Sports

Athlete of the year

Brandon Jones scores a lay-up during a Pacific Western Athletic Association game at the VIU gym last winter. Jones is the News Bulletin
Brandon Jones scores a lay-up during a Pacific Western Athletic Association game at the VIU gym last winter. Jones is the News Bulletin's 2013 Athlete of the Year.
— image credit: File photo

With national championships way out in Montreal, not even the most die-hard members of the VIU Nation could see the big game live.

Instead, fans were left to watch the webcast from Nanaimo, and be outraged at the colour commentator’s apparent bias toward the Holland Hurricanes.

But by game’s end, not even the colour man could contain his excitement for the play of VIU’s Brandon Jones.

Jones drove to the hoop, or pulled up and drained a trey, or dished to a teammate. He did what it took for the Mariners to beat the Hurricanes 77-70 and capture their first national title in 19 years.

In the provincial final two weeks earlier, Jones had reached a new stratosphere and scored 42 points in a four-point loss to the Langara Falcons, earning tournament MVP honours. Could he repeat that kind of performance at nationals?

“Really, my focus is just trying to do whatever I can to help the team win,” Jones said. “Hopefully we can get balanced scoring between everybody. But if it happens and I get the shots … and I’m feeling it, then maybe.”

He must have been feeling it. He led his team in scoring at nationals, his team won; he was MVP, an All-Canadian, VIU’s Athlete of the Year. Give him a whole year and see what he can accomplish.

Or give him just one game, and he’ll win over a new fan.

Runners-up

Steve Smith - The downhill mountain biker from Cassidy owned the podium on the Union Cycliste Internationale World Cup circuit, with wins in Norway and Austria in September that earned him the overall title as UCI World Cup champion in downhill. He was also a national champion in 2013.

Jocelyn Jones - VIU’s women’s basketball team hadn’t won a provincial championship in 15 years, but that changed in 2013 thanks in part to an all-star point guard. Jones slashed to the net with determination and led her team with 27 points and an MVP performance in the gold-medal game.

Brandon Parker - Barsby’s star football player is an athlete of the year candidate even though he never gained a yard in his team’s championship win. Parker rushed for 131 yards per game for the Bulldogs in 2013, then in the semifinal, had 304 yards and four touchdowns before being injured on the final drive. He was the first Barsby player to hoist the trophy after the Subway Bowl win in November.

Ethan Schulz - The league’s hardest-hitting player never relented on offence or defence and was a huge reason why the Nanaimo Redmen won community football’s provincial championship in December. Schulz made a game-clinching sack and was MVP of the final.

Victoria Behie - Comfortable on any kind of volleyball court, Behie captained her indoor provincial team to a silver, won national bronze on the beach, and then completed her set of medals by leading the Nanaimo District Islanders to gold with an MVP performance at the senior AAA provincials in December.

City got to cheer on champions

When it takes a Nanaimo Bowl to settle things, then that’s a sign that it’s been a fantastic year for local sports.

There was one weekend a month ago that particularly stood out. The Barsby Bulldogs and Nanaimo Redmen both won provincial football championships one day after another. Some sports fans suggested the Bulldogs and Redmen play one another and call it the Nanaimo Bowl.

But wait – that same weekend, the Nanaimo District Islanders volleyball team also won a provincial title. So wouldn’t it be just as fair to settle this whole Nanaimo Bowl thing on a volleyball court?

The year produced a ton of other worthy winners, too, and great games and memorable moments.

Vancouver Island University’s basketball teams each won a banner in the winter, with the women winning their league and the men winning at nationals.

There was a huge hockey tournament in the spring. The summer saw more local track and field standouts than ever compete in national and international events. Lacrosse season extended all the way to the President’s Cup; junior football season, all the way to the Canadian Bowl.

Huge victories came in mountain biking, BMX, MMA, gymnastics, soccer and more.

As for the Nanaimo Bowl, it didn’t happen, and it shouldn’t. Instead, let’s be fans of all our teams at once, and celebrate a whole bunch of special sports seasons in our city.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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