The Pitt Meadows Marauders Air Force senior boys’ basketball team retained their Air Show title last weekend, knocking off Kitsilano in the final game of the annual tournament.
Pitt Meadows won the tournament last year for the first time in 26 years of hosting it, so to win it again so soon was encouraging, said head coach Rich Goulet.
“It was good to get the win, but we made a lot of mistakes, we weren’t so solid,” said Goulet. “
Pitt opened the tourney on Thursday with a 68-44 win over Cowichan Secondary, hailing from Duncan. The Air Force was up 25-4 in the early going, when Cowichan switched to a zone defence, and the Air Force attack backed off.
“We let them back into the game,” said Goulet.
Malcolm Williams led the way on offence with 20 points, while Trevor Severinski had 16 points.
Pitt’s first game Friday was a 63-48 win over Victoria’s Mt. Douglas secondary. Williams had 26 points in that game, while Matt Blackaby had 10.
Pitt’s toughest test of the tournament came Friday night in the semi-final against Sir Charles Tupper secondary. Tupper led for much of the game until the end of the third quarter, when they opted to bench their starters to give them some rest. Williams seized the opportunity as he lit up Tupper’s bench for 10 points in little more than a minute of play.
“He just went off,” said Goulet. “It was like he was waiting all game to turn it on.”
William’s offensive explosion put the team in the lead for the first time, and Pitt held on for the 65-59 win. Williams finished with 24 points, while Severinski had 14.
The Air Force was flying high Saturday night against Kitsilano in the tournament final, beating them 72-61, at times up by as much as 20 points.
Kitsilano advanced to the tournament final after overcoming an 18-point fourth quarter deficit against Claremont secondary of Victoria in the semi-final, and looked poised to repeat as they cut the 20-point deficit to less than 10 in the late stages of the game.
The Air Force managed to hang on for the win despite having Williams foul out, but Goulet said he was concerned about his team’s tendency to take their foot off the gas late in games, and not use the clock to their advantage.
“[Late in the game], your opponent is the clock,” said Goulet “But for some reason, they think they have to score now, and they should know better. What’s more important, you shooting, or us winning?”
Williams finished with 25 points, while Blackaby had 15, and Luke Gillespie had 12.
Goulet said he was happy with his team’s defensive play over the weekend, much of the credit for which can go to point guard Mitsu Iwai.
At just five-foot-four, Iwai may be small, but he is tenacious on defence, forcing turnovers and disrupting the opposition’s offence.
“He was superb, he can get into guys’ shorts and stay there,” said Goulet. “He may be the most important factor to the team’s success.”
Iwai was named to the tournament all-star team, along with Severinski. Williams was named tournament MVP after averaging 23.8 points per game.
Senior Erwin Van Ramshorst, an honour roll student at Pitt Meadows secondary, received a $250 scholarship as the most promising senior on the team.
Goulet said the tournament was a coming of age for seniors Van Ramhorst, Gillespie and Brandon Severinski, all three of whom won the Fraser Valley Championship as Grade 10s, and then opted not to play basketball last year.
Van Ramshorst found his touch in the final with two long range shots, while Brandon Severinski held Warren Liang in check for much of the second half of the semi-final and was three-for-three in the game.
However, Gillespie has emerged as a critical cog for the Air Force, since cracking the starting line up.
“He gives us a dimension the other kids don’t,” said Goulet. “He can shoot, and he can defend, and does both very well.”
Pitt Meadows heads to Vancouver College this weekend for another top tier tournament, their third in three weeks. Goulet says this tourney will be the toughest yet, and provide a clear indication of where the team stands against the best in B.C.
“If we are going to beat the best teams in the province we are going to have to beat them on defence,” said Goulet. “The team showed last weekend that it could be playing the best defense in the province.”