Prior to this year’s Brandon Sun Spartan Invitational varsity boys high school basketball tournament, Neelin Spartans captain Theo Farough was approached by Adam Philpott.
Philpott told Farough that he was named the tournament’s MVP the last time Neelin won the event in 2004 and now it’s his turn. Farough admitted after the tournament ended at Neelin’s gymnasium on Saturday night that he took Philpott’s comments lightly, but he made good on them. The 6-foot-1 forward scored 27 points and was named the Tri-Star Screen Printing Division’s MVP as the Spartans defeated the Selkirk Royals 77-66 in their division final.
"It feels good (to win the BSSI)," Farough said. "It’s school pride and lets everyone know that Neelin’s back."
The Spartans never lost a game while playing in the tournament’s second division, geared for A, AA and AAA teams.
They went 3-0 in the round-robin and advanced to the Tier 1 playoffs, where they beat the Dauphin Clippers 83-34 in Saturday’s semifinal.
Quinton Hunter and Chance Miller both scored 14 points for Neelin that game, while Brant Bosiak and Alex MacKenzie both had 19 for Dauphin.
The first half of the final was tightly contested, with the Royals leading 34-33 at the break, but the Spartans picked up the pace and started hitting shots in the second half to pull away. Isaak Stark and Brock Hiltner both scored 14 points for Neelin, while Serge Buisse led Selkirk with 13 points.
Neelin head coach Don Thomson said part of the reason his squad excelled in the second half was Farough stopped forcing plays and let the game come to him, but he loved the performances he got from all his players.
"Dylan Minshull was great," Thomson said. "Chance Miller, I thought, was lights out on the defensive end of things. Even down the stretch, to bring Osian Edwards into the game and he did an extremely good job defending people. It’s nice to see some additional scorers, but I was more impressed with some of the energy things some of our kids did coming off the bench."
Minshull was named to the division’s all-star team, along with Selkirk’s Ochitwa and Greg Kuz. Dauphin’s Bosiak also made the squad.
The Clippers finished fourth after falling 74-59 to the Nelson McIntyre Wolverines in the bronze-medal game. Scoring statistics were unavailable.
The BSSI was the second tournament of the season for the Spartans and it was their second straight win. Thomson said that gives his squad a lot of confidence, but he knows there’s a lot of work ahead of them.
"We’re good, but we have a long ways to go," he said. "Our end picture is hopefully in March when we have to be really good, but right now we’re happy with where we’re at."
Meanwhile, Tynan Reyes scored 34 points for the Garden City Fighting Gophers as they beat the Oak Park Raiders 99-84 in the top Victoria Inn Division final on Saturday.
Ryan Hawley added 21 points and hit six three-pointers for the Gophers, who are the reigning provincial AAAA champions.
Junior Sesay had 25 points for Oak Park, which had won the last two titles, while Nathan Warburton added 13 points.
Reyes was named the division’s MVP. Sesay and Oak Park teammate Casey Blanca were named to the all-star team, along with Garden City’s Josh Magpantay and Dakota’s Matt Bonwick.