Whalers working hard in league play

Guard Rodriguez leading the way for the BSS squad in basketball action

Ballenas guard Dustin Rodriguez.

Ballenas guard Dustin Rodriguez.

High school hoops is well underway and Ballenas Secondary School’s senior boys basketball team has been busy, as they played four games in the span of six days.

On Jan. 12-14 the Whalers were in Courtenay for the Towhee Invitational, and on Tuesday evening they made the trip back up-Island and battled their counterparts from G.P. Vanier but came up short 59-51 in league play.

“It was a tough game for sure — they played us pretty hard from the start and we got a bit frustrated on offence in the first half,” Whaler assistant coach Tim Bigelow said, “but were able to get some bench players in and cut their lead from 12 down to five at the half (28-23).”

The Towhees went on another run to start the third and hit a slew of 3-balls to go up by as many as 17 points, when Whaler standout Dustin Rodriguez went on a fourth quarter tear and brought Ballenas back again to within six points, “but it was a little bit too late,” said Bigelow.

“The boys hadn’t been pressured like that all year. It was definitely a learning experience for them.”

Dallas Towle came in off the bench in the second quarter and helped the cause with nine points. Rodriguez finished with a team-high 18 points, and Rae added 15.GAME ON

The Towhees improve to 2-0 in league play while the Whalers slip to 1-1 with four more games to get in before Feb. 17. The North Islands go the following weekend in Nanaimo at Dover Bay Secondary.

“We’re definitely righting the ship,” Bigelow surmised when asked how this year’s squad is coming along — the Whaler boys are ranked No. 8 on the rock in AAA hoops. “We just need to work on some fundamentals, like rebounding. Rebounding is what beat us that game. For sure.”

Ballenas was in Courtenay last week for the 12-team Towhee Invitational where they pulled off a particularly exciting win in double overtime. Ballenas opened the tourney Jan. 12 with a 70-62 loss to the Hyack’s from New Westminster. Rae had a game-high 25 points.

Ballenas bounced back Friday, scorching Seaquam 80-48 (Rae led with 17 points), and beat the Wellington Wildcats 92-91 in extras. It was, said, Bigelow, “probably the game of the tournament,” then made the point that he and Whalers head coach and fellow Kwalikum Secondary School grad Taylor Wilson both agreed after the game, “that this was the most exciting game we had been a part of as a coach, or a player.”

That game saw the Whalers take it to the Wildcats early as they were up by 14 at the end of the first quarter, and took a 12 point lead into the halftime break. Momentum shifted in the second half as Wellington’s shots started to drop and the Whalers went cold, said Bigelow, explaining the Whalers were clinging to a three point lead when a Wildcat hit a desperation bank-shot from long distance right at the buzzer to tie it up 69-69 and force overtime.

Wellington was leading the first overtime period by three points with 10.4 seconds remaining, said Bigelow, when Rodriguez replied with his own clutch three pointer to force a second overtime. The two teams traded buckets, and Rodriguez was fouled going for a rebound with four seconds left in the game. The senior guard went 2-3 at the line, and the Wildcats watched their Hail Mary shot from half court sail wide of the backboard.

Rodriguez scored 26 second-half points in that game and led the way with a game-high, season-high, 36. Liam O’Brien followed with 16 and Rae added 14.

Kwalikum Secondary’s Kondors were also in the mix at the tourney and finished ninth. KSS sharpshooter Kevin Frampton dialled up 19 points in his team’s loss to host Vanier.

Game OnThe Whalers are back in action home court Tuesday, Jan. 31, for a 7 p.m. tipoff against the Frances Kelsey Breakers from Mill Bay.