Old Mustangs hot to trot

Hope teams performed well at the annual Mustang senior boys’ invitational basketball tournament last weekend at Hope Secondary.
What? Teams... plural?

Hope senior Mustang Jay Dongen leaps skyward in Hope’s opening win versus Elphinstone at the Mustang’s home tournament on the weekend. Hope lost in overtime versus Credo Christian to be relegated to the third and fourth final against Summerland. The senior boys were 2-and-2 in league play

By Barry Stewart

The Hope Standard

Hope teams performed well at the annual Mustang senior boys’ invitational basketball tournament last weekend at Hope Secondary.

What? Teams… plural?

When snowy roads forced a Prince George team to drop out of the 8-team tourney, organizers had to scramble to pull together a group of alumni to fill the holes in the schedule.

“I got a call from one of the boys on the senior team, probably around 1:00 on Friday afternoon,” said Kyle Kjemhus. “He asked if I’d be able to round up some guys to play that evening at 8:00. It took a couple of hours, but it worked out.”

The rainy weather had caused a closure of Chilliwack sports fields, so Kjemhus and Simon Brouwer — who play on the Valley Choppers soccer team — were able to switch sports for the weekend.

“It was a lot of fun to get out there and play again with some of the guys I played with in high school,” said Kjemhus. “Obviously, with most of us being four or five years older, there was a fairly sizable advantage in terms of strength, but we didn’t quite have the speed and endurance that we once had.

“You could definitely tell that the teams we played really wanted to beat us and I know that none of us particularly wanted to lose against these younger teams, so the games were very competitive. All of the coaches and players were really good sports about the whole situation, and we were just glad we could help fill out the tournament so none of the kids missed out on any games due to the last-minute cancellation.”

“It was understood that even if the grads won the game, the other team would record the win,” explained senior boys’ coach Jason Fisher. “They ended up winning two of their three games, though.

“Kyle Kjemhus, Reid Taylor and Simon Brouwer were there for all of their games and the rest of the group varied from game to game.”

Meanwhile, Hope’s other team — the not-so-senior HSS Mustangs — had a great start to the tournament on Friday afternoon against Elphinstone.

“We were down slightly at the half, then we came back,” said Fisher. “They were trying to do a full-court press and we were able to get around it and score some easy points, then they backed off that.

“We also tightened up our defence and that caused turnovers. The boys are good at ‘help defence’, adding bodies where they are needed. No one fouled out on our team in that game, either.”

The Sunshine Coast school was getting their chances but were shooting a lot of bricks, even from close in. Rick Piechotta, who has been helping coach the Mustangs, said the visitors’ best shooter had broken his wrist during the Christmas holidays — and that gave Hope a leg up.

Meanwhile, Jay Dongen was eating up the court for the Mustangs, scoring 34 points. Jacob Willock posted 17 points, Travis Herrling posted 12 and Evan Marlatt, 11. Those four — and Simon Kim — each sank a three-pointer.

Hope padded the gap near the end of the game, taking a 86-79 win into the Saturday afternoon game against Credo Christian.

“Credo are a good single-A team from Langley,” said coach Fisher. “We were tied at 82, heading for overtime. We had 16 seconds left in regulation and we weren’t able to score. Three of my guys had fouled out… one just before and two during overtime. You don’t get to reload on the foul count, going into overtime and we lost 92-88.”

Credo’s win put them into the championship against the powerful D.W. Poppy, who beat Credo quite handily, said Fisher.

Hope’s 1-and-1 record got them into the third and fourth-place final, against Summerland.

“They are a strong team,” said Fisher. “We played them last weekend in their tournament and lost… Here, we were close in the first half, only down by two at half-time. We had played a league game on Thursday night, though, so this was our fourth game in 48 hours. We just didn’t have the legs to run the whole game and they beat us by about 15.”

Fisher said the Mustangs only have two grade 12s in their line-up, Simon Kim and Parm Manoo, so the core group will still be there for a year or two.

“Many of our guys have improved so much,” he added. “Kaine Coghill and Dakota Jones played really well defensively for us — and Ivan Marlatt has improved a ton. He’s in grade 11 and he didn’t play senior ball last year. He had a growth spurt and he’s about 6’5” now… one of the tallest in our league.”

The Mustangs were 2-and-2 in league play, heading into a Tuesday game against Abby Traditional. They face Chilliwack’s G.W. Graham at home next Tuesday, January 25.

“Graham is ranked 10th in the province in double-A ball — and Poppy isn’t far behind,” said Fisher. “They play each other on Tuesday [the 18th], so that should be a really interesting result.”

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