THE Fighting Gophers of Garden City rode the hot hand of Chris Benevides to a 105-85 decision over the Oak Park Raiders Thursday night to win the 44th annual Wesmen Classic varsity boys basketball tournament at the Duckworth Centre.
Benevides drained 39 points for the Gophers, who have won this tournament three of the past four years, and four times in the past eight years.
The 5-foot-11 guard was named the tournament's most valuable player, and was only four points off the tournament record of 43 for most points in one game.
"I'm really proud of the guys," said a beaming Garden City coach Phil Penner. "We showed so much more composure than we did the other night. We were really calm against the pressure, we ran our offence a lot better, and you saw tonight that when the guys get hot, they can really shoot the ball."
And shoot they did. Also scoring for the Gophers were Jordan Kelly with 22, Andre Arruda-Welch with 14, and 12 each from Mark Garcia and Josh Magpantay.
Elliott Taylor led the Raiders with 26 and Junior Sesay had 20, and Cash Blanca added 17.
Penner had high praise for his star point guard. "Chris has had a couple of 40-point games for us this year already. He can really get hot and start hitting for you, but Jordan can do that, Mark can do that and so can Andre. So we have a lot of guys who can shoot the ball. When we hit on all cylinders like that, we're a pretty tough team to guard."
Benevides, who has his coach's green light to shoot when he sees an opportunity, was ecstatic. "It was great. We were hitting our shots, we got the lead and just kept going. We got out on the break, hit layups, hit threes, and just kept building up our lead. It's always a tough game against these guys. The last time we played, they won by 10 points, and they could have won tonight. Whoever plays better is going to win."
Benevides said that the game announcer may have jinxed his chance to set the record when he announced that Benevides was closing in on it. "Maybe. I got a little bit nervous. It would have been nice to beak it, but maybe next year."
Penner said that the Wesmen Classic could be a gauge as to where the best teams in the province line up in March when the AAAA provincial championships roll around.
"When you come to this tournament, it's all the best teams in the province, and usually you get bit of a idea as to how you match up with those teams. Obviously, with two-and-a-half months to go before provincials, at this point, it really doesn't mean anything. But anytime you get into this tournament, it's always great to win."
Tournament all-stars were: Randall Viray, of the Kelvin Clippers; Amarjit Basi of of Sturgeon Heights; Sesay; Kelly; and Taylor.
Third place was taken by the Kelvin Clippers, who defeated the Sturgeon Heights Huskies 76-63 behind the hot hand of Kristjan Lamont, who drained 19 points. Amarjit Basi had 11 for the Huskies.
A 28-point performance by Kyle Queijo led the Daniel McIntyre Maroons to the consolation title. They beat the Fort Richmond Centurions 75-69. Emmanuel Lomuro had 25 for Fort Richmond.