PORT McNEILL—A three-point bomb by Juan Camacho at the halftime buzzer last Thursday touched off a raucous celebration on the court and in the stands at North Island Secondary School.
By contrast, Camacho’s game-winning shot in the Vancouver Island A North basketball playoff was accompanied by silence.
Camacho hit one of two free throws with 1.5 seconds remaining, lifting NISS to a 61-60 win over visiting Campbell River Christian in a contest that determined the final entry into the provincial-qualifying Island Championships this week in Duncan.
“The (three-pointer) pumps everyone up and makes the crowd get really loud,” said Camacho, an exchange student from Ecuador who finished with a team-high 22 points. “But the last shot was the most important because we can win. I don’t care about the points. I just want to win and go to provincials.”
As the final seed in the eight-team Island Championships, NISS faces an uphill climb to get one of the two available provincial berths. But Thursday’s win capped a 5-0 home schedule in its brief basketball season and was the second straight down-to-the-wire victory over the Cougars, following a 58-56 win a week earlier in Campbell River.
“We both have quite different playing styles, so I don’t think you would say the teams are really similar,” Cougars coach Stephen Johnson said. “But they are certainly well-matched.”
The teams may have played to two very close finishes. But the games did not stay close throughout, with huge momentum swings and big leads marking the play.
The biggest run Thursday came when CRCS rattled off the first 13 points of the fourth quarter to turn a 52-39 NISS lead into a tie game.
Before that, the Norsemen used a 13-2 run of their own to stretch a 35-30 lead to 48-32, their largest of the game, midway through the third quarter.
“Each team had key players, and when they needed a rest, the other team dominated,” said Aidan Horgan, who scored 21 points and pulled down a team-high 13 rebounds for NISS.
Brandon Pelletier added nine points and matched Camacho with four assists to lead the Norsemen.
Nathan Allamekinders of Campbell River Christian had game highs of 28 points and 19 rebounds, and his brother Zach and Chris Parker scored 10 points each.
Neither team got much love early in the Valentine’s Day matchup, combining to miss their first nine field goals and two free throws before Camacho completed a three-point play with just 3:45 left in the 10-minute first quarter.
But things heated up after that, as CRSC rattled off eight straight points and went on to grab a 12-7 lead at the end of the quarter. A basket by Trever Enns to start the second quarter gave the Cougars their biggest lead of the game at 14-7 before NISS took control. The Norsemen utilized a pressure defence and effective transition game to fuel a 19-2 run that staked them to a 26-16 lead.
The teams traded scores the rest of the period before Camacho dribbled the ball while watching the clock run down, then drained his third three-pointer of the quarter at the buzzer for a 35-24 NISS lead.
NISS 61, CR Christian 60
Cougars 12 12 15 21—60
Norsemen 7 28 17 9—61
CR Christian — Nathan Allamekinders 28, Zach Allamekinders 10, Chris Parker 10, Will Hartz 5, David Bouwers 3, Trever Enns 2, Brad McCay 2, Garth Delmar.
NISS — Juan Camacho 22, Aidan Horgan 21, Brandon Pelletier 9, Eric Glendale 4, Brad May 3, Clifford Glendale 2, Hyrum Neilson, Drake Baron, Zach Burland, Sean Grant.
Rebounds: CR Christian 56 (N. Allamekinders 19), NISS 53 (Horgan 13). Assists: CR Christian 8 (Z. Allamekinders 4), NISS 11 (Pelletier 4, Camacho 4). Turnovers: CR Christian 26, NISS 22. Officials: Greg Johnson, Aidan O’Toole. A: 45.