Only three Nanaimo teams are still alive after another hard-fought weekend of playoff basketball.
The Dover Bay Dolphins senior AAA boys won the North Island championship and the Wellington Wildcats senior AAA boys also made it through to Islands. The only senior girls’ team left standing after Islands is the AA Woodlands Eagles, who need to win a challenge game to make it to provincials.
Dover’s North Island championship was a foregone conclusion, perhaps, but the G.P. Vanier Towhees made the Dolphins work for a 66-50 win on Saturday night at Wellington Secondary School. Vanier led by as many as 13 points in the second quarter before Dover drew to within five by halftime. Jason McKee ended up with a game-high 17 points, Eric Kuzminski scored 13 and Matt Billman and Jon Bethell had 10 each.
“The intensity picked up a little bit in the second half and we played a lot better defence and I was glad we were able to get the win,” McKee said.
The Dolphins were presented with a North Island championship trophy after the game but celebrations were muted.
“I don’t want to be cocky or anything but this is just North Islands,” Kuzminski said. “We’ve all been to provincials before as a team and on separate teams so we were pretty confident we had this. We’re looking for bigger goals.”
The Island championships start Thursday (March 3) in Victoria, when Dover will play either Belmont or Ballenas. Coming off a close game against Vanier, McKee said, will help the Dolphins be prepared for what comes next.
“It’s going to benefit us a lot going into Islands,” he said. “Every game’s going to be close like that and everyone’s going to be a good team.”
The Wildcats, meanwhile, will be in tough Thursday at Islands against Claremont, the South Island champs. Wellington beat Ballenas on Saturday morning to punch its ticket to the tournament, but lost that evening’s third-place game to Cowichan, 74-66. Nate Brown scored 20 points in that one with Piero Simovic scoring 16 and Andrew Miller adding 14.
The Nanaimo District Islanders came sixth at North Islands, ending with a 65-50 loss to Ballenas on Saturday that eliminated them from the playoffs. Liam Goodall scored 20 points and Spencer Brydon scored 15.
The Woodlands Eagles senior AA girls, meanwhile, live to fight another day after their third-place finish at Islands in Victoria. The Eagles defeated Kwalikum in the third-place game Saturday, 57-41, with Katherine Coupland scoring 24 points for Woodlands and Ksenia Malenica dropping in 14.
“We saw a solid effort from everybody to bring us up to the level we’re playing at now,” said Carl Macdonald, Eagles coach. “We’re playing at a far more complete level than we were, which is what you want your season to build to.”
Woodlands started the tourney with a blowout win over Parklands, lost to St. Michael’s in the semifinals, then hammered Brentwood on Saturday morning to advance to the matchup with Kwalikum. Woodlands will now play North Vancouver’s Windsor Dukes on Tuesday (March 1) at 5 p.m. at Wellington Secondary School.
Other Nanaimo teams didn’t fare as well at senior AA girls’ Islands. The Wellington Wildcats and Cedar Spartans are both eliminated from the post-season after finishing fifth and seventh, respectively.
Also eliminated are the Dover Bay Dolphins senior AAA girls, who came fourth at Islands at Port Alberni. After starting the tournament Thursday with a loss to Spectrum, the Dolphins rallied with wins over Alberni District and then Stelly’s to reach the third-place game against Oak Bay. Though the ‘Phins led the contest at halftime, they ultimately didn’t have enough to keep up with the Bays and the game ended 78-44. Dover’s Cassandra Knievel was selected a tournament first-team all-star.
Another team to come close to advancing was the Woodlands Eagles senior AA boys. The squad made it to the third-place game Saturday at Islands in Ladysmith against Brentwood, but lost 87-53. Brentwood had a size advantage and its scorers continually found lanes to the basket through Woodlands’ defence. Theo Stewart scored 17 points to lead the Eagles, Jordan Hansen scored 12 points and Mike Skoropad had 10.
“We’ve never faced that kind of pressure before; we were inexperienced,” said Stewart. “With all that denial it was really hard to get our plays out there. We did our best.”
It was disappointing for the Eagles to come one win away from provincials, but they will still draw positives from finishing fourth on Vancouver Island.
“We peaked for North Islands and we came together and we played like we never played before and it got us here,” Stewart said.
Woodlands had to win a 75-72 double-overtime thriller against Ladysmith earlier Saturday to get into the third-place game. Skoropad had 21 points and Stewart scored 19 in that one.
The Cedar Spartans senior AA boys were eliminated the day before in a 69-58 loss to Shawnigan Lake. Colby Morgan led the Spartans’ offence with 16 points, Brendan McCarthy scored 14 and Tom Bradley had 13.
One other Nanaimo basketball team in action on the weekend was the Nanaimo Christian School Eagles senior A boys, who finished seventh at Island championships at Ucluelet. After starting the tournament with losses to Victor Brodeur and Ucluelet on Friday, the NCS team finished its season on a positive with a 47-18 victory over Campbell River Christian.