RICHMOND — Bithow Wan was quick to speak to a traditional axiom of his sport Friday night at The Oval.
“Basketball is a game of runs, and tonight, we finished on one,” said the stealth 6-foot-3 10th grade forward with Burnaby’s Triple-A Byrne Creek Bulldogs.
With Wan scoring 20 of his game-high-equaling 38 points in the fourth quarter, a span in which he made 14 free throw trips, the Bulldogs mounted an 18-9 run to the final buzzer, snapping an 83-83 deadlock to beat Richmond’s Steveston-London Sharks 101-92 to give the school its first-ever Lower Mainland championship title.
In a battle of Triple-A super powers, Wan’s point total was matched by the Sharks’ 6-foot-10 forward Fardaws Aimaq, who put on a blocking clinic and was later selected the tournament MVP.
Still, it was Byrne Creek’s deeper cache of explosive scoring ability which made the difference.
Playing at a tempo that might be the fastest in the province at any tier, the Bulldogs got an additional 30 points from explosive guard Martin Djunga, 14 of which came in the game’s opening quarter, and 17 from Abdul Bangura, who had 15 by halftime.
Both teams had already qualified for the provincial championships, but for Byrne head coach Balraj Dhillon, the No. 1 seed to provincials and the pride of winning the zone’s banner were each huge steps for the program moving forward.
“These kids make me better every day,” he said of his charges. “Steveston played a great game and we knew going into halftime, that despite a lead (51-38) it wasn’t over. Great teams make their push and they did. But my guys were ready for it and I couldn’t be any prouder. Steveston played a hell of a game.”
Byrne Creek established its hyper-tempo to start the contest with Djunga leading the way, but the Sharks, B.C. finalists last season, were eventually able to bring the game back to their comfort zone. And Aimaq was at times, unstoppable in the second half.
Eventually, the Bulldogs were able to re-establish the pace that is a part of their hoops DNA, and Dhillon said afterwards, they will never relent from that stride.
“That is who we are,” he said. “We want to turn the game into a track meet, and if teams want to play that style with us, we welcome it.”
Summed Wan: “We played the fastest. It’s how we win.”
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