Peace Region basketball fans were treated to an amazing finish at the ‘AAA’ boys’ zone finals this past weekend at Dawson Creek Secondary.
Needing back-to-back wins over Quesnel’s Correlieu Secondary, the number one seed North Peace Oscars rallied together for the championship title. Meanwhile, the DCSS Penguins ended their season admirably on their home court, nearly pulling off an upset over the Prince George Polars.
With a chance to advance to the semifinals to face North Peace, the Pens’ overcame an early first quarter deficit but couldn’t get over the final hump against a sharpshooting Polars squad.
“They [PGSS] live and die by the three and we had to pick our poison,” said Penguins head coach Richard Payne, Friday afternoon inside a packed DCSS gym. “We had to keep them outside. Defence did a good job, their [Polars] percentage wasn’t on but they would hit the three at the right moments.”
The Pens’ spotted the Polars a 13-1 lead in the first ten minutes before kicking it into high gear and giving the student body something to cheer about. DCSS would outscore Prince George the rest of the way, but the gap proved to be too much, as DCSS would run out of time, losing 60-54.
“After the first quarter we stuck with them,” said Payne. “If you take out that first quarter it would be a different game.”
Big man Dylan McCallum led the Penguins with 16 points while guard Chris Schlauwitz had 12. On the other end, Polars’ Nick Novak had 26, knocking down five triples to lead all scorers.
“Their performance [this weekend] was great. They have nothing to hang their heads about,” said Payne. “They finished strong and should have a lot of pride for the way they played in front of their home crowd.”
For North Peace, they showed why they were the number one seed coming in.
In the double-elimination tournament, the Oscars recovered from a semifinal loss to Correlieu on Friday to beat the Clan in consecutive finals games on Saturday and Sunday; all while star point guard Miles Savard watched from the bench after suffering a knee injury in NPSS’s 87-58 win over DCSS in the first round.
“All year guys have stepped up when we needed them most and they’ve proven they have another gear, today they did that against a great opponent,” said Oscars head coach Derrick Laychuk. “We talked at the beginning of the year about being a provincial bound team and with a lot of heart and incredible fortitude the guys came through.
“Miles Savard is obviously an integral part of our team. He is our heart, our spirit and our drive. Losing him hurt the boys and it took them time to adjust. Any time you lose a player like that is critical.”
With their backs against the wall in the Game 1 final on Saturday, the Oscars came back from a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter with an 11-0 run down the stretch to win 86-81 and force a second final.
Guard Andrew Stewart was spectacular in the dying minutes for North Peace. Stewart scored 19 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter, while tournament MVP Cole Bausman poured in nine of his game high 31.
In Game 2 on Sunday, it was swingman Enrique Fajemisin that stepped up. Fajemisn’s nine points in the last ten minutes helped the Oscars extend their fourth quarter lead to 70-57.
But the Clan wasn’t backing down without a fight. Four three pointers in the quarter helped Correlieu claw back to as close as 77-74, before having to foul to stop the clock.
At the line, Bausman coolly hit three of four attempts, while the Clan managed just a single bucket before time ran out with a final score of 79-76.
Laychuk said Correlieu was a tough matchup for his squad, noting the Clan’s strong guard play, not too mention their big inside presence.
“Number 13 was a beast inside and a monster for us to work with,” said Laychuk about Correlieu’s post player, 6’8” center Cole Crick.
Crick had 24 points in the losing effort, while dominating the defensive glass.
“We gave our guys the challenge of trying to box him out. I think we just out-hearted them and had a little more energy than them,” Laychuk said.
Though it wasn’t his team’s home court, Laychuk said having the support of Dawson Creek in their back pocket might have been the difference.
“Our fan support was tremendous. The Dawson Creek teams put aside their rivalry and backed NPSS, without them I don’t think we win on Saturday. So this is just as much a testament to the Peace and how we bond together.”