By MATT ENGLAND
SPECIAL TO THE DRIFTWOOD
This past weekend the Salt Spring Island Middle School Grade 8 boys basketball team travelled to White Rock for the B.C championships. The team qualified for the 16-team tournament on the strength of a near-perfect season in the mid-Vancouver Island region.
SIMS was ranked #16 going in, setting up a first-round match up against the #1 seed, which in this case was eventual champions Vancouver College. SIMS fought hard but were no match for the perennial powerhouse Irish. Point guard Ben Shugar showed particular determination and poise against what was clearly the best backcourt in the province. The loss was part of a tournament-wide pattern of the big schools from the Lower Mainland separating themselves from the teams that qualified from outer regions.
Next up was a second-round game with Nanaimo District, which was the only team to defeat SIMS in the regular season. Coaches Jude Shugar and Annette Wright knew that despite the loss earlier in the season this game likely presented the best opportunity for a win in the tournament.
The team was up early and at the gym by 8 a.m. — the boys all business and looking sharp in their slick warm-ups. The game was heated and evenly matched from the tip-off, and Nanaimo held a slim three-point lead at the half.
After the break, SIMS came out on fire and played their best ball of the weekend. Led by an epic trio of threes from Luca Curcio, and one from player of the game Reuben Wright, the boys built up a 15-point lead to take to the fourth quarter. It didn’t last long, however, and as time wound down the lead had been cut to one.
With seconds left, Nanaimo got the ball to their top guy in good shooting position. He got the shot off and time stood still for a moment before the ball bounced off the back rim and the SIMS bench erupted in chest bumps and high fives. With teary eyes and shaky fingers, proud parents texted the good news back to friends and family on Salt Spring.
The final two games saw strong play from team leaders Reuben Wright and forward Hans Hu. Hu was listed at six feet in height but played like he was 6’5”. SIMS held their own against a very strong A.R. MacNeill team from Richmond before finishing the tournament with a slightly disappointing loss to Summerland.
In the end they finished 12th, which was the biggest move up in rank of any team and equalled the best result ever for SIMS.
Salt Springers should be proud of how the boys represented against the very best in B.C. Big thanks to Wright and Shugar for their awesome coaching and to the community and sponsors, which not only raised all the funds for the trip but did it in a week. You gave these amazing kids an experience they will never forget.
Besides Hu, Curcio, Shugar and Wright, team members are Cody Purssell, Koah Barstead, Sel Patterson, Eli England, Korin Kikuchi, Thomas Schulze, Om Decosas and Sebastian Stratford.