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Duchess Park Condors, Cedars Christian Eagles defeated in semifinals, will play for bronze Saturday

Eagles lose barnburner 91-89 to Gryphons of Victoria; Condors run into foul trouble and fall 75-63 to Surrey opponents

The Cedars Christian Eagles were one shot away from playing for the championship but ran out of time and ended up feeling the heartache of a two-point semifinal loss to the Glenlyon Norfolk Gryphons of Victoria.

The Eagles’ road to gold in the B.C. single-A boys basketball provincial championship ended Friday afternoon in Langley, where the Gryphons held off the Eagles 91-89.

“If we had a few more seconds we would have been able to get something off but with no time and no time outs, to go the full length of the court, it was a tough situation,” said Eagles head coach Jeff Ludditt.

Despite their team’s significant height disadvantage, senior guards Mitch Crosina and Tony Kibonge used their speed and athleticism to get to the hoop and helped stake the Eagles to a 13-point lead early in the game. Cedars remained ahead most of the half until Jacob Heir used his long reach to tie the game 51-51 heading into the break.

It was a one-point game in the third quarter when Kibonge drew his fourth foul and Jakob Oliver also put himself in foul trouble for a lane violation while Gryphons post Mason Carlson took his free throws. The Gryphons used their length to get to the rim off a couple of missed free throws and their putbacks gave  them nine-point possession and a 68-60 lead. Crosina and Kibonge answered with buckets and Seth Hulka nailed a three to restore the Eagles lead with seven minutes left.

“Mitch is the consummate professional, the guy who is calm and always ready, he’s that guy who wants to carry everybody with him and it’s not about him, its about his team,” said Ludditt. “He knows he has the ability to do it and just came up a bucket short.

Carlson and Heir, the Gryphons two big men, dominated the boards and despite each playing with four personal fouls they stayed in the game until the late stages, long enough to seriously damage Cedars’ title hopes. In the final minute, a Carson layup and a turnover tat led to points from Callum Shillington gave the Gryphons a five-point lead with 12 seconds left but Crosina came back with a deep triple that took just two seconds off the clock. Forced to foul, the Eagles still had a shot at winning when liver sank another three, but Carlson sank his second foul shot to seal it for Glenlyon with just six-tenths of second left.

“There’s one thing you can’t stop in the game sometimes, is height, and they didn’t shoot well from the field, but the ball comes off the rim hard and their guys were there for rebounds and there was nothing we could do about it,” sad Ludditt. “They got on the boards and rebounded and put stuff in and their big guys killed us.”

Carson was a force with 33 points and 15 rebounds, Heir had 20 points and 2 rebounds and Shillington finished with 18 rebounds and 16 rebounds. Crosina and Kibonge each totaled 26 points, while Oliver hit for 13 and Hulka had 10. Crosina added seven rebounds four steals and three assists and Kibonge, despite playing much of the second half with four fouls, picked up six rebounds and two steals.

The Gryphons will advance to the single-A championship Saturday at 1:30 p.m. against Unity Christian, 91-67 winners over Fernie in the other semifinal. Cedars Christian, already having posted its best-ever provincial finish in school history, will play Fernie for bronze Saturday at 8:30 a.m.

“We’ve got to let this one sting for a couple hours and then reset for tomorrow for sure,” said Ludditt. “I tried to express myself to my team how proud I am of them. We’ve started a culture at our school and they’ve put in the work and the amount of people who came up to me after the game and praised how solid our team is and how good of character it is and how hard they work, that speaks volumes about my guys.”

Meanwhile, in the triple-A boys championship, also in Langley, the Duchess Park Condors fell 75-63 to the Elgin Park Orcas of Surrey in their semifinal playoff Friday afternoon.

The Orcas led throughout the game, jumping ahead 27-16 after 10 minutes and 48-35 at the half.

The wheels started to fall off the Duchess bus early on when Grade 12 point guard Cole Laing, their top scorer, took his second foul 90 seconds into the game, forcing coach Jordan Yu to sit him for the rest of the first quarter and the personal fouls continued to pile up. Before long, starting forward Chris Zimmerman had two on his record.

“We weren’t firing on all cylinders today and a big part is we were in foul trouble early,” said Condors head coach Jordan Yu. “Cole’s been leading us all season long and to get him out of the first quarter and kind of dig ourselves a hole, it’s really tough place to get out of when you’re playing a team like Elgin Park. They’re a super-long, big, strong team that can shoot the ball and crash the glass like crazy and after Cole went out, everything fell apart.”

Evgeny Baukin nailed a three and kickstarted a 7-0 run for the Condors that made it a six-point game, trailing 48-42, but their momentum died when Laing drew his fourth foul and had to come out of the game again, and right away the Orcas increased the gap to 10. Duchess Park had chances to pull closer but missed taking advantage of their offensive rebounds and loose-ball battles won as a result of Elgin Park’s substandard foul shooting.

“(Baukin is) a game-changer, both ends of the floor, he’s playing both bigs and smalls, staying in front of their guards, blocking shots and going down the other way coast-to-coast for layups and hitting threes,” said Yu. “He really put the team on his  back today and he really needed to, the way the game went. I’m really proud of him stepping up the way he did.”

Baukin continued to dazzle with his spin moves and deceptive drives that led to points and he was equally effective on defence, but he couldn’t do it all, without Laing to back him up and senior guard Aiden Lewis struggling with the extra attention the Orcas focused on him. He was limited to just two points after averaging 21 points the previous two games.

“We didn’t get off to a good start and we had to change our rotations and we couldn’t follow our gameplan,” said Yu. “A couple guys struggled shooting the ball and it was just one of those things. We made a comeback at the end and I’m proud of the guys for sticking with it, but it just wasn’t enough.”

Baukin led the Condors with 29 points, six rebounds and three assists and shot 3-for-6 from long range. Laing collected 14 points. Cyrus Harrison put up 29 points and 10 rebounds for the Orcas, while Adam Olsen hit for 25 points and Lucas Egitto finished with 12 points and seven rebounds.  

The Condors will play for bronze Saturday at 10 a.m. against A.R. McNeill of Richmond, who lost the other triple-A semifnal 91-61 to St. Patrick's of Vancouver. Elgin Park, seeded No. 2, will play St.Patrick'sfor the B.C. banner Saturday at 6 p.m.

In the double-A tournament, the Nechako Valley Vikes of Vanderhoof lost 72-51 to Charles Hays of Prince Rupert and will play Sutherland for 11th place Saturday at 10 a.m. in Langley.

In other single-A results, the Fort St. James Falcons lost 66-51 Friday to Nanaimo Christian. Fort St. James will take on Meadowridge in the 11th-place playoff Saturday at 8:30 a.m.

The Northside Christian Northstars of Vanderhoof were matched with Pemberton in a  placement game Friday at 8:45 p.m.