Updated: Mar 12, 2019
All year long the goal for the North Delta Huskies has been clear.
Since we at BC Sports Hub talked to the team in early January the goal was clear; Win a provincial championship. Nothing else will do.
And in what became a myth-making provincial tournament for Suraj “Showtime” Gahir he once again willed his team to victory, putting the team on his back unlike many players in BC basketball could or have done in recent memory.
His team’s 46-44 victory over the Vernon Panthers was just as dramatic as their semi-final win over Duchess Park but with a much sweeter reward — a 3A provincial banner that can never be taken away. There were bumps in the road, but the team achieved its ultimate goal.
“It’s the best thing ever” said Gahir in the immediacy after his team’s victory on being a provincial champion. “We’ve been working at this since we were in grade eight. I’ve been working at it since I was so young. It feels great man.”
“It feels like a million dollars has been given to you” said Huskies coach Gary Sandhu, struggling to catch his breath after being mobbed by the North Delta fans who stormed the court, “especially when you’ve been working five years for it.
I can’t believe we did it. I can’t believe it!”
The game was defined by how tight it was defensively — just 90 points were scored between the two teams in this one. With Vernon holding a slender three point lead into the second half, it turned into a possession by possession, even a rebound by rebound type game for its remainder.
But perhaps the defining moment of the game came with two minutes to go. Vernon was able to get three straight offensive boards, forcing the Huskies to defend in their familiar 2-3 zone for what felt like an eternity.
Vernon eventually managed to score two points. But it showed the mental toughness and the never-say-die attitude that defined North Delta all season.
“Honestly, we just didn’t box out” explained Gahir, who finished 18 points and 7 rebounds. “That’s on us. We can’t complain to the refs, that’s their call. We just have to keep focusing on defence and try to get a rebound.”
That set up about as a dramatic ending as one could as scripted. Down four with just over 70 seconds left in their season, Arun Atker hit a three to get them within one. Then, Surj got two points on a tough play at the rim to give his team the lead. After getting a steal with ten seconds left, Vernon was forced to foul and put him to the line. They got the ball back, rushed up the court, and just missed a three that would have given them the win.
Then, elation for the Huskies and their fans.
“It feels unreal man” said head coach Jesse Hundal on the moment. “Words can’t describe the emotions that we’re going through and especially my team, the coaching staff, the teachers at the school, all my mentors in basketball.
I just wanted to be a part of the tradition of North Delta Basketball and North Delta Basketball winning provincials. It’s surreal.”
Suraj Gahir was named 3A MVP and rightfully so. All tournament long he came up with big moments and not just by scoring — his ability to rebound the ball in crucial moments and set up his teammates made everyone on the floor with him better.
And he did it all while playing through an ankle injury that limited his mobility.
“He’s got ice in his veins, he’s a competitor” said Hundal on Gahir. “He loves the spotlight, he’s a prime time player.
I know other coaches can disagree with me, but he’s the best player in the province for what he does.”
For North Delta, the season ended on the ultimate high just a few weeks after it seemed like it was all crumbling around them.
They suffered a rash of injuries, lost to Clayton Heights in league play and then finished fourth in the Fraser Valley. As a result, they had to play in the so-called quadrant of death — facing the prospect of playing two tough teams in Byrne Creek and number one ranked Sir Charles Tupper back to back.
After all that, to become provincial champions shows a level of resilience and character that makes them deserved champions.
Written by: Nick Bondi