WHENEVER 5-foot-7 Oak Park Raiders point guard Cash Blanca holds a hot hand, it's like money in the bank.
Last night at the University of Winnipeg's Duckworth Centre, everything he touched turned to gold as the Raiders beat Sturgeon Heights Huskies 93-71 to advance to tonight's 6 p.m. Salisbury House Restaurants high school boys Wesmen Classic basketball championship final.
They'll play the Garden City Gophers, who advanced Tuesday evening by defeating the Kelvin Clippers 84-78.
Even on an injured shooting hand, Blanca finished with 17 points.
"I sprained my wrist before this game," he said, holding a bag of ice to his right hand.
The Raiders' star didn't do it all by himself. He got plenty of help from the rest of the team, which was firing on all cylinders.
Elliott Taylor, a 6-foot guard, scored 24 points as the highest-scoring Raider, 6-foot-3 forward John Kiesman had 18 and 6-foot-1 guard Junior Sesay added 14.
The Huskies were led by A.J. Basi with 27 points and Eben Rawluk with nine.
Blanca, who admits he may be only 5-foot-6, contrary to his listed height, explained his edge on the court.
"I am probably one of the better shooters on the team, and I like to pump it," he said. "I usually get the open shot when I pump it."
Raiders' coach Jon Lundgren says Blanca has carte blanche to shoot anytime he sees the chance.
"I don't think coaching is what brings anything out in him; he brings it out in himself," Lundgren said.
He said his team started slow and built momentum as the game wore on. "Every game has a life of its own. Like, in the first quarter, we weren't very sharp defensively, and offensively they were. As the game went on, we kind of got in the groove and played a lot tougher on defence. We also shot the ball well today."
The coach says the other thing both Blanca and Taylor do well is take the pressure away from under the boards. "Oh yeah, we got a lot of big guys underneath," he said, "and they get some good looks because our perimeter is pretty strong with Cash and Elliott back there."
The third-place final, between the Kelvin Clippers and the Huskies will be played today at 10 a.m.
In the other high school game last night, the Fort Richmond Centurions defeated the Miles Macdonell Buckeyes 71-56. They'll take on Daniel McIntyre Maroons today at 8 a.m., for fifth place.
Bosko Zoric led the Centurions with 13 points and Jamar Farley had 19 for Miles Mac.