Story from: VARSITY LETTERS with Howard Tsumura:
No. 2 KELOWNA CHRISTIAN 58 No. 3 HIGHROAD ACADEMY 51
LANGLEY — Head coach Daniel Benson always his implores his players to shoot.
Kelowna Christian entered the game with a 100-point effort in round one and then another 77 points in the quarter-final round and was shooting 39.4 per cent from the field and 37.9 per cent from beyond the arc.
But there was no panic or change in strategy as top-seeded Kelowna Christian got all they could handle against No. 3 Highroad Academy (Chilliwack) in a battle of teams who share the Knights moniker.
Kelowna Christian won the battle of the Knights 58-51.
The lead changed hands a dozen times and was never more than four points.
Kelowna Christian was up four at the half but suddenly found itself trailing 48-44 with three minutes to play.
“We could not buy a bucket from outside,” Benson lamented. “I just told my boys, if you are open and it’s the end of the shot clock and you have a three, I don’t care if you have missed 10 in a row, keep taking it.”
And Indy Hallett took his coach up on that as the Grade 11 guard – who was 2-for-4 in the first half – hit a trio of three-point shots as his team outscored Heritage Christian 14-3 over those final three minutes.
“Indy hit them, that’s all that mattered,” the coach smiled, admitting the offence was not generating the best looks at the basket.
Grade 10 guard Jake Sabbagh had a huge game for the victors, finishing with a game-high 18 points and 15 rebounds, with three blocked shots for good measure.
Hallett wound up with 16 points and Colin Christophe had 10 points, eight rebounds and three assists.
Highroad Academy was led by Elijah Grimard’s 16 points and seven rebounds, as well as 13 points from Aidan Morris and another dozen courtesy of Easton Abel.
Benson was happy with how his team responded to the adversity, considering they had only trailed for a grand total of 8:38 over the first 80 minutes.
“Perseverance. They played hard despite not hitting shots and we got the ‘W’ despite lots of things not going as planned,” he said.
“And Highroad, those guys hustled like crazy and played so hard.”
The Knights will go up against Credo Christian for the championship on Saturday as Kelowna Christian looks to add to their record of five 1A championship banners, having already won in 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012 and most recently in 2015.
Benson was a player on those first two championship-winning squads, as well as the 2010 team which jumped up to the 3A tier that year.
Having gone through multiple championship runs as a player, his message will be simple: “Take care of business, just like usual.”