LANGLEY — It was the craziest 7.3 seconds on record at the B.C. senior boys basketball championships in many, many a moon.
And when its trio of incredulous moments were complete, emotions reached a zenith of polar opposites,
Kelowna guard Owen McParland stepped into a short return pass from teammate Nash Semeniuk and banked home a 33-foot shot off glass with .5 seconds remaining Thursday, lifting the No. 5-seeded Kelowna Owls to a 72-69 win over Surrey’s 13th-seeded Elgin Park Oracs, in the process earning a spot in Friday’s Final Four.
“I just saw the clock and threw the ball up hoping that it would go in,” said McParland, who began the winning series by inbounding the ball in the front court to temamate Nash Semeniuk, getting it right back, then hoisting the shot that sent the Owls into elation and the Orcas into agony.
“You get to that point and … they get the ball in, take a couple of dribbles and Hail, Mary, there it goes,” said a disappointed Orcas’ head coach Kirk Homenick.
“But it wasn’t pure,” Homenick said, trying to find some levity in a tough moment. “He didn’t call ‘bank’.”
The play was the capper on a trio of highlight reel buckets, any of which, on their own, could stand alone as dagger plays.
With the clock ticking down, and the score tied at 67-67, Semeniuk stole the ball from Elgin Park’s wonderfully-gifted 6-foot-7 guard Adam Olsen, and made a beeline to the basket, and with Olsen keeping pace and right on his hip, he laid the ball up and in for a 69-67 Elgin Park lead with 7.3 ticks remaining.
Elgin Park later inbounded the ball deep in the frontcourt, with Grade 11 post Dylan Homenick sending a pass right into the shooting pocket of Olsen, who in turn sunk a clutch 14-footer along the baseline to tie the score at 69-69 with 3.8 seconds left.
After a Kelowna time-out, McParland inbouded to Semeniuk, who cued it back to McParland for the win.
“I trusted him, I knew he was my best shooter, and said ‘I got to get it to him,’” Semeniuk said afterwards of feeding McParland. “That was a lot of emotions, man. We were winning and I was so happy, then they shot and its tied and you’re down. But you trust your teammates, and you get the win.”
The contest was tight throughout, the underdog Orcas proving throughout, with their size, acumen and unflappability, that their No. 13 seed clearly mis-identified what their potential has been at this tourney.
Yet the smaller Owls proved their mettle from the opening tip, trusting their extended zone press to not let them down, and their match-up zone to make things just tough enough to neutralize the skill and size of both the 6-7 Olsen (28 points) and the 6-8 Homenick (29 points).
“With their size, they gave us problems but we’d grind and grind and find a way,” said Kelowna head coach Harry Parmar. “We missed bunnies and free throws early, but we thought that our pressure would get to them.”
Three Owls hit double figures in a game, which from Kelowna’s perspective, was not defined by a go-to player, although the Grade 11 Semeniuk, who led with 17, would come close.
Guard Walker Sodaro had 13 and McParland, who hit three threes, finished with 11.
Certainly No. 1 Semiahmoo is coming in as the favourite in Friday’s 7 p.m. semifinal clash, and that means the Owls’ will need to produce a signature win if they hope to see the bright lights of the Langley Events Centre’s Arena Bowl at 8 p.m. Saturday night.
“We love this court,” Parmar said. “We love this court. This court has been good to us. Character win for those boys. I said to them ‘No one knows who you are, go get some respect tonight so that you make sure they do.’”
On a night filled with more drama than 7.3 seconds might have a right to contain, the essence of March Madness, pulled our emotions in opposiste directions like only it can.
And the best part? This tournament is only half over!
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