As I think of words to write on this page, I can’t help but picture the scene, like something straight out of a movie:
The underdogs—more like undercats, in this storyline—who began the season as the # 1 ranked team in the league, went on a rollercoaster of highs and lows throughout the year; falling in the rankings to honourable mention, then back in the Top 10, barely grasping a spot in the Provincials this past week as the 9th seed. And in the end, after clawing their way to the finals, the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers were crowned the kings of the greatest basketball tournament in British Columbia for the first time in program history.
Like I said, this is some top-notch, miracle sports moment usually only depicted in films.
Remember the Panthers.
It’s doubtful the Tweedsmuir boys and coaching staff will ever forget the moment that final buzzer chimed after a gruelling 40 minutes of play on the big stage of the Langley Events Centre this past weekend. The fans will never forget the long strides they took when rushing the court. The crowd will forever remember the Panthers, lifting that beautiful blue banner for the first time ever to be raised at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary School.
“I honestly can’t believe it. It still feels like a dream,” Elijah Devison told this reporter directly after the fans stormed the middle of the court.
Devison, surrounded by his teammates, was full of emotion after the comeback of a lifetime.
“To be here, and for this to actually happen, it’s beyond anything I’ve ever seen before.”
Though the win looked far off after the first half (Kelowna led 53-38), the Panthers rallied together in the third quarter to overcome an 18-point deficit and defeat the Kelowna Owls. Tweeds hit a hot streak 25-0 run that seemingly catapulted the team into Panther mode over the Owls.
Despite K-Town being down on the boards, they were relentless with their field goal shots. However, luck just wasn't on the Owls side in the fourth as the ball bounced off the rim each time a player tried to make a basket.
After what can only be described as the retaliation for the ages, the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers held on to the lead and beat the Kelowna Owls with a final score of 91-86.
Panthers’ Arjun Samra and Jackson Corneil led with 22 and 23 points respectively, while Owls’ stars Parker Johnstone and Hunter Simson put up an amazing 28 and 25. Kelowna played the game of their life, but sadly fell short at the end.
That’s the thing about sports: there’s only one winner. But, given the track record of Kelowna’s success in the Provincials, they’ll likely return to the big game in the near future.
Back on Lord Tweedsmuir’s side of the court, there was hardly a dry eye in sight. And looking at the faces that made up this remarkable group from Cloverdale, Most Valuable Player of the tournament Arjun Samra’s smile and glazy eyes clearly stood out amongst the crowd.
“[I’m] speechless,” Samra searched for words following the awards ceremony, where he was named MVP. “A lot of work went into this and for it all to come through is just really big.”
Samra says the championship win was not easy—the team was given arguably the toughest matchups in the province, with their quarterfinal game against the # 1 seeded Holy Cross Crusaders, and then—who Samra says may be the real # 1—the Burnaby South Rebels, and lastly, the unstoppable Owls. The path to the golden banner definitely required physical and mental strength out of everyone on the team.
But those Patient Panthers were poised; and in the end, they finished the season perfectly to match the way they began: the BEST in BC.
It’s something this team, made up of nine Grade 12s who have been friends since middle school, will not soon forget.
“My teammates, they’re my brothers. We’re going to have a family bond for the rest of our lives and we’re going to remember this until we get old, man,” said Devison. Above all, he credits head coach Drew Gallacher for this moment.
“He put everything…he’s so passionate. Everything in his life goes to us, you know? We could have never done [this] without him.”
And Samra agrees.
“What he did for me, I can’t even put in words. Like I was saying before, he does so much for all of us. In things other than basketball: for school, being a teacher and helping us out with our education—giving this championship to him is the least we can do.”
Fittingly, this is Gallacher’s last year as the coach of the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers. Alongside the rest of the team, his son Jake took home the 2019 title, too, adding to this special moment.
Undeniably, this moment will stay in his heart forever.
“It’s just incredible. To be down that much and to fight back is incredible…I don’t know, I’m so out of it, I’m sorry,” he laughed.
I asked Coach Gallacher what he’d say to the boys back in the locker room. He smiled as more tears formed in the corners of his eyes.
“I love you.”
Congratulations to the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers on the 2019 4A Provincial Championship—and a first ever BC banner in program history! Also, a HUGE shoutout to the Kelowna Owls for leaving it all on the court and taking home the silver, too.
What an amazing year of boy’s basketball. To the parents, fans, coaches, and players, thank you for making this year unforgettable.
Lastly, to Coach Drew Gallacher: what a way to go out! You are truly a legend.
Watch the championship final highlights made by Chris Evans below:
Written & Photographed by: Crystal Scuor