LB Woodchoppers’ Trey Bell drives by the Stallions’ Skyler Quesnel-Campbell for the floating lay-up. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Port Alberni’s spring hoops playoffs full of upsets

Ladybird Engraving headed to the championship game

CRAIG BROOKS

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS

The second round of Port Alberni’s Men’s Spring League double-elimination playoffs was chock-full of upsets and unexpected finishes as two teams were sent packing much earlier than expected. Game 4 of the playoffs pitted the one-loss Italian Stallions against the one-loss LB Woodchoppers. Game 5 featured the second-seeded Alberni Co-op against #1 Ladybird Engraving with direct entrance into the championship for the victor. The one-loss, and defending champion, Dave Ralla Squad awaited the Game 4 winner with a trip to the semifinals on the line.

Game 4: #3 Italian Stallions (49) – #5 LB Woodchoppers (82)

LB Woodchoppers limped through a snake-bitten season, suffering through a plethora of roster and injury battles and had not tasted victory since their regular-season week one victory. However, in a twist of fate this week, the Choppers found themselves largely healthy while the preseason favorite, Stallions, found themselves down four key players (Coby Felsman Jr., Gabe Barbosa, Rune Sinclair and Sam Wynans). Buoyed by this near-complete return to health, the Choppers exploded onto the scene with incredible enthusiasm.

Isaac Jack dominated the paint at both ends of the court, scoring 13 first-half points, and was the main impetus behind their opening 12-1 scoring run. Earl Tatoosh and Gredy Barney tried to keep the Stallions from falling too far behind with their sharp shooting from the arc and some timely double teams on Jack. However, whenever Jack was doubled, Brayden Kirschner fed Bell the ball for a pull-up or floating jumper. When the defence keyed on Bell, Kirschner simply fed it back to the big man who was isolated in the post. The result was a massive Woodchopper 21-8 run to end the half.

In the second half, the Stallions simplified their game into a series of ball-screens for Gredy Barney to set-up that deep shot or slashing drives to the hoop. The Choppers elected to aggressively challenge any ballhandler (not named Barney) which led to 10 steals and nearly 20 points off turnovers between Daniel Dyck, Trey Bell and Brayden Kirschner.

Despite Barney’s 23 pt heroic effort for the Stallions, the Woodchoppers’ continual pressure proved too much. Bell’s 27 pts and Jack’s 26 pts alone were enough to show the wounded Stallions the door.

Game#5: #1 Ladybird Engraving (86) – #2 Alberni Co-op (55)

With the top two seeds facing off for a direct drop into the title game, this match-up would be about who could steel their nerves quickest. Both line-ups boast individual players who can put up 30+ points on any given night, dominate the boards or are excellent ball distributors.

The pace was frenetic from the opening tip-off. Each side pushed the pace throughout the opening 10 minutes of the half and created many fantastic scoring chances. Both squads looked to attack in transition and demonstrated excellent ball movement and a suddenness when driving the hoop. Unfortunately for Co-op, it was as if there was a piece of plexiglass on top of the rim, as shots would just not drop for them. While the trio of Lange, Adair and Titian Jr. propelled the Birds with a variety of looks for a combined 40 pts, Co-op routinely found themselves missing open lay-ups or missing passes that would lead to similar open looks. 42-26 at the half.

Entering the second-half, Jayden Moss continued his attempt to single-handedly lift his team out of the shooting/scoring slump while they also attempted a variety of different defensive rotations to stop the Birds’ lethal trio on the other end. The tenacious defensive play of Chris Gow and Tyson Davidson successfully held Adair to only two second half points and were able to get him to foul out with 13 points for the game. They did not, however, have an answer for Lange and Titian Jr., who each put up 32 on the night.

Jayden Moss (22 pts), Chris Gow (10 pts) and Eddie Fred (10 pts) were the biggest contributors in Co-op’s losing cause.

Game#3: #4 Dave Ralla (74) vs. #4 LB Woodchoppers (80)

Ralla raced out from the opening tip-off to an early double-digit lead. This game seemed over early, as Ralla’s Greg Wiatr seemed unstoppable from the high-post and on the offensive glass, while Ozzie Felsman was silky smooth from downtown. The Woodchoppers got their legs back and rallied, however, and the halftime score was knotted at 40’s.

The second half was a spirited affair, seeing each team reach the free-throw line several times and neither squad extending beyond a two-possession game. With minutes remaining in regulation, the Choppers’ big man Isaac Jack, who had found a way to contain Ralla’s Wiatr, fouled out. Kieran Harding and Bobby Rupert, sensing their chance, made daring plays to tie the game 69-69 at the buzzer.

In OT, the Ralla squad saw both Ian Samuel and Ozzie Felsman foul out early. As Ralla reeled from the foul calls, Johnson drained consecutive threes for the Choppers. On the back of five consecutive offensive boards (in a single possession!), the Choppers were able to close out an 80-74 victory. Greg Wiatr had 20 pts in the loss. Ken Johnson’s season-high 18 pts for the Woodchoppers were significant in this victory.

Playoffs continue on Thursday, June 6 at ADSS. Co-op will take on the Woodchoppers at 6:30 p.m., and the winner of this game will square off against Ladybird for the championship game at 7:30 p.m. A second championship game (if needed) will take place at 8:30 p.m.

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