The Charles Hays Junior Rainmakers basketball team took part in the Prince George Polars Tournament last weekend, fighting all the way to the final before coming up just short against Dawson Creek.
It wasn’t an easy draw for Charles Hays, as they were matched up against the host side shortly after disembarking from the long bus ride. Prince George took the Thursday opener 66-43, meaning the Rainmakers would have to pursue their goal of the final through the back door bracket.
“We didn’t handle their pressure very well and still had our bus legs,” head coach Kevin Sawka said about the result. “However, that game proved to be the wake up call we needed.”
It certainly seemed to be, as the Rainmakers blew to a 78-25 win over Kelly Road later that day. Kole Jones was the high scorer with 17 points, and he would set the top scoring mark again with 23 in the team’s first game on Friday as they cruised past Fort St. James 74-35. A 56-41 win over Caledonia closed out Friday’s action, followed by a Saturday thumping of Duchess Park 65-38. This set up a rematch with the hosts, but this time the Rainmakers were prepared, rising to the occasion for a 58-50 win.
“With our backs to the wall we ran the table,” Sawka said. “Our defense and shooting came to life, as did our level of physicality and team chemistry during that span.”
In the final game however, the Rainmakers ran into guard duo from Dawson Creek who were playing on top of their game. Charles Hays was right in it until the end, but would drop the decision by a slim margin of 57-53.
“Their point guard is arguably the quickest kid I’ve seen play at this level and played with a lot of poise and maturity for his age,” Sawka said of his team’s opponent. “They made it really tough on us on both sides of the ball.”
Kole Jones and Ryver Bryant were named 1st Team All-Stars for their tournament play, while Darren Budskin earned a 2nd Team All-Star nod.
|The Junior Rainmakers showed plenty of poise in the tournament, rebounding from an opening game loss to string together five wins in a row. (Submitted photo)
Despite the loss, Sawka and the team returned home to Prince Rupert in high spirits following their performances. “Seven games in three days is a significant challenge and our team was able to maintain our effort over that period of time,” Sawka said.
“I was very happy with how we continued to improve over the course of the tournament, especially how several of our players stood tall at critical moments to bolster our resolve and allow us to stay in the fight,” he added.
“At this stage in the season we have a much better picture of where we’re at and what we’re capable of.”
The team will now get set to take part in the Jim Ciccone Memorial Rainmaker Alumni Tournament this weekend, where they will play current and former Rainmakers basketball talent.
Sawka says he is excited to continue working with the team over the Christmas break, with games picking right back up again at the beginning of January.
Alex Kurial | Sports Reporter
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