Pitt Meadows head coach Rich Goulet and Terry Fox’s coach Steve Hanson each took turns Friday evening remembering how sour December was, and potentially, how sweet the next few weeks can be for their respective senior boys Triple A basketball teams.
So much is obviously yet to be written, but if you happened to be in the gym Friday night to see the host Pitt Meadows Marauders go on a late 11-2 run to wipe out a deficit that stood as large as 10 points, and beat the arch-rival Terry Fox Ravens 67-58 in the final game of the Fraser Valley North regular season schedule, you’d have had a hard time remembering just how truly bad both teams were about seven weeks ago.
“It really has been a step-by-step journey this year to get to where we are,” said Pitt Meadows head coach Goulet of his team, which was led by the inspired play of senior forward Jordan Rich, as the Marauders finished their league schedule with a perfect 10-0 record and the Ravens finished at 8-2.
“We were so bad in December that anyone could beat us. But progressively, with our trip to Hawaii, our tournament in Bellingham, then playing Walnut Grove, Mouat, White Rock Christian, Kits… we played them all. We got kicked by the best.”
Those trials by fire have served to toughen the Marauders up, especially Rich, who if the you listened the whispers around the near-sellout gym Friday, not only scored 25 points but played perhaps the best game of his Pitt senior varsity career.
“His problem has always been mental toughness,” Goulet said. “But I think tonight he grew. And by a big stride. He was getting pushed around (by Terry Fox’s Trevor Casey) in the first half, but in that last quarter, wow.”
Pitt trailed 41-34 heading into the fourth quarter, but Rich opened with a trey, and wound up scoring his team’s first seven points of the final frame.
Fox kept battling, and its youthful guards showed a lot of poise, especially Jomari Reyes, whose trey with 4:45 remaining had put Fox on top 52-49 with 4:45 remaining.
But the Marauders fought back, Sebastian Marshall’s penetration and kick to the baseline corner resulting in a big three for reserve Enzo Tadeo, who along with teammate Jordan da Silva, were praised by Goulet for their difference-making ways off the bench in the second half. Tadeo’s three put Pitt on top 56-54 with 3:01 left, and then So Nashimoto hit a pair of free throws for the Marauders to make it 58-54 with 1:53 remaining.
Tadeo then scored on a driving layin with 1:29 left, capping Pitt’s game-defining 11-2 charge.
Marshall added 14 for Pitt, while Reyes added 12 for Fox.
Yet despite his team’s loss, even Ravens’ head coach Steve Hanson had to admit that has his team has come from a place every bit as dark as Pitt, salvaging hope for its season behind the outstanding play of Casey (who led his team Friday with 18 points) and Grade 10 guards Liam Hancock, Reyes and Andy Seo.
“When we lost eight in a row in December, it was dark days,” said Hanson. “I told the guys before the game that they were playing for first place, and that they should be proud of that. They definitely can’t be satisfied after tonight, but we’ll be better next week.”
Indeed, Friday’s contest was the one to determine the Fraser Valley North champion.
Pitt’s reward is that it will be able to host the league championship game one week from Saturday, and of course they have designs on winning their first two playoff games to get there. Fox can create a rematch if it wins its first two games. All 11 teams in the league make the post-season.
And so welcome to high school playoff basketball.
That second season is upon us, and Friday’s battle of two traditional provincial powers was the perfect place to spend an evening saying farewell to another memorable regular season.