Last-second loss for Crusaders

Roberto Moreno of the Holy Cross Crusaders beats a Langley Saints opponent to the ball during a Senior AA high school game Tuesday night in Langley. The Saints clinched first place with a 71-69 win. - JOHN GORDON / BLACK PRESS
Roberto Moreno of the Holy Cross Crusaders beats a Langley Saints opponent to the ball during a Senior AA high school game Tuesday night in Langley. The Saints clinched first place with a 71-69 win.
— image credit: JOHN GORDON / BLACK PRESS

In five seconds of playing time, the Holy Cross Crusaders went from playing for first place to playing for their playoff lives.

The Senior AA high school boys basketball team watched a win slip away Tuesday night at Langley Secondary School, as the host Saints netted five points in that five-second span at the end of the game, eking out a 71-69 win.

“We were up three points (69-66) with five seconds to play, and we fouled them,” said Crusaders head coach Matt LeChasseur. “So we figure they take two foul shots and it’s game over.”

Langley called a time-out after the foul, and when play was to resume, the referees had changed the call. An intentional foul was assessed against the Crusaders, which gave the Saints two free throws and possession of the ball. They hit both foul shots, then drained a three-point shot at the buzzer for the win.

The victory handed Langley first place in the Fraser Valley West division of the Senior AA league. The Saints completed the schedule with a perfect 6-0 (won-loss) record, while Holy Cross claimed second at 4-2, after having a chance to force a playoff for top spot with a victory Tuesday.

But while Langley advances directly to the eight-team Fraser Valley Championship Tournament next week in Mission, the Crusaders now have to play a sudden-death cross-over playoff game against the 3-5 Aldergrove Totems, the third place team from the East division. The game will be played tomorrow (Saturday) at a site to be determined. The winner gets into the Fraser Valley tournament, the loser has their season come to an end.

But LeChasseur isn’t overly worried.

“We had a slow start to the season, with our football team winning the provincials,” he said, noting starters such as Billy Greene and Spencer Betts were late to join the basketball squad.

“But we’re finding our stride now. Teams in the valley don’t want to play us now, we’re a team with a real chance to go to the B.C.’s. We’re peaking, and with playoffs starting, we’re doing it at the right time.”

n The Seaquam Seahawks have spent the season playing as many games as possible against the best teams in the province, and hope the strategy pays off as they enter postseason play tonight.

Given honourable mention in Basketball B.C.’s top 15 poll, the Senior AAA boys team placed second in the Fraser Valley West division with a 10-1 record.

They tip off tonight in a semifinal game at White Rock Christian Academy against an opponent to be determined, where a win guarantees a berth at the 16-team Fraser Valley tournament, and a loss sends them to a sudden-death cross-over game Tuesday.

“We had a tough schedule. We lost 10 games, but we have played mostly against the top 10 teams in the province,” said Seahawks coach Jason Johnston. “We’re solid, but the competition is tough in the Fraser Valley and I wanted to expose the guys to it.”

The ’Hawks will depend on point guard Clayton Dendy, and fellow Grade 12s Varinder Singh and Spencer Dore. “Clayton has been most consistent player, and the other two Grade 12s have really come on since last year. They are usually among the leaders in rebounding and scoring.”

Grade 11s Dustin Eglestad and James Bradshaw are also starters who “have added quite a bit to the team.”

n Playing at the Fraser Valley tournament is nothing new for the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers girls team. But doing it at the Senior AAA level is.

The perennial power at the Senior AA level, the Panthers were bumped up a group due to the school’s growing student body.

Lord Tweedsmuir has made the adjustment smoothly, placing second in the Central division with an 8-2 record, behind only the 9-1 Brookswood Bobcats, a team ranked ninth in the provincial poll.

“I don’t know if we were surprised (at a second place finish), the girls have been working hard to make sure we were competitive,” said coach Gary Pawluk. “But that’s always what it’s about, working hard. We want to compete, no matter what.”

The runnerup placing sends the Panthers directly into the 16-team Fraser Valley tournament Feb. 20-23. Inexperience will be something the team will have to overcome, as the majority of starters are in Grade 11.

“Leah Riske is the only true starting Grade 12, we’re a young team,” said Pawluk. “Even the bench is young, we have a couple of Grade 10s we had to put on the senior team.

“And they play, we have no choice because you have to go deep in your bench to compete at this level.”

The Panthers, ranked 13th in the provincial poll, have been seeded seventh for the 16-team Fraser Valley tournament which gets under way Monday. Lord Tweedsmuir will tip off against the 10th ranked M.E.I. Eagles in the opening round at Elgin Park Secondary School, needing to win at least once in their first two games to be among the 12 teams still alive when the tournament shifts to M.E.I. for third round play starting Thursday.

Three other local schools are also at the Fraser Valley tournament, including the Fleetwood Park Dragons, a team which battled the Panthers for second place in the Central Division.

Fleetwood, 7-3 in league play, placed third and was forced to play a sudden-death cross-over game at home Tuesday, and easily defeated the Rick Hansen Hurricanes 65-47.

The Dragons, the eighth-seed, opened the Fraser Valley tournament at Riverside Secondary School in Port Coquitlam against the ninth-seed Maple Ridge Ramblers.

Also in Riverside are the Princess Margaret Lions, the sixth-place team from the West Division. The Lions, 4-5 in league play, upset the Centennial Centaurs 57-46 in Tuesday’s cross-over game, but have drawn the province’s top-ranked team – the Riverside Rapids – in the opening round.

The Tamanawis Wildcats, in second place at 7-2 in the West Division, are the 14th-seed at the valley tournament, and will face the Chilliwack Storm Monday in Chilliwack.

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