Despite a sub-par performance in their opening game, the Immaculata Mustangs have advanced today's semifinal at the annual Daily Courier Immaculata Senior Boys Basketball Tournament.
Head coach Dino Gini was adamant his team will have to play much better against the A.R. MacNeill Ravens of Richmond in their 2:15 p.m. start if they hope to earn a berth in Saturday's championship match (5:45 p.m.).
"While we did have spurts of good focus and sound shooting (the Mustangs hit for eight three-pointers), there were way too many moments when we lacked movement and communication on offence and a lack of energy on defence," said Gini after his provincially No. 1-ranked 1A team knocked off the No. 8 St. Brebeuf Bears of Abbotsford 66-41 before a capacity crowd in their home gymnasium.
In a rare post-game outpouring of frustration Gini said he was especially disappointed in the play of 6-foot-11 post Alex Hart, despite his team-leading 29 points.
"Alex was a way on university visits and missed practices this week, and it showed," pointed out Gini. "His legs just weren't there and he wasn't getting to the rim the way he usually does. Of course the team revolves around him, so while we got the W, overall, it wasn't pretty."
On the positive side, Gini complimented the play of his guards, Grade 12 James Casorso (19 points) and Grade 10 Michael Gini (12 points), who combined for six baskets from beyond the arc. Coach Gini also liked the defensive effort of starter Jake Harman and the overall play of Chris Macdonnell (10 points).
Looking ahead to today's encounter with A.R. MacNeill, Gini insists that Hart will have to be much tougher around the rim than he was against the Bears.
"They (MacNeill) surprised us by beating Similkameen (54-52), so we know they will be a challenge because the Sparks (ranked No. 2 in the 1A division) are a good team," noted Gini. "MacNeill's big (Nathan Tomas) goes about 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, so Alex will have his hands full."
Today's other semifinal (7:30 p.m. at Immaculata) in the eight-team boys tournament will see the Kelowna Christian Knights, ranked seventh in the 2A division in B.C., taking on the West Point Grey Wolves of Vancouver, seeded fourth in 1A.
The Knights, playing without 6-foot-5 starter Daniel Seinen, had an easy time against the Saint John Eagles of Vancouver, coming away with a 97-61 victory.
In an amazing display of depth, all 10 Knights scored at least seven points. Ryan Linttell and Ethan Klukas led the way with 19 points apiece.
"While this type of game doesn't tell us a lot about how we're prepared for Friday's game, it was good to see - again - that this team works so well as a unit," said coach Eva Linttell. "They're willing to share the ball. It's not about 'me'. That's one of the great things about coaching this team."
Linttell admitted it's difficult to prepare for a team like West Point, one we don't know too much about. But she said today's focus will be on working on their newly instituted motion offence and man-to-man defence.
West Point, with a bigger team than usual and with good speed as usual, earned its berth in the semifinals by doubling the 4A Westwood Warriors of Winnipeg 90-45.
In the girls' 10-team tournament, the host Mustangs, also coached by Gini, breezed to a 66-36 victory over the Kelowna Christian School Knights for the right to advance to today's semifinal against the Saint John Eagles of Vancouver. The Eagles defeated the L.V. Rogers Bombers of Nelson 51-43 at Kelowna Christian School.
Although getting off to a relatively slow start, an athletic and extremely fit Immaculata team gained momentum as the game went on.
An indication of their unusual depth and balance was displayed on the scoresheet as well as on the Mustangs' home floor. Grade 10s, Emma Johnson and Jaedyn Penkala, members of last year's B.C. Grade 9 championship team, led the team with 18 and 13 points respectively. And that despite Gini platooning his lineup five players at a time for most of the game.
Earlier in the day, the KCS Knight beat the George Elliot Coyotes of Lake Country 56-48 for the right to play the Mustangs.
The other semifinal girls game today, beginning at 3:30 p.m., will see the Westwood Warriors of Winnipeg taking on the Princeton Rebels. Westwood got by the Similkameen Sparks 76-59, while Princeton took care of A.R. MacNeill to the tune of 80-24.
The semifinal winners will meet in the girls' championship match on Saturday at Immaculata beginning at 4 p.m.