Thor Nielsen (r) goes high and Jeremy Eschappe stays low, covering a Southpointe attacker, Friday evening at the Agassiz senior boys tournament. The Mustangs dropped the first game but won their next two, earning fifth place out of eight teams. (Barry Stewart/ Hope Standard)

Nail-biter win caps successful tournament for senior Mustangs

‘They were making junior mistakes — but that’s okay,’ says coach

Barry Stewart

Hope Standard

Last week, Hope Secondary senior girls basketball coach, Jeff Kuhn said, “The boys look a lot stronger than they have in years.”

Kuhn’s assertion was borne out at the Agassiz tournament last weekend — where the boys clearly showed they are back in contention. They won two out three games, capturing fifth place overall.

The Mustangs met a polished and older Southpointe squad in their first match, Friday night and the Tsawwassen team held a confident lead throughout the game. Passes and shots weren’t clicking for the Mustangs, though senior, Nic Kamp was able to bag 21 points.

Kamp led all Mustang shooters in all three games and was selected to the tournament’s second all-star team and was Hope’s MVP, versus Southpointe.

Coach Jake Giles said, “A lot of our errors came from having to play a lot of junior players, due to our short bench. They were making junior mistakes — but that’s okay. We were playing against mostly grade 11-12 guys; they were a good team.”

The Mustangs were missing senior Jeremy Preston, who went down with an ankle injury in the Mustangs’ win over Dasmesh in their league-opener, last week.

Saturday morning, Hope met their traditional rivals, Agassiz, in a game that could set the tone for the rest of the season.

“They don’t have Simon, their big guy from last year,” said Giles. The Agassiz coach had also sat a starter for issues in Agassiz’ first game, so Hope had an easier path, winning 65-29. Kamp netted 26 points and Jeremy Eschappe was chosen as game MVP for Hope.

“We’ve got to play them at least two more times in league play and maybe in our tournament,” said Giles, adding, “I think we’re up to eight teams confirmed.”

The boys’ tournament runs January 10 and 11 — and the girls’ is this weekend. The girls’ first game is Friday at 10 a.m., versus Kumsheen (Lytton) and then at 1:45, versus Ashcroft. The public is welcome to attend.

Back at Agassiz, the boys saved their most dramatic game for last, against Langley’s D.W. Poppy.

“We got a 21-point lead on them, then they clawed back,” said coach Giles. “Nic fouled out (after sinking another 27 points) and they poured on a full-court press on our junior players.

Down by only 2 points in the final minute, Poppy pulled out a desperation play.

“They intentionally fouled Kayden Araki, to force him to the foul line,” said Giles.

The fouling team hoped the shooter would miss at least one of the shots, so they could quickly get the ball back and have a chance at the tying basket.

As he stepped up to the line, Araki knew the fate of the game rested in his hands. One out of two foul shots would force Poppy to sink a 3-pointer. Two out of two would pretty well seal the win.

“It was like he had ice in his veins,” recalled Giles of his game MVP. “For a grade 9 to step up like that and drain both shots… I was so proud of him.”

At 64-60, Poppy still had a slim chance, though.

“They tried to shoot a three and it hit the rim and went out of bounds and we played out the clock,” said the coach.

“It was the most I’ve ever sweated, without playing in a basketball game.”

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Jeremy Eschappe fends off a check, while attacking the hoop. Barry Stewart/ Hope Standard

Grade 9 guard, Kayden Araki shows goes vertical on this layup. (Barry Stewart/ Hope Standard)

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