Senior boys finish first at Hoopfest tournament

The Hope Mustangs have two road games next week and travel to Agassiz for their final league game on Feb. 6

Hope Mustang guard Brendan Sullivan tries to evade the tenacious forecheck of Mt. Sentinel’s Johnny Johnson

The senior boys Mustangs hosted their Hoopfest basketball tournament last weekend — and played their way to first place overall.

It was destined to be a small tournament anyway, with five teams entered but it got even smaller on Friday morning, said Hope Secondary’s athletics director, Alicia Dubois.

“Unfortunately, due to weather, Revelstoke Secondary was unable to travel and had to cancel on the morning of the tournament,” she explained. “This resulted in a quick rescheduling of games and officials, so a round robin was created for the remaining four teams.

“The tournament went really well, though. The teams were all pretty evenly matched, which made for some exciting close games.”

Unlike typical tournament formats, a loss in the opening game didn’t relegate a team to the consolation side. That was lucky for Hope, who had a meltdown in the first game but came back to win their other two.

“This tournament was interesting because all of the teams had an opportunity to play each other,” said Dubois. “If we look at Hope, for instance, Hope lost their first game against Mt. Sentinel but won their second game against Agassiz.  At the same time, Agassiz won their game against Mt. Sentinel, but lost their game against Hope and Charles Bloom Secondary.”

The Mustangs ended up beating Charles Bloom on Saturday and had the same 2-and-1 win-loss record… so their victory over Bloom gave the Hope boys first overall.

Things started well for the Mustangs in the Mount Sentinel game, with Hope up by seven points at the half. Then things fell apart.

“That first game was frustrating,” said Mustangs coach Jake Giles on Tuesday. “Mount Sentinel went on a couple of runs in the second half… one of them 23-0.

“It was all because of a three-quarter court trap they put on us. It was a different look than the guys were used to. It was an even-fronted zone trap instead of an odd front — and I couldn’t get the guys to settle down and execute our press break.

“We burned up all our timeouts trying to break it down,” said the coach.  “Believe me, we are spending some time in practice working on it.”

The South Slocan-based school outscored HSS 47-28 in the second half, with No. 4, Johnny Johnson, lapping up 30 points in the game. Mount Sentinel won 63-51.

Grade 12 guard, Brendan Sullivan led the Mustangs with four treys and four more points for a total of 16.

Forty-five minutes later, the Mustangs were back on the floor against Agassiz. The down-river team had beaten Hope by a close margin in league play earlier in the week. Now it was Hope’s chance to return the favour.

The Mustangs led after each quarter, paced by Justin Dolan and brothers Brendan and Cam Sullivan, who shared 35 points between the trio. Agassiz matched Hope 18-18 in the final frame but the home team prevailed, 49-43.

“This time, we were down three guys, [who were involved in the midget hockey tournament],” said coach Giles. “We decided to go zone against them, to save our energy.  We knew we’d have to zero-in on their best shooter, No. 13, to keep him from beating us — but the guys did an excellent job keeping track of him and taking care of their responsibilities on the defensive end.”

Charles Bloom Secondary of Lumby had edged Agassiz and trounced Mount Sentinel on Friday, so the Mustangs had a tough row to hoe on Saturday.

Brendan Sullivan set the pace with six three-pointers and Cam notched three more treys. The brother act accounted for 35 of Hope’s 50 points in the game. Brendan’s play in the three games garnered him the tournament MVP honours.

It was tied at 25 at half-time, then Hope went on a 14-5 tear in the third quarter and never looked back, winning 50-41.

“We had been running our zone all game,” said Giles, “but we started running our zone with a trap in the corner and that resulted in a few turnovers for us. One of their better players had a little bit of foul trouble and was forced to sit the last half of the third quarter. That gave us a little more liberty to trap hard in the corner and look for the turnover. The guys did a great job of anticipating the pass and cutting off the baseline.”

The Mustang boys have two road games next week and travel to Agassiz for their final league game on Feb. 6.

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