LANGLEY — Argyle Pipers’ head coach Anthony Beyrouti offered up Willis Read and his dramatic entrance, limping onto the court to join the New York Knicks before Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals.
Sure, it wasn’t quite the same story line which brought his senior star Georgia Swant onto the court this past Saturday afternoon for the North Vancouver team’s final game at the Tsumura Basketball Invitational.
Yet if you’re talking about a player with a flair for the dramatic, and one with the ability to lift the spirits of an entire team, then Swant fits the bill.
And while she wasn’t leading her team to an NBA title like Reed was that day, she was helping an injury-riddled preseason AAA Top 10 team get back a slight measure of its mojo in what has been a frustrating start to the 2017-18 season.
Argyle had lost its first three games of the TBI, including a Saturday morning setback to crosstown St. Thomas Aquinas which had ended at about 10:45 a.m.
Swant headed back home to the North Shore in advance of what she had assumed was a 4:30 p.m. game for 15th-16th place against Richmond’s R.A. McMath Wildcats.
Instead, the game was actually a 2:45 p.m. start.
Only problem was, Swant didn’t discover the error until 20 minutes before game time, and when she arrived back at the Langley Events Centre, the first quarter was over and here team was trailing 20-1.
What proceeded to happen, however, was a testament to the kind of influence that the 5-foot-9 senior guard, bound next season for Simon Fraser, can have on a basketball game.
Swant entered the game to start the second quarter, promptly hit a three-pointer, and on her way to scoring 26 points over the final 30 minutes of play, carried her Pipers to an incredible 56-55 come-from-behind victory.
“It’s funny, but you might think that without her here, the other players would figure they have to work harder,” began Beyrouti. “But actually, it’s the exact opposite. When she shows up, people start to work harder.
“What a rallying cry for us,” continued Beyrouti, “she comes in and we win the second, third and fourth quarters.”
Swant, who will join older sister Sophie next season with the Clan, was quick to pinpoint the reason for her tardy arrival.
“It was my dad’s fault,” Swant said of her father Randy, who figured the game was supposed to start at 4:30 p.m.
“I was bummed,” Swant continued. “I knew we only had five (other) players and being down 20-1 you figure there’s no chance So I just went out there and gave it my all.”
The most interesting part of watching Swant at work this season, with so many of her key teammates out of the lineup due to injury?
Everyone in the gym knows that a player who has a tremendous pass-first belief system must now become more selfish and score the basketball if her team is to have a chance to win.
And yet even though they know what is going to happen, she still gets it done. Witness the 31 points she scored in a Friday consolation loss to Chilliwack’s G.W. Graham Grizzlies.
Ever since her first games at the LEC, at the 2016 B.C. junior varsity championship, in which she led Argyle past Walnut Grove in the showcase final by scoring 44 points over a 32-minute game, Swant has been one of the province’s elite talents.
Next season, when she joins the Clan, she knows how important her three-point shooting game will be in terms of melding with Clan head coach Bruce Langford’s offensive philosophy, and thus she has already started to amp up her workouts to meet that part of her game.
Most recently, in a closed, self-rebounding workout with her coach charting the numbers, Swant hit 100 threes in 15 minutes and 30 seconds.
Beyrouti knows he is working with one of the very rare players he will come across over the course of his career.
“Every once in a while you get a really special player to coach, and she might be the best player I have ever coached,” Beyrouti said. “And one of the reasons is that she elevates people around her. There’s a lot of good players out there and they don’t all necessarily do that.
“That is something that I really noticed over the summer with VK Basketball,” Beyrouti continued of his club program. “We were moving players around on some teams and I noticed that people really gravitated towards playing with her. I see it every day in practice but it’s nice to see that others feel the same way.”
Finishing 15th in a 16-team tournament might not be reason for celebration, but when key players are either concussed, nursing sprained ankles or shelved with broken bones, the longterm picture needs to be emphasized, and Beyrouti likes the positivity that Swant’s presence brings to the team.
“We’ve got a while bunch going on,” says Beyrouti, “but we’ve got to keep going on and realizing that it’s a marathon and not a sprint.
“We have to keep grinding and keep working and hopefully good things will happen for us by the end of the season.
“But it is hard. When you get injuries like this, everyone doubts. Everyone wonders ‘How are we going to make it through?’ But when Georgia shows up and delivers like the way she did today, it gives all of us a lot more hope.”
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