An all-Chilliwack battle in the single A senior boys basketball provincial championship game saw the Unity Christian Flames beat the Highroad Academy Knights 65-61.
The thrilling battle played Saturday at the Langley Events Centre saw the Flames finally overcome a foe that had beaten them in their four previous matchups.
Unity Christian jumped out to an 18-11 lead after one quarter, only to see the Knights roar back and take a 27-26 advantage into halftime.
Highroad Academy pushed their lead to seven points in the third quarter before the pendulum swung in the opposite direction.
Unity Christian went on an impressive run, erasing the deficit and carrying 44-40 lead into the final frame.
“Often, when our shooting would dry up or things weren’t going our way, we would have a tough time focusing and being positive,” said coach David Bron. “We created a ‘recognize - breathe - refocus’ timeout format where we would play rock, paper scissors just to recalibrate mentally. It definitely paid off for us as we were able to bounce back when Highroad started taking it to us.”
The teams matched each other shot for shot down the stretch, with Unity Christian unable to pull away and Highroad unable to get any closer.
The Flames got the last bucket with 53 seconds remaining and hung on for the first senior boys win in the school’s history.
Caleb Graham led Unity Christian with 18 points.
MVP Keegan Schuurman had 15 points and nine rebounds, and Colby Vanderkooi led the Flames with 10 boards.
Highroad Academy’s Elijah Grimard was a one-man band offensively, producing 30 of the Knights’ 61 points. The next highest scorer on his team was Aidan Morris with 13 points, while Easton Abel had 11.
“Hats off to Highroad,” Bron said. “Playing them for years, and five times this season, we have become very familiar with each other. We have such respect for that team and program, and (head coach) Mike (Shannon) has done a great job.
“It’s gotta be so tough to come that close, but they and their fans were congratulatory of us and showed great character the entire time.”
Bron said a group of boys have been working towards this moment since Grade 6 and this year’s tournament was their last chance to win.
The team is graduating 10 seniors.
“What was so cool was watching them buy into the daily hard work that it took to get there,” Bron said. “I genuinely looked forward to going to practice because of them. I would get pestered to open the gym in the mornings and on weekends. This dedication and amount of work that was put in over the years is why winning this championship is so meaningful. It represents so much learning, growth and relationship building. That is what I love about coaching and the game of basketball, and what really matters.
“I truly hope the boys that graduate this year will be able to use the discipline and lessons learned from our time together to go on and be successful in whatever they do. I will really miss them next year.”