IT was a feeling head coach Drew Gallacher wanted his players to remember.
Just over three weeks ago, Gallacher told his Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers players to soak in the sounds they could clearly hear from the locker room right next door at Langley Events Centre as the Holy Cross Crusaders were celebrating their victory over the Panthers in the Fraser Valley semifinals.
“Coach made us sit in the locker room and listen to Holy Cross cheer on the other side and he told us we are never going to feel this feeling ever again and we said ‘OK,’” said Tweedsmuir’s Grade 12 star Arjun Samra.
And Gallacher was proven prophetic as the Tweedsmuir squad won the Fraser Valley third-place game to secure the No. 9 seed for 4A Tournament at the BC Boys Basketball Championships and then watched as the Panthers went a perfect 4-0 (including rallying from a 20-point deficit in the quarter-finals and 18 points in the championship final) to capture the first provincial title in school history with a stunning 91-86 victory on Saturday night at Langley Events Centre against the No. 7 seed Kelowna Owls.
Kelowna led by 18 points in the late stages of the third quarter but a barrage of three-pointers (three to be exact) to close the period cut the deficit to nine points and the Panthers then rattled off a 16-0 run to start the final frame and the game had done a complete 180.
Samra, who was named Most Valuable Player, said there was no panic in the team.
“We knew what we were capable of doing, we just knew we had to bring some energy and find it within ourselves,” he said.
After hitting just 29.2 per cent from the field in the first half (and 2-for-11 from the three-point line), Tweedsmuir was lights out in the second half, shooting 60.6 per cent from the field and 7-for-15 from downtown, a 46.7 per cent clip.
By comparison, the Owls hit less than 30 per cent of their field goals for the game.
“We stopped playing defence and then they got scared,” said Kelowna coach Harry Parmar, whose team was making its third appearance in the title game in four years. “We had 97 possessions, they had 81, there is no way you should lose that game, but they hit some shots down the stretch and we didn’t.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow because if we played some defence, we would have won that game. But that’s sport.”
Kelowna was up 53-38 at the half with the trio of Malcolm Greggor, Hunter Simson and Parker Johnstone each going off for 15 points.
Johnstone, the Owls’ offensive catalyst, entered the game averaging 30 points in each of the team’s first three games at provincials, but Gallacher got an assist from a B.C. coaching legen
“We knew we had to make adjustments because (Johnstone) was killing us,” Gallacher admitted. “A very good friend of mine, Rich Goulet, told me last night I had to use a diamond-and-one against him. We waited until the fourth quarter and it worked perfectly. Our kids executed the defence and then we got hot from the outside and that was the difference.”
The Panthers were up by seven points with less than a minute to go as they held Kelowna to just four points in the fourth quarter up to that point. The Owls would drill a pair of three-pointers to get within three points at 89-86 but Samra iced the game with from the free throw line.
Gallacher was teary-eyed and emotional following the victory.
“These boys were identified in Grade 6 and ever since then, they have stayed together. They come into my classroom every day at lunch,” he said, adding that with his son on the team, it is not uncommon for the players to be over hanging out or for dinner.
“This is such a family to me. The parents have supported me unconditionally and they have been so incredible throughout the whole entire journey.”
Jackson Corneil, who was the Quinn Keast Foundation Player of the Game, led the Panthers with 23 points and 15 rebounds while Samra had 22 points, seven rebounds and four assists and Alex Le chipped in with 17 and Josh Hamulas had 13.
Johnstone led the Owls with 28 points with Simson scoring 25 and Greggor 21. Simson and Johnstone each also grabbed 10 rebounds.
In the third-place game, the Burnaby South Rebels defeated the Terry Fox Ravens 86-61.
Arjun Samra was named Most Valuable Player while Hunter Simson earned the Best Defensive Player award for the tournament.
The Mount Baker Wild were named Most Sportsmanlike team and Kelowna won the Most Inspirational Team Award.
For full tournament results, visit www.bchighschoolbasketballchampionships.com/4aboys/
Video highlights courtesy of Langley Events Centre:
First Team All-Stars Second Team All-Stars
Arshia Movassaghi (Heritage Woods) Zach Hamed (Heritage Woods)
Justin Sunga (Burnaby South) Baltej Sohal (Burnaby South)
Cameron Slaymaker (Terry Fox) Dominic Parolin (Centennial)
Hunter Simson (Kelowna) Corneil Jackson (Lord Tweedsmuir)
Parker Johnstone (Kelowna) Elijah Devison (Lord Tweedsmuir)