As losses go, the Ballenas Whalers’ 75-68 defeat to visiting Nanaimo District Secondary Tuesday night was about as good as they come.
“This effort was as good as we’ve had against (Nanaimo), probably ever,” Ballenas coach Taylor Wilson said.
When the teams met in Nanaimo in December, the Islanders coasted to a 20-2 first-quarter lead and went on to a 60-38 blowout win.
On Tuesday, Grade 12 guard Liviano Canil eclipsed that 38-point total himself, pouring in a game-high 45 points — including 20 as the Whalers raced to a 26-22 first-quarter lead.
“You could say it was quite a different start,” Wilson deadpanned.
NDSS eventually prevailed Tuesday, but it was no sure thing until the final 90 seconds.
The game was tied at 63 after Canil’s end-to-end drive and layup with 4:55 remaining. Moments later, following a forced turnover, the Whalers’ Devon Matheson and Canil both had put-back attempts at the go-ahead score roll off the rim following offensive rebounds.
Nanaimo’s Joel Bilyk then drained a three-point shot with 4:37 to play to give the Islanders the lead for good at 66-63.
Still, Ballenas was within 72-67 with 1:22 to go before Nanaimo scored four straight points for its largest lead of the game.
“The effort was there,” said Wilson, who called it the Whalers’ strongest effort of the season. “If we can carry that into this last month, we have a shot at making provincials.”
Nanaimo countered Canil’s offensive outburst with a balanced effort. Ismael Ndiaye had team-highs of 18 points and 12 rebounds, leading four Islanders in double-figure scoring.
Canil erupted for six three-point shots in the opening quarter, and added 12 points in the second for a 32-point total at intermission.
Six-foot-five Nanaimo guard Will Fridricksson was tasked with man-to-man defense on Canil in the second half, and kept the Ballenas standout to “only” 13 points the rest of the way.
“Obviously Livi went crazy in the first half,” said Wilson. “I told everybody at halftime he’s not going to keep that up; we need everybody to step up.”
Antonio Sequi came off the bench for back-to-back three-pointers in the third quarter, and Matheson and Michael McKee both contributed seven points.
“The effort was there at both ends of the court, and top to bottom,” said Wilson. “The guys coming off the bench all contributed.
“If we want to go on in the North Islands (tournament) and the Islands, that’s the level they need to be at.”
Above, Ballenas forward Devon Matheson, centre, fights his way through NDSS teammates Winston Gardiner, left, and Joel Bilyk during Tuesday’s Senior Boys AAA basketball matchup. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB NEWS
Islanders 75, Whalers 68
NDSS 22 22 13 18—75
Ballenas 26 15 13 14—68
Nanaimo 75 — Ismael Ndiaye 18, Cederberg 15, Morrison 14, Fridriksson 12, Robinson 5, Therrien 5, Gardiner 4, Bilyk 2, Whiting.
Ballenas 68 — Liviano Canil 45, McKee 7, Matheson 7, Segui 6, Kano 3, Brot, Rodway, Elliott.
Rebounds — NDSS 60 (Ndiaye 12), Ballenas 37 (Canil 12). Steals — NDSS 7 (Morrison 3), Ballenas 9 (Canil 3). Turnovers — NDSS 16, Ballenas 15.