It was redemption in a big way for Nao Kawano and his Steveston-London Sharks at a packed “Shark Tank” on Friday night.
The Grade 11 guard led his team to a thrilling 61-57 win over the McMath Wildcats in the third place game for the final BC berth at the inaugural South Fraser Boys 3A Basketball Championships.
A week earlier, Kawano spent much of the time on the bench as the Wildcats pulled away in the late going to defeat the Sharks for the third time this season and capture the Richmond championship.
With his team staring at a season sweep by its biggest rival, Kawano took the game over in the final quarter — hitting four straight three-pointers — as his Sharks erased a second half deficit that was as large as 12 points.
“It was a very tough Richmond final for him and I actually did sit him because I didn’t want him to be in a position to fail anymore and have that sitting on his shoulders. Vinny (Zeng) was also having a huge game for us,” said Sharks coach Mike Stoneburgh. “Nao had just a fantastic fourth quarter tonight.
“It’s such a big stage. It was packed and it was loud in here. For kids that’s a tough thing to deal with. I just told them to relax and thank god Nao listened.”
The dagger was delivered by Zeng — the impressive Grade 10 who had 23 points in the city final. He hit a deep three as the shot clock was about to expire that pushed the lead to 60-56 in the final minute. Grade 11 Brady Wong then hit a clutch free throw that re-stored a two possession lead.
“Last year we had a couple of Grade 11s step up and help us beat Richmond High to get into the provincials. This year we had a Grade 10 and two Grade 11s that had huge roles for us,” added Stoneburgh.
Both the Sharks and Wildcats needed wins the previous night over Guildford Park and North Delta respectively just to keep their seasons alive after losing to league rivals Richmond High and MacNeill in the semi-finals.
The results reflected just how deep the city league was this season with little separation between the top four teams. The Wildcats ended the campaign 13-3 against city opponents. Two of those losses just came at the wrong time of the year.