The Hope Secondary senior boys Mustangs had a spirited opening game against D.W. Poppy at their annual Hoopfest last weekend. Poppy won the event last year and is a perennial favourite — but the Mustangs kept things close, so they could be within striking distance as time wound down.
Poppy was only ahead by three points at the half, thanks to a defensive surge by the home squad.
Jay Dongen led the way for the Mustangs, with 12 points in the first half and 27 more in the second half.
Nick Pauls added six of his eight points in the third quarter but Poppy started sinking their shots and stretched their lead to seven by the end of the third frame.
Poppy widened the gap to 13 in a wild fourth quarter, but the Mustangs put on a frantic press in the last five minutes — and treys by Dongen and Brendan Sullivan brought a renewed hope that the Mustangs could draw even.
In the end, they could only get within six, losing a hard-fought and entertaining match 77-71.
With only four teams attending the tournament, a round-robin format was used, with the best record taking home top honours.
A three-point challenge was also held between games on Friday, with shooters getting one ball — and two rebounders from their team — to see how many baskets they could sink from outside the arc in one minute.
“There was a good level of participation,” said vice principal Jason Fisher of the 18 shooters that tried their skills.
“The best was a guy from Poppy, with nine baskets but Travis Herrling tied for third, with seven.”
Ivan Marlatt sank five and Brendan Sullivan, three — though he may have been saving his best for the games.
“There were a few times this weekend where guys were right in Sully’s face and he still sank them,” said Fisher, who coached the senior boys last year.
Rookie head coach Jeff Holgate stuck around to watch the opening quarter of the next game, between the Kalamalka Lakers and B.C. Christian of Port Coquitlam.
“Everyone, including me, thought we were going to have an easy time against Kalamalka,” said Holgate, “but they kicked our butts! It didn’t help that Dongen got snowed in on Saturday and was late getting to the game — and Ivan Marlatt was playing hurt — but everything fell apart in that game. Every loss is a learning experience, though.”
The final score was 84-61 for the Lakers. Nick Pauls scored 16 for the Mustangs and Herrling’s 17 points, including three treys, helped keep the score respectable.
“In our last game, against B.C. Christian Academy, we beat them by about 20 points. They didn’t have a lot of outside shooters, from outside the paint,” said Holgate, who played his high school ball in Keremeos. “Unfortunately, they were getting a lot of their own rebounds. We’ve got to block out more.
“Jay, of course, was scoring well — and Travis Herrling had a couple of good treys and drives to the basket. We were moving the ball around really well.
“And Daniel Peters got his first basket,” said the coach, beaming with enthusiasm. “The boys were really happy for him and they were trying so hard to feed Steven Misumi in the last few minutes of the game, to get him a basket too. A few of Steven’s shots looked like they were going in but they just missed.”
The final game just happened to be between the best two teams, Poppy and Kalamalka. The Lakers got off to a blazing start, laying down 18 and 25 points in the first two quarters — while Poppy only managed six and seven.
“Kalamalka was a very strong team,” said Fisher. “Their number 12 (Nathan Meyer) was the tournament MVP and he was pulling down lots of defensive and offensive rebounds.”
Poppy regrouped to outscore the Lakers in the second half but they could only narrow the differential to 18. The final score was 69-51.
Hope’s win over BCCA gave them third place.
Athletics coordinator Alicia Dubois said, “There were other teams lined up to come but they had to withdraw for one reason or another. I think overall the tournament went well, with many positive comments from coaches and players who said they had fun and would love to come back.
“There were also positive comments by the referees. In my opinion, the tournament was a great success.”
Pauls was chosen as the Mustangs’ tournament all-star, after balloting of the four coaches.