Knights down Mustangs in final game thriller

Kelowna Christian
Kelowna Christian's Ethan Klukas (left) goes airborne against Jaskaran Lihker of Keremeos during the semifinal of the Mustang Classic boys basketball tournament Saturday at Immaculata.
— image credit: Doug Farrow/Contributor

It's just the kind of drama coaches, players and fans alike have come to expect from one of B.C. high school basketball's best rivalries.

Expectations were high in the finale of the Mustang Classic senior boys tournament on Saturday night at Immaculata, as the No. 1 ranked Kelowna Christian Knights took on the  second-ranked Mustangs for top honours—and once again, the combatants didn't disappoint.

In front of a packed house, the game looked like it might slip away from Immaculata in the second half as the Knights opened up a commanding 51-35 lead.

But, with a furious late-third quarter and fourth-quarter rally, Immaculata battled back—thanks in large part to three three-pointers by Dario Gini—to take a 62-59 lead with two minutes to play.

But the Knights answered back with two big, late baskets by Ethan Klukas and Brandon Rempel to emerge with a 65-62 victory.

KCS head coach Gib Hinz wasn't surprised the two rivals hooked up for another classic battle.

"Whether we're ranked one and two, five and 10, or 10 and 20, it really doesn't matter, our teams alwasy have great battles," said Hinz, whose Knights lost to the Mustangs by five in last year's final. "It came down to the team that made the fewest mistakes. It was back and forth all the way, we thought we could pressure them but they handled everything we threw at them. It was fitting that it came to the end."

Klukas paced the Knights attack in the final with 19 points, Simon Benson had 17 points, including five threes, while Ryan Linttell had 15.

For Immaculata, Dario Gini finished with 19 points Alex Hart had 16, and Landon Sawatsky, 12.

Mustangs coach Dino Gini was impressed by the level of play on both sides of the floor.

"It was a great ending to a great tournament I am really proud of the boys, it was a character building game for them, we once again took some big steps to where we want to be as a team," said Gini. "We are a confident group who really respect each other and trust each other and we are seeing some success from parts of the game that we needed to improve on and now will continue to work hard to turn the close games into Ws."

The tournament's MVP was Immaculata's Dario Gini, the most inspirational player was Knights' Simon Benson, while Ethan Klukas of KCS was the top defensive player.

In the semis, the Knights downed Keremeos 95-59, while the Mustangs defeated West Point Grey 55-42.

This weekend, the Mustangs will be at Holy Cross in Surrey for the B.C. Catholic championship.

The Knights will host their annual invitational tournament Jan. 20 and 21.


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