Updated: Mar 7
The Vancouver College Fighting Irish — who have been injury-riddled for most of the season — are coming together at the most opportune time.
“We’re getting better every weekend,” said Irish head coach Lloyd Scrubb. “We had a lot of injuries during the year, other guys had to step up, and now some of the guys who had been injured for a bit are coming back. We’re starting to rally into shape, and the boys are in good spirits.”
For the Irish, getting to the big dance was never a guarantee. In order to do so, they needed to win a do-or-die game against their archrival the St. George’s Saints who had been ranked higher in the provincial rankings for much of the season. But when it came to crunch time, the Irish prevailed 78-74.
Led by the dynamic duo of 6’9’ grade-eleven centre Jacob Holt and 6'3' senior guard Hunter Cruz-Dumont, the Irish not only got past the Saints but also defeated the (at the time) number five provincially ranked Handsworth Royals to secure the 4A Sea-To-Sky Championship. College topped the Royals 80-71 in overtime, with Holt getting MVP honours.
Vancouver College’s great play has carried over into the provincials, where on Wednesday the fourth-seed Irish easily handled thirteen-seed Fleetwood Park 88-55, and on Thursday faced the dangerous fifth-seed Abbotsford Panthers to advance to the 4A semi-finals on Friday.
“They can shoot, and everybody they put on the floor is a high IQ basketball player,” said Scrubb of the Panthers. “Our goal was to stay in front of them and make it as hard for them as possible [on defence]. It certainly helps that we have Jacob [Holt] back there to clean up our defensive lapses.”
Against the Panthers, the Fighting Irish quickly found themselves in a 10-0 hole. From that point on, College took control of the game and never looked back, ultimately leading by more than 20 points for most of the fourth quarter. That’s a big improvement from February when the Fighting Irish only beat the Panthers by two points in an 82-80 nail-biter.
Leading the way for the Irish was their superstar Cruz-Dumont, who exploded for 40 points, six rebounds, and four assists. “Hunter wants to win, in games and in practices,” explained Scrubb. “Tonight, he was locked in. He basically said ‘just get on my back, and I’ll get you guys there’. And we were there for the ride.”
Also making a big impact for Vancouver College was 6’4’ senior forward Sahil Sandhu, who was out for the whole regular season with an injury and recovered just in time for the playoffs. Sandhu had a strong game with 15 points to go along with eight rebounds. Holt, who emphasized the win on Thursday with a rim-rattling dunk in the fourth quarter, posted a double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds.
Vancouver College has been tested more than any 4A team this season, but their biggest test awaits on Friday night: the number-one seed Burnaby South Rebels stand between the Fighting Irish and the provincial championship game. The Rebels and Irish have yet to face each other this season.
“We’re going to play the way we play, and hopefully it's good enough to have some success,” said Scrubb. And as of late, success is all that’s come for the Fighting Irish.
Written by: Aly Dhanani