kwalikum 74-70 in the crossover before falling to Pacific in the rematch. Hayden Isherwood was named Player of the Game in both games against Pacific, and Josh Ruan received the award in Shawnigan’s other two games before being named a second-team all-star.
Brentwood will head to provincials next Tuesday with the goal of improving on last year’s placing. After winning provincial AA titles in 2017 and 2018, the school was knocked out in the first round in 2019.
“We want to win our first game,” Gage said. “If we win that game, anything can happen. A lot of these guys were at provincials last year, and they didn’t understand the intensity. I hope they learned from that experience and they’re ready to go.”