Steveston-London Sharks are taking their breakthrough season all the way to B.C. Boys Basketball AAA Championship Game.
The No. 2 seed Sharks will face No. 1 Southridge Sharks at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Langley Events Centre’s arena bowl after their third straight nail-biter — an 85-82 semi-final win over the Rick Hansen Hurricanes on Friday night.
This time, the Richmond and Lower Mainland champions needed a couple of huge performances from their star players to turn back a furious second half comeback by the No. 3 seed from Abbotsford.
The Sharks enjoying an outstanding opening 20 minutes, including a 26-10 second quarter, to open up a 49-28 halftime lead. However, the Hurricanes showed why they are one of the best three-pointing shooting teams in the province when they finally heating up beyond the arc and produced a 31-point third quarter to cut the margin to 65-59.
It set the stage for a thrilling finish with Hansen climbing within a point with (81-80) with 61 seconds remaining.
Pierce Strutt drained a pair of free throws to push the lead back up to three and Nigel Boyd added another free throw with 9.4 seconds remaining. Hansen had a chance to win or tie the game at the buzzer but missed a running baseline jumper.
Boyd showed why he was the Richmond League MVP with a clutch 36 point performance, that included 11-12 from the free throw line.
Grade 11 post standout Fardaws Aimaq was equally dominant with 30 points and a remarkable 31 rebounds.
Hansen finished the night launching a whopping 41 three-point attempts, connecting on 45 percent of them during the second half comeback.
The Sharks faced Southridge at the Tsumura Invitational back in early September with the South Surrey private school winning 76-49. It will be a much different Steveston-London team for the rematch, having won 13 straight games, includng nine in the post-season.
On Thursday, the Sharks overcame foul trouble to defeat the Robert Bateman Timberwolves 78-70 in quarter-finl action. It was the Abbotsford school that last defeated the Sharks 85-69 back in January. They showed they were more than ready for the rematch by racing out to a 30-19 first quarter lead.
That margin remained into the early stages of the third quarter but Steveston-London looked to be vulnerable when three of its top six players were forced to sit after picking up their fourth fouls, including Lower Mainland MVP Fardaws Aimaq.
The Sharks’ depth hung tough, allowing the Timberwolves to get no closer than four points. Aimaq returned for the final seven minutes and scored a pair of key baskets to finish with a game-high 24 points and seal the biggest win in school history so far.
However, the unsung heroes of the evening were reserves Isaiah Hunter and Robleh Ismail who both answered the challenge in a pressure-packed situation.
“I said we are a deep team and tonight just showed it,” said Sharks head coach Mike Stoneburgh. “Isaiah and Robleh haven’t played much all year for me. Robleh probably a little bit more but Isaiah played some major minutes in a role he is not use to but he really battled. Hats off to our bench tonight.”
City MVP Nigel Boyd also was clutch for Sharks, finishing with 19 points and six rebounds. Ahmed Mohamud added 12 points and nine rebounds.
The Sharks opened the with a very shaky 60-57 win over 15th seed Bodwell — needing a pair of free throws in the dying seconds from Boyd to help avoid disaster.
“It was our worse game of the year,” added Stoneburgh. “The guys underestimated them and having a week-and-a-half off didn’t help either. We had a good scrimmage against our grads on Monday but it still doesn’t match game intensity.”
The Sharks face Hansen for the first time this season. Stoneburgh only has to look to Richmond coaching colleague Jessy Dhillon if he wants a scouting report.
Dhillon’s 14th seeded McNair Marlins gave the Abbotsford school all it could handle Wednesday afternoon, nearly pulling off a huge upset in a 73-63 defeat.
The Marlins stormed back from a 17-point deficit and twice had the game tied in the fourth quarter including with just three minutes left. They were getting good looks on every possession but couldn’t buy a basket from the perimeter in the late going, finishing 3-20 from three-point range.
Senior Ryan Angala had another outstanding game with 27 points.
The Marlins moved onto consolation play Thursday where they again battled hard in an 80-74 loss to No. 6 Wellington.
McNair enjoyed an 11-point halftime lead before the Nanaimo school stormed back over the final two quarters. Angala poured in 29 more points, while Grade 10 guard Nathan Schroeder had 25.
Meanwhile, the Cambie Crusaders also suffered a heartbreaking opening round defeat in the provincial AA draw.
The shooting of Grade 11s Zak Hassen (30 points) and Kevin Dhillon (27 points) gave Cambie a nine point lead over Abbotsford Christian after three quarters. However, the Valley school took over the final 10 minutes in a big way, outscoring the Crusaders 35-14 to win 98-85. Abby dominated in the paint with 52 points, including 40 after missed initial shots.
The Crusaders rebounded to defeat Smithers 82-65 Thursday. Hassen had 20 points. Kyle Kondola added 18, Dhillon 16 and Riley Paulik 13. Tarn Dhaliwal had nine points and 14 rebounds.