The Holy Cross Crusaders climbed into top spot in the rankings for class AA senior boys basketball teams with a landmark win last weekend.
Playing in the final of the Killarney Cougars Classic in Vancouver, the Crusaders stunned fourth-ranked class AAA power Kitsilano Blue Demons 60-53 to serve notice they deserve to be counted among B.C.'s best.
"This was a validation win for us," said Crusaders coach Matt LeChasseur.
"We believe we can compete at that level and this kind of validated all of the hard work our kids have done. We're not just one of the best double-A teams, we are one of the best teams in the province, period.
"We still have a long way to go though; we have to get a blue (B.C. championship) banner for the school."
The win was the 21st-straight for Holy Cross after opening the season and comes on the heels of a dominant performance at the B.C. Catholic Championships.
The Crusaders opened the tournament with an 85-71 win over Burnaby South followed by a comfortable 25-point win over host Killarney in the semifinals. That result landed Holy Cross in the final against Kitsilano, an opponent the Crusaders had targeted when they signed up for the tournament.
"Our kids like to be challenged so they were really amped up for the game," LeChasseur said. "We like to enter the triple-A tournaments just so we can play some of the top teams. That's what our kids want; they want to measure themselves constantly.
This was another opportunity for our guys to see where they stand against one of the best teams in the province. They battled hard and after making some foolish mistakes right off the top that got us in trouble, they settled down and played much better in the second half."
The Crusaders' overly aggressive play cost them early as the Blue Demons built an 11-point lead at the break. In the second half, Holy Cross slowly whittled away at the deficit, cutting the gap to five after three quarters and then pulling away in the final frame.
LeChasseur said the key was the play of his big guys, under17 provincial team player Aaron Madaisky and the twin Nigerian Nightmares, Henry and Stanley Maduabueke, who effectively shut down Kitsilano star Luka Zaharijevic.
"The key was stopping their big guy up front (Zaharijevic)," LeChasseur said. "Our goal was to just wear him down and by the fourth quarter after he had been blocked by Henry and Aaron, he wasn't spending a lot of time in the paint. We wore him down and they really struggled after that because they're used to getting the ball inside to him whenever they want. We were actually the ones moving the ball inside in the second half."
Grade 10 point guard Taylor Browne led the Crusaders with 20 points and collected MVP honours. The Maduabueke brothers were both selected to the tournament all-star team.