In a fight for supremacy of the hardwood, the local Lions of Yale Secondary came up against a fierce rival, the Lions of Fairfax High School in the annual Snowball basketball final Saturday night.
The action was fast and furious as the Los Angeles team got their toughest fight of the tourney, eventually toppling the No. 2 ranked B.C. team 91-67 before the packed house of the Panther Pit at Abby Senior.
"I was proud. The kids played hard," said head coach Al Friesen.
The 53rd annual Snowball tournament is legendary, dating back to 1961 at Abby Senior.
"I've seen a lot of tournaments and this is by far one of the best as far as involvement, athleticism and calibre of teams," said Jay Fujimura, athletic director of Abby.
"It's one of the best tourneys in the province."
Twelve teams competed but it was the highly touted Fairfax team, back in Abbotsford for their second time in three years, that had fans and players all riled up.
Leading that charge were two NCAA prospects, 6'6" seniors Chaunce Hill and Reggie Theus Jr. who did not disappoint, laying the hammer down with an intensive full-court press for most of the evening.
"Everyone likes to play a team of that level," said Fujimura. "It's pure excitement, being in the final against a team of that calibre."
Down in the early going, the Yale Lions clawed their way back time and again against the talented Fairfax squad.
"We fell behind early, but not through lack of effort," said Friesen.
"We did lots of good things but we didn't shoot real well. It was hard to sustain, you have to maintain focus."
It wasn't until the fourth quarter that Fairfax finally put the game out of reach.
"Yale pushed that Fairfax team pretty hard," said Fujimura.
"They had a really good chance and they were probably disappointed, but it's a big testament to how good Yale really is."
Hill put up 24 points in the winning effort for Fairfax, but was matched by Yale's JJ Pankratz, also with 24.
"[We] never relented, never stopped with the effort," said Friesen.
"They [Fairfax] had to bring their 'A' game in order to win."
? In an earlier game W.J. Mouat topped the host Abbotsford Panthers 69-58 to claim fifth spot.