The Oak Bay Bays weren’t going to miss a second chance.
The Bays upset the Spartans 81-75 at Claremont on Monday night, a result that left the Island tournament runners-up empty-handed and Oak Bay holding the second Island berth in next week’s AAA high school boys basketball provincials.
Dover Bay of Nanaimo took top spot, beating Claremont with a dying seconds three-pointer in Saturday’s Island final. That dropped the Spartans into a challenge game against Oak Bay, who battled through the back door to grab third place.
“(Monday’s challenge game) was a tough situation for Claremont, playing us coming off a heartbreaker,” said Oak Bay coach Josh Elsdon.
Claremont coach Lucky Walia said he wasn’t sure the boys fully recovered from their loss on Saturday.
“It was emotionally draining. The boys tried to look forward but, I think that is quite difficult to do when you were completely invested in what you were doing on Saturday night.
“I don’t know for sure but I think the energy was a bit down on Monday. We seemed to be a bit flat at times.”
Oak Bay faces Burnaby South in the opener at the B.C.s on Wednesday (March 16) at the Langley Events Centre.
Guard Drake Downer led Oak Bay with 28 points on Monday, while point guard Kazutoki Kobayashi added 17.
Claremont’s big men, Dominic Ohl and Brett Armbrust, came through with 23 and 20 points, respectively.
Looking back, it was clear from the start of the season that Oak Bay and Claremont were the teams to beat on the lower Island.
“We knew it would be a tight season with Dover Bay, the other team in the mix with us – three teams trying to get two spots at provincials,” Elsdon said.
But a slough of injuries put the Bays behind the eight ball, and they wound up losing league games to Belmont and Mount Douglas , two solid teams.
Oak Bay’s loss to Claremont in the city finals, then to Cowichan in the opening game of the Island championships was an eye opener, Elsdon said.
“We weren’t mentally prepared for Cowichan, but we adjusted ourselves.”
Having lost in the previous two meetings against Claremont, Elsdon reworked his team’s defensive approach for Monday’s match.
That meant changing strategy in how they covered most players.
“We felt Liam Butler had previously done a good job on (Spartans’ forward) Dominic Ohl, so we stuck with that,” Elsdon said.
“It was especially evident with (Butler’s) key block on Ohl during the Spartans run in the last quarter.”
Claremont caught fire in the final frame and cut into the Bays’ 15-point lead with a string of three-pointers, but the lead was too much for the Spartans to overcome.
“We did have a good run in the fourth but to Oak Bay’s credit, they made enough plays of their own to keep us from getting over the hump,” Walia said.