Vanier’s senior boys basketball team narrowly missed a trip to provincials after a strong showing at the always tough four-A Island Championships.
The Towhees opened with a win over the host team, Victoria’s Mt. Douglas, who they had beaten to start the season.
“Mt. Doug was psyched in front of their student body, and played very well,” Vanier coach Larry Street said. “They shot very well, and had more size than we had anticipated.”
Vanier had the edge in shooting percentages, and Mt. Doug took good care of the ball in the back-and-forth game. The score at half was 27-26 Vanier. The second half stayed close and then Vanier’s Sam Barnie got going, shooting 63 per cent from the field and seven for nine from the free throw line, ending with 32 points. Aidan Walsh chipped in 12 points on a sore sprained ankle, and all other Towhees played tough defence to prevail 65-62. Carson Bell had seven points and six assists, along with seven rebounds. Tristan Carriere-Bela worked in six big steals, and added six points.
Vanier then met Claremont of Victoria in the semi-finals. With a focus on defence, Vanier led 14-7 for the first half — a tournament record. Claremont was held to one for 26 from three-pointers, with outstanding point guard Izzy held off the scoresheet. However, Street said there was a problem as the Towhees also had trouble scoring, with many open looks not made, and poor free-throw shooting. The second half was a nail-biter. Vanier held a 10-point lead with four minutes left, and had trouble with Claremont’s press. The Victoria side took the lead with 40 seconds left. Barnie scored a nice running hook to tie, and with 30 seconds left Vanier had the ball with the score still tied. Bad luck with a couple of ref calls, and the Towhees were down by two with three seconds left. Claremont won 41-39.
“Alas, no basket, so our chances to go to the B.C.’s vanished temporarily,” Street said.
Barnie scored 13 points and 11 boards. Walsh had 12 points and eight rebounds. Carl Schmidt-Valckenberg had a strong defensive game, and chipped in eight points with five steals and four rebounds.
Game three was do or die against rival NDSS of Nanaimo, who Vanier has played four times this season. Vanier prevailed 60-57, with every player getting into the game. Barnie had 21 points, and Reed Fournier scored 11, with five rebounds. Team three-point shooting was 41 per cent.
Vanier then beat Belmont 79-70 to finish third — which is entitled to challenge second for a chance to qualify for B.C.’s. However, Vanier lost to Claremont in the semis and could not therefore challenge.
“It’s always hard playing the next day after a disheartening loss the night before in a semi-final, and the Towhees showed great character to not only play very well in the morning game, but equally as well in this 5:30 matchup,” Street said.
Walsh played one of his finest games of the season ending with 27 points, four blocked shots, seven rebounds, 6/6 free throw shooting, and excellent defence around the basket. Barnie finished his high school basketball career with 24 points, four blocked shots, seven rebounds and great leadership on the floor.
“One of the very best captains to wear a Towhee uniform,” Street said. “As well, this fun-loving, family-oriented team was a joy to coach and showed tremendous character all season. We came a long way.”
Vanier received the most sportsmanlike team award. Barnie and Walsh, both selected tourney all-stars, will play at the Island all-star games April 9 in Victoria, along with Fournier.
Oak Bay beat Claremont 78-69 in the championship final. Both teams advance to the B.C. tourney, March 9-12 in Langley.