By Gary Kingston
(Special for Varsity Letters)
NO. 2 KING GEORGE DRAGONS 63 NO. 1 BRENTWOOD COLLEGE 33
LANGLEY – A rock. A simple little rock handed to him by his two-year-old daughter, Aria, was the good luck charm that King George Dragons head coach Darko Kulic kept in his pocket for four months.
On Saturday at the Langley Events Centre that stone figuratively turned to gold as the small West End Vancouver school won its first senior boys basketball title, demolishing No. 1 seed Brentwood College of Mill Bay 63-33 in the Double A final.
“We lost to North Delta in the (Howard) Tsumura (Invitational in December),” said an emotional Kulic. “I went out after and I was so sad that we lost and (Aria) brought me a little rock. It was a sweet little rock and I’ve had it in the pocket of my jacket every game since. And we won 30 straight because of that lucky rock that my daughter gave me.”
OK, he believes it helped. And no one wants to debunk good luck charms. But there were more tangible reasons for that historic title.
With six-foot-five superstar Grade 10 Dionycius Bakare providing all the offence King George would need (41 points), the Dragons led 17-5 after one quarter, 28-10 at halftime and 53-16 heading into the fourth quarter.
“I can’t put into words what those boys mean to me,” said Kulic of a roster that included two other starters who will return next season in Grade 10 forward Faisal Shawwa and Grade 11 guard Darko Karac. “A lot of those guys, I coached their brothers. This wasn’t for us, this was for everybody.”
And for once, Kulic was finally able to enjoy the ubiquitous anthem played at sporting events worldwide.
“For the last 16 years, I hated hearing “We are the Champions, No time for losers,” said the coach who lost Double A finals in 2018 to Brentwood College and 2020 to the Charles Hayes Rainmakers out of Prince Rupert. “Anywhere I am I turn it off.
“(Hearing it Saturday) was one of the best ever feelings. Well, my marriage and my baby are the most important things. But what a game, what a magical group of kids. 34-1, our one loss by one (point).”
The beat down of Brentwood College was so decisive that it marked the fewest points scored by a team in a Double A final since the first one in 1970 when Windsor scored 36 points.
“I wanted to get in the history books somehow,” said Brentwood head coach Blake Gage. “But that wasn’t the way I envisioned it.”
Kulic said he stayed awake until 7 a.m. Saturday morning, studying film of nine Brentwood games with some of his assistant coaches. The Dragons used a man-to-man on defence from the opening tip, then quickly switched to a two-three zone that was hugely effective, although Brentwood also struggled to get anything to drop, shooting just 11.5 per cent from the field in the first half and 19 per cent for the game. Balls from behind the arc that looked sure to find net, kept rolling helplessly around the rim and away.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Gage after consoling some of his tearful players. “I guess the emotion of the moment was just too big.
“King George did a great job. We had lots of good looks early, but when nothing went in, we got rattled and totally discombobulated. But I’m super proud of these guys. They had a great year and it’s just a shame to finish that way.”
Bakare was brilliant, scoring with effortless ease in a multitude of ways. He was 17-of-26 from the field, many of the points come from right under the basket when he snuck in on the back side along the baseline to take passes from penetrating teammates. He also drained four three-pointers with form that can only be described as perfect.
“He’s a shy, humble kid, but not on the court,” said Kulic. “Amazing human, amazing person. He had 41!, more than the other team scored. Big time players step up in big time moments.”
That was also true of Shawwa, who was a dominant presence inside with 10 rebounds and five blocks to go with seven points and four assists.
“Us and coach Darko, he’s been trying to get this for a long, long time.” said Shawwa. “Looses two times in the provincial final. This year, we came out strong and we won it.”
The Dragons also got seven points, seven rebounds and four assists from Karac.
“We’ve been waiting for this moment, like, forever,” said Karac as he waited his turn to cut a strand of net at one end of the court. “Coming into the pre-season we were ranked 10th and we were motivated by that. We wanted to prove everybody wrong . . . and it’s great to make history for our team.”
Dylan Gage led Brentwood College with 14 points, the only player in double figures.
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