Palmer nets yet another hoops title

The R.C. Palmer Griffins are the latest example of a team best not counted out.

Though they lost two games (to Steveston-London Sharks and R.A. McMath Wildcats) in Richmond Secondary Schools Athletics Association senior boys’ basketball this season, making them the third seed for last week’s playoffs, those in the know still feared them. They were wise to do so.

The Griffins, defending B.C. AAA champions, emerged from the playoff round-robin No. 1 after their 77-60 victory over the Steveston-London Sharks Thursday earned them the Richmond title.

“I am so proud of the boys who truly showed the heart of a champion this week to win the Richmond championship,” said Palmer head coach Paul Eberhardt. “This year’s tournament was a strong as it has ever been with a huge amount of parity and the boys really came through with their best performances of the year.”

The Griffins opened up the tournament against the H.J. Cambie Crusaders, who played very impressive defence to limiting Palmer to 23 points at the half while taking a 30-23 lead.

The Griffins came out in the third quarter determined. They pounded the ball inside and also played some impressive defence of their own by holding the Crusaders to just eight points to take a 43-38 lead into the final frame.

Palmer started the fourth quarter with some impressive fast breaking and went on a 16-4 run to put the game away, 72-60.

The Griffins enjoyed balanced scoring as Jamie Madewan led with 18 points, Tyler Debeer and Karn Mann had 15 points each and Ben Samy chipped in with 11 points. Debeer led in rebounds with 13 while Mann had nine and  Madewan led in assists with seven.

“Coach (Jon) Acob had his Cambie squad very well prepared and I think they may be capable of surprising some of the higher ranked teams at the AA Lower Mainland Tournament,” noted Eberhardt.

The semifinal was a re-match with the Wildcats, and it proved to be a nail-biter from start to finish.

The game was tied at 20 after a quarter, but the Griffins played some stingy defence in the second quarter and held the half-time lead at 37-32. McMath had a strong third quarter and retook the lead 49-47 setting the stage for an intense finish.

Neither team was able to take more than a two- point lead in the fourth until the 1:45 (remaining) mark when Chris Randing knocked down a huge three to put Palmer up 65-60. After the Griffins got a defensive stop, they used all 30 seconds of the shot clock when Samy knocked down a triple with a minute left in the game to put Palmer up eight. The Griffins kept McMath off the score sheet for the rest of the game to win 72-60.

Palmer again had a balanced attack with Madewan netting 19 points and pulling down 13 rebounds and Debeer also enjoying another double-double with 17 points and 15 rebounds. Samy had 11 points, Randing had 10 points, and Mann added nine points while JP Javier led in assists with eight.

“Chris and Ben really stepped up when the game was on the line knocking down those two huge threes,” said Eberhardt. “But also huge credit has to go to Jamie and JP who had the task of guarding McMath’s two most explosive scorers (Josh Parkes and Andrew McCaskill) and they did an amazing job.”

The championship game was a re-match of last years’ final as Palmer would look to once again avenge an earlier league loss to Steveston-London Sharks. The game started at a quick pace and the Sharks took advantage with their impressive fast break to lead 22-18 after a quarter.

But the Sharks were unable to hold the lead in the second, and with six seconds left Palmer was up two when an accidental head butt cut the eye of Palmer’s starting forward Debeer.

However the Griffins re-grouped and Madewan scored an inside bucket as the buzzer expired to give the Palmer a 39-35 advantage.

Debeer received medical attention at halftime and returned to the line-up a few minutes in to the second half.

“Tyler showed tremendous toughness and there was simply no way he was not going to play in the second half,” said Eberhardt.

As a team, Palmer showed great defensive focus in the third quarter and limited the Sharks to mostly perimeter shots while continuing the control the boards. As a result, they extended their lead to 13 points at 60-47.

In the fourth quarter, the Sharks were never able to make a run and Palmer retained their double digit lead on their way to a 77-60 win.

Madewan had another superb performance with 20 points, 13 rebounds and four assists while Debeer was a true warrior with his third straight double-double with 16 points and 16 rebounds. Randing was also very impressive with 12 points and 10 rebounds and Samy and Mann also had double-figure scoring nights with 13 and 11 points respectively. JP Javier had his highest assist total of the year with 14 and Hamed Amiri had some key rebounds filling in for Debeer when he was injured.

“After graduating all five starters last year many people felt we would not be able to win it this year,” said Eberhardt. “I am so proud of these boys for truly playing their best basketball when it counted most.”

This week, Palmer is playing in the Lower Mainland AA Championships through Friday at King George Secondary in Vancouver. The Griffins are seeded No. 3 in the tournament, from which the top two teams will advance to the provincial championships.

Cambie (seeded No. 5) and Hugh McRoberts Strikers (No. 8) are also in the Lower Mainland playdowns.

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