Charlottetown Rural students rushed the court Wednesday night as the final buzzer sounded to celebrate a provincial boys’ basketball title with their classmates.
“It’s an unreal feeling,” Noah Giddings said moments after the mob died down and Kool and The Gang’s Celebrate Good Times stopped playing.
The Rural Raiders defeated the Colonel Gray Colonels 70-65 in a see-saw contest that will be remembered for years by those who packed the UPEI gymnasium for the Domino’s P.E.I. School Athletic Association AAA championship. The atmosphere was electric. Gray students were on one end of the bleachers with the Raiders on the other, each cheering their team on. Neither group sat during the game.
“We were in the finals last year and lost it, so it’s good to get back on top,” said Grade 11 guard Stephen Seviour.
He was money with the game on the line. Trailing 65-64 after Brett Butler hit one in a string of fourth quarter shots, Serviour would score four of the final six points to win it.
“It was great to be able to help my team out like that,” Seviour said. “Everyone was doing their part today and that allowed us to pull it off in the end.”
The Colonels led 17-16 after the first quarter with Jeff Morrison hitting an acrobatic layup for Colonel Grey and Jack MacAulay answering with a last-second three.
Giddings scored six points as Rural went on a 12-0 run to close out the first half with a 36-28 lead.
The Colonels refused to go away with Butler heating up and Mike MacKenzie knocking down shots inside to propel their team back in it. With Rural up 48-41 in the fourth, Butler scored his team’s next 11 points, including three straight three-pointers, to tie the game at 52.
“We worked hard to get that lead at the half,” Seviour said.
“We just had to keep on going, working hard, to get our points back. Eventually, with some big stops down (the stretch), that’s how we won it – with defence.”
Giddings led the Raiders with 19 while Seviour and Jack MacAulay each had 10. Mark Lloyd, Brayden White and Fola Oluyede each added six.
Butler had 18 to lead the Colonels while Morrison had 15 and MacKenzie 14. Jeremy Thompson had nine and Max Ramsey eight.
The Three Oaks Axewomen accomplished a first Wednesday night in capturing back-to-back girls’ AAA basketball banners.
“A repeat, it’s never happened at Three Oaks before,” said guard Becky Clarke, who was named the tournament most valuable player. “We just made history.
“And the six Grade 12 girls have been playing together for 10 years, so to do it together is amazing.”
Three Oaks defeated the Colonel Gray Colonels 49-43 for the victory.
The Axewomen used treys by Erica Gillis and Michaela Walker to build an 11-4 lead after 10 minutes of play. The intensity increased in the second quarter and Victoria Barbour hit a buzzer-beating three to cut the Axewomen’s lead to 19-16.
Madison Blanchard said the Colonels remained confident at the half.
“We knew we were still in it,” she said, “and we could still win, so we didn’t give up.”
Keyed by tenacious defence, the Axewomen went on an 18-1 run to close the third quarter and looked comfortably ahead by 20 going to the final 10 minutes.
Colonel Gray did not roll over. They kept coming back and closed to 46-38 with four minutes remaining using treys by Morgan Fitzgerald, and two by Barbour.
Another Barbour three-pointer and two free throws by Patty Nino-Ezperaza made it 48-43 with 47 seconds to play, but that was as close as they would get.
With Barbour going in for a layup following a steal, Jaime MacLean raced back and blocked the shot.
“They always have good comebacks at the end against us,” she said. “We stayed positive most of the time and I think that really helped us pull it out in the end.”
She is one of the six Grade 12s on the club. The others are Walker, Sloane Rioux, Marissa Blacquire and Gillis.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” MacLean said. “This is the senior year . . . it’s great feeling to finish it off with a great, great end.”
She said the seniors have been inseparable for 10 years.
“It’s very sad that our family is over now, but it was a very, very good season.”
Blanchard said it wasn’t tough dealing with the loss.
“I left everything out there,” she said. “It’s not a disappointment.”
Barbour led the Colonels with 17 points while Fitzgerald had 11. Kendra Craswell with six and Blanchard five.
Gillis led the Axewomen with 11 while Charlotte Thompson had 10 points and 10 boards. MacLean added nine points and eight rebounds while Jessica Gillis chipped in six points.
u Tournament all-stars - Zack Marsh, Bluefield; Colin Arsenault, Three Oaks; Jeff Morrison, Gray; Stephen Seviour, Rural; Mike MacKenzie, Gray.
u Tournament MVP - Noah Giddings, Rural.
u Tournament all-stars - Jessica Patenaude, Rural; Victoria Barbour, Gray; Charlotte Thompson, Three Oaks; Madison Blanchard, Gray; Erica Gillis, Three Oaks.
u Tournament MVP - Jaime MacLean, Three Oaks.