Photo by Chung Chow
Sure it’s a tired old axiom, but in this case obviously true: practice does make perfect.
After working on his shooting for a couple hours prior to the city high school senior boys’ basketball final Thursday, McMath guard Jordin Kojima proceeded to put the rehearsal to good use. In what was clearly a career performance, the Grade 12 poured in 41 points (which included eight three-pointers) to power the Wildcats past the McNair Marlins 103-79 in the Richmond final.
“(McMath) hasn’t won the city title in 13 years, so it feels good,” Kojima said, noting the last Wildcats team to top the senior boys’ league was in 2005. At that time, McMath was wrapping up its fourth title in as many seasons.
Kojima said having to claw their way to an 80-70 victory over Steveston-London Sharks in the opening round of the playoffs Tuesday was a good wake up call.
“It shows Richmond isn’t a joke. There are good teams and good players,” he said.
McMath coach Tony Wong Hen said it was obvious the Wildcats shot better against McNair, and played with more intensity throughout.
“We didn’t just rest on our laurels. We kept the momentum going,” said Wong Hen of a McMath team that won the regular-season title with a 10-0 record.
“We know how well-coached McNair is (Ranj Sangra and Jessy Dhillon) and that they were going to be prepared and up for the game,” he added. “It was important that we elevate our game to match their intensity. I think we accomplished that.”
So on, in fact, were the Wildcats that their press produced many uncharacteristic McNair turnovers. That also led to many uncontested baskets.
“We’ve working on our zones and building through various games we’ve played in tournaments,” Wong Hen explained. “Tonight, everybody showed they knew their positions and when to pinch or relax. It’s an ongoing process, but we’re hoping it will lead to us peaking at the right time.”
Wong Hen said it was satisfying to finally win the city title, after the Wildcats were runners-up each of the previous three years.
“To bring the title back to McMath, especially with this group of kids, is so satisfying. They work so hard, and the parent support is awesome. Tonight (with the stands packed to rafters at Richmond High) was like old-time basketball in the ‘80s when we played.”
Wong Hen said while expectations at the start of the season were high, this season hasn’t all been smooth sailing. He noted that the team entered many high-level tournaments (all except one were quad-A) throughout the year and took their lumps, causing the players to get down on themselves a bit.
But the process has helped the Wildcats get to where they are now, and to where they can hopefully continue to build momentum toward the provincial championships in March.
McMath (sixth in the provincial AAA rankings), McNair, Richmond High and Steveston-London will all play in the Lower Mainland AAA championships Feb. 13 to 16 (at various sites) and Feb. 22 to 24 at the Richmond Olympic Oval. Palmer, Cambie, McRoberts and Boyd will play in the Mainland AA championships Feb. 15 at Palmer and Feb. 20 to 23 at the Richmond Olympic Oval.