With five and half minutes left on Tuesday night the Oak Bay Bays were within a point of the Belmont Bulldogs, at 49-48.
At that point, neither team’s players were thinking that this was the last quarter of their season, or high school career.
The Bulldogs went on a dominant fourth-quarter run and won the challenge game 71-54, taking the second and final Island berth for the AAA Boys Basketball Provincial Championships in Langley, March 12 to 16.
The game came about because Belmont, which finished third at the Island AAA boys championships at Mount Douglas on Saturday, hadn’t played second-place Oak Bay in the tournament. The Bulldogs had the right to challenge the Bays for the spot at provincials, and they did.
Belmont’s Erik Spaven scored 19 points to lead all scorers, but it was the clutch three-pointers hit by Bulldog Dan Massy, six of them for all 18 of his points, that was the difference for the Bulldogs.
“It’s huge to get that scoring from Massy with Spaven and Owen Vaags getting so much attention,” said Bulldogs coach Kevin Brown.
It was the first time the Bulldogs beat the Bays this year, but it’s not as cut and dry as it might seem. Brown sees it as a three-way tossup between Island champs Claremont Spartans, who Belmont beat this year, and the Bays.
“A lot of people looking from outside might think it’s a big deal that we upset Oak Bay but us, Claremont and Oak Bay can all beat each other. It really could have been any three of us winning Islands or in the challenge game.”
Belmont nearly defeated Claremont twice in season play this season, and also lost by a point in overtime at home to Oak Bay.
“We weren’t expecting to win the challenge game but we weren’t surprised either, it’s just so close between us,” Brown said.
The unranked Bulldogs will face South Kamloops at provincials while Claremont will face St. George.
“Any time your high school career is over, there’s going to be disappointment and sadness. It’s just a natural situation,” Bays coach Chris Franklin said.
Among the graduating seniors with the Oak Bay Bays are all-stars Matt Hampton and Liam Horne. Replacing them will be difficult, Franklin said.
“It’s a great group of boys, I really enjoyed coaching them, unfortunately we weren’t able to get off the Island.”