St. Michaels Blue Jags roll with No. 1 ranking

St. Michaels University School Blue Jaguars senior boys atop B.C.'s AA basketball rankings

Oak Bay Bays’ Myka Tang moves the ball upcourt against his opposite No. 6

When you’re the top ranked AA basketball team in the province, you enjoy it while you can.

Those are the words of St. Michaels University School Blue Jaguars head coach Ian Hyde-Lay, as the Blue Jags have picked up some key wins to start the year.

The Blue Jags hosted a number of teams for the St. Michaels Invitational, a basketball jamboree of sorts, with Nanaimo’s Wellington, Courtenay’s Mark Isfeld, Mill Bay’s Brentwood College and Saanich’s Lambrick Park visiting.

SMUS won both its games, beating Wellington 78-54 and Mark Isfeld 62-38. The Lambrick Park Lions defeated Wellington 68-56 and Mark Isfeld 80-52.

“I’m not really sure how they figure we’re the top team. We got knocked out of quarterfinals of B.C.’s last year, and have fewer returnees than other schools, but it’s hard to get up there, and when you do you enjoy it,” Hyde-Lay said.

Key among the Blue Jags who have returned is a trio of Grade 12 guards, Mark Yorath, Dawit Workie and Georgios Ikonomou.

Yorath is the chief distributor, although all three can move the ball upcourt. Workie played a lot with last year’s team and is a workhorse for the Jags, while Ikonomou is a wildcard player.

Ikonomou led the Blue Jags with 19 points against Wellington on Saturday, and is having a tremendous return after a season lost, said Hyde-Lay. Last year a broken leg kept Ikonomou out until the final few games.

New to the Blue Jags squad this season are a pair of crossover athletes in their senior year. Standout baseball pitcher Mackenzie Catto, a 6-foot-8 giant who had 12 points and 15 boards against Wellington, is UBC bound next year. SMUS and Castaway Wanderers rugby player David Pollen is a former Blue Jag who didn’t play for the basketball team last year. Both David and his younger brother Max, of the junior Blue Jags, are exceptional athletes, said junior coach Reagan Daly.

Adding height up front is 6-foot-3 Matt Rudd, though the team is not a tall one, and will rely on a full effort every game, said Hyde-Lay.

The weekend prior to the SMUS invitational, the Blue Jags won a pair of extremely close games that went down to the buzzer, beating AAA No. 7-ranked St. George’s 56-55, and AA No. 5-ranked Brentwood College 51-49.

Despite healthy wins by the Blue Jags and Lambrick Park Lions, Hyde-Lay insists “there’s still not much between them and Island AA teams Brentwood, Wellington and Mark Isfeld. And Gulf Islands is another good AA team, a sleeper that no one is recognizing.”

For now the Blue Jags don’t want to put any stock in the rankings. The last time Hyde-Lay can recall his team atop the B.C. charts was 2003 as a AAA school, and even that was just a couple of weeks in February, he said. It’s all far from the days of the 1990s, when the powerhouse Blue Jags were an annual contender.

This weekend the Blue Jags and Oak Bay Bays will face visiting AAA team W.J. Mouatt from Abbotsford, with 6-foot-9 star Tristan Etienne, at Oak Bay on Friday night and SMUS on Saturday night.

Junior Jags on top

The Blue Jags junior boys squad, coached by Reagan Daly, won all three of its games, beating Fleetwood and Semiahoo, and then the Oak Bay Bays 50-35 on Saturday night.

Max Pollen scored 13 points to lead the Jags against the Bays, with Jason Scully netting 11 points and four rebounds, while Graham Hyde-Lay and Liam Catto combined for 10 rebounds.