Ballenas Whalers Jacob Stockton drives past Nathan Stellard of the Alberni Armada during their challenge game at BSS gym on Wednesday. — Michael Briones photo

Whalers stop Alberni Armada to advance to North Islands

Ballenas to face Blazers tonight at 6 p.m. at Mark Isfeld gym

The Ballenas Whalers secured a spot in the North Island high school boys basketball championships, when they stopped the Alberni Armada 79-75 on Wednesday night at the BSS gym.

The Triple A North Islands starts today (Feb. 14) at Mark Isfeld in Courtenay. The Whalers will travel to the Comox Valley to play their first game against the John Barsby Blazers at 6 p.m. tonight.

The Armada dominated the first half against Ballenas. Forward Grey Barney had the hot hand, leading the Armada offence from behind the arc to score 16 points in the first half alone. The Armada led 19-10 in the first quarter and at the end of the half were up 22-16. They went on to extend their lead to as much as 15 points.

The Whalers struggled both offensively and defensively and it didn’t look good for the home team. But they worked things out particularly on defence, putting a defender on Barney. They eventually stopped the onslaught, limiting the Armada to just nine baskets in the third quarter and cutting the gap to 50-49.

The Whalers’ confidence surged up as they made key shots with Jayden Haftner and Jaxon Ackerman leading the way.

With just over two minutes left to play and the score tied 73-73, Haftner sank a crucial three-pointer with the 30-second clock winding down to put the Whalers ahead 76-73 . They never relinquished the lead, winning 79-75, much to the delight of the home crowd.

Head coach Dave Stockton credited the Whalers defence in the second half as key for securing their spot in the North Islands.

“We talked about it at the half,” said Stockton. “We had to shut down number 15 [Barney]. He was unbelievable. He scored at least three quarters of their points in the first half. When we shut him down, things changed.”

Stockton added that when the Whalers started to play with urgency and intensity, things fell into place for them.

“If we play like this every game, we’d have no problems winning,” said Stockton.

Jacob Stockton, who was key in the defensive and offensive boards, led the Whalers scoring with 20 points, with Haftner posting 17 points, Ackerman with 12 points and Chester Garviles with 11 points.

Armada head coach Craig Brooks commended the way the Whalers bounced back.

“We lacked a little bit of intensity coming out in the second half and we talked about not letting Ballenas off the hook,” said Brooks. “We continued what we were sort of doing and waiting for somebody to make plays. By then, when Ballenas start shooting and get into rhythm you can see what happens.”

Barney scored a game-high 22 points with Nathan Stellard netting 18 and Jayson Mathews 14.

There will be no time to rest for the Whalers as they take on the Blazers tonight at Mark Isfeld. Stockton said a win tonight will secure the Whalers a spot in the Island championships.

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