Rock Island claimed its first TMBL championship with a 70-64 victory over Rossland on Monday. Top photo from left: Brian DeMiao

Rock Island claimed its first TMBL championship with a 70-64 victory over Rossland on Monday. Top photo from left: Brian DeMiao

Rock Island savours first TMBL title

Rock Island claimed its first TMBL championship with a 70-64 victory over Rossland on Monday.

The Trail Men’s Basketball League crowned a new king, as Rock Island defeated last year’s champion, Rossland, 70-64 in the final to win its first ever TMBL title on Monday at the Rossland Seven Summits school.

Despite a short bench, Rock Island Tape Centre broke away from an experienced Rossland team on the strength of a combined 39 points from Kyle Soukeroff (20)  and Kade James (19), that included two three pointers in the final minutes from James and one from Miles Larsen to set the dagger firmly in the defending champions’ hearts.

“I’m glad we could bring the trophy back down the hill to Trail,” said James. “We brought 100 per cent tonight, and Rossland brought a good game tonight and left everything on the floor.”

Rock Island jumped out to an 11-5 lead early but Rossland fought back to tie it six minutes into the match when Gent Harrison drove to the basket for two and added a single for the harm.

Rossland enjoyed a brief 16-13 lead midway through the first half, but Rock Island would battle back tying it at 20 with 7:34 remaining and go up front on an aggressive rebound and tip in from Larsen. A Rossland three pointer would pull them within five points with two minutes to play in the first half, but a couple of steals from James and Soukeroff would translate into easy layups for a 33-25 half-time lead.

Rossland would fight back to tie it 41-41 and would take the lead with 13 minutes left on the clock, but back-to-back steals by Rock Island’s Eddie Shepard would result in a 47-45 lead and give the Island the momentum it needed going down the stretch.

James would sink his first of two three-pointers to make it 52-47, and Mauro Cavazzon pulled up and sank a brilliant turn-around jump shot from the top of the key to give Rock Island a seven point lead. Rock Island would increase the lead to 12 points after Larsen dialed in his own three pointer from beyond the arc, and with time winding down and Rock Island up 65-54, Rossland would be forced to foul in an effort to claw their way back into the match.  A Rossland repeat was not to be, however, as the Island’s consistent free-throw shooting down the stretch and solid defence would seal it in the end.

“It was kind of a surprise, but all the games this year were really close and it was a good, competitive year and everybody played well,” said James.

Mota Automotive finished atop the regular season standings, but were stunned in a 56-55 loss to fourth-seed Rossland in the semifinal, while number-two seed Rock Island won handily over Northport 73-69 to get to the title match.

Last year’s MVP Harrison netted 25 points for Rossland in the losing cause.

Mota would win the consolation final with a 64-53 victory over Northport.