What a day it was in the 3A tournament. We finally found out who will be in the championship game, and we got the most dramatic final few seconds of the tournament to date. Peep what happened below:
A.R. MacNeill vs Vernon
It could very well be a double championship season for the Vernon Panthers.
After winning the AA football title back in December, the basketball team is looking to bring another banner of a different sport back to the school.
“It’s been a long, long time” said Vernon head coach Malcolm Reid on the basketball team's championship final drought. “It’s a special accomplishment for us.”
Both teams played to an even pace to start, with Vernon leading by just a single point after the first quarter. In the second however, the Panthers started to pull away and show why they were the second ranked team for much of the AAA season. They got big buckets from the likes of Liam Reed, who had 12 first half points to lead all players.
The second half saw the Panthers never give up the big run that could have gotten MacNeill back in the game. Despite two big three point plays by MacNeill’s senior guard Unman Tung, Vernon got their lead up by more than two with 4:30 left in the game.
The hallmark of this Vernon team is how calm and collected they seem to be at any situation thrown at them. They always seem to take good shots, and are able to step back and maintain what makes them successful down the stretch.
“We talk about that all season long” said Reid on his squads demeanour that seems to keep them in whatever game they’re in. “We don’t want to have a one pass offence or one guy scoring. Generally when we play well, we’ve got very balanced scoring and we move the ball well.”
Kevin Morgan had 28 points and nine rebounds in his team’s victory. Teammate Isaiah Ondrik had a triple double of 22 points, 13 rebounds and 12 dishes.
North Delta vs Duchess Park
The North Delta Huskies had to scratch and claw their way to victory in this one. It was a sharp contrast to their previous two games where they built big leads and had a cushion to fall back on in the second half.
In this game, it took a moment of magic from Suraj Gahir to send his team down to the semi-final. And if the legend of Surj “Showtime” Gahir grew exponentially after their win again the Charles Tupper, it’s reached near-mythical status after his game-winning three against Duchess Park to will his team to a 62-61 win.
“Not really” said North Delta’s Jesse Hundal on if anything Gahir does surprises him at this point. “He’s got the will to be the best, and he’s a competitor."
The Condors game plan in the first half was simple — shoot the three often against the Huskies zone. They took 22 threes in the first half, and that led them to a tied score of 28. The second half saw Duchess take an early eight point lead, but that was quickly erased by North Delta and after that it was a tense possession to possession contest.
It came down to literally the final nail-biting seconds. After Soren Eriksson made a free throw with less than ten seconds left, Gahir drove down the length of the floor and made a high-arcing, bank three that gave the Huskies a 62-61 lead and send the crowd into a frenzy.
Gahir could have easily gone for two and sent the game to overtime. Instead, he elected to go for three and the win. It shows the confidence Gahir has in his own abilities and the trust his coaches have in him to go for broke.
“I missed a shot in grade nine against South Kamloops for the win” said Gahir after the game with the legions of North Delta fans still coming down from the high of the game winner behind him.
[Jesse] told me to go for the win or we lose, we don’t go for no ties.”
Surj Gahir finished with 28 points and 15 rebounds. Duchess Park's Caleb Lyons had 16 points.
It was an incredible moment for an impressive run at provincials for the North Delta Huskies. They’ll be hoping to make it a story book ending tomorrow at 6 p.m. when they face the Vernon Panthers.
Written by: Nick Bondi