LANGLEY — Try, try, try, try and then try again.
In the all-Chilliwack battle for the B.C. senior boys basketball championship title, the Unity Christian Flames were the team tasked with rolling the boulder up the hill.
Four times they had faced its No. 1-ranked, crosstown rivals, the Highroad Academy Knights, and all four times had they lost.
But perseverance is a virtue, and in the end, it was the Flames who took turns cutting down the nets Saturday afternoon at the Langley Events Centre.
And after beating Highroad Academy 65-61, Unity head coach David Bron quite neatly spoke to that universal theme of perseverance in the face of adversity in describing how his Flames stuck to their game plan and rallied to win its first title in school history.
“We talked about when we get tense and uptight, that we had to buy in and trust what our offence was going to give us,” explained Bron, 35, a former Trinity Western Spartans standout of the early-2000s.
“You had to pass the ball and sprint, and you weren’t going to get anything the first time,” Bron began. “Then you weren’t going to get anything the second time. But on that third time, we started to get looks. We started to relax and then over the last four minutes, the threes finally started to fall and it was the difference in the game… in a game of inches.”
The Flames got off to a quick start and built a 10-point lead in the opening quarter, yet when Highroad head coach Mike Shannon went to a 2-3 zone, and later a 3-2 formation, the Unity Christian offence seemed to be stuck in mud for huge stretches.
Behind the play of guard Elijah Grimard, who scored a team-high 30 points, and forward Aidan Morris, who added 13, Highroad built their lead to as many as seven points in the third quarter.
That’s when the trust Bron spoke of began to manifest itself.
Colton Vanderkooi’s triple made it 50-45, Keegan Schuurman’s trey made it 53-45, and Calieb Graham’s three pushed it to 56-48 with 4:10 remaining.
There was no quit in Highroad Academy, yet guard Caleb Graham’s massive and-one play, completed at the stripe, made it 62-54 and all but decided the game, despite Grimard who just kept hitting one clutch shot after another down the stretch.
“My guys played their hearts out,” Knights’ head coach Shannon said. “You take it as it comes. It would have been nice but it was not in the cards.
“One in overtime, then by two points, six points, and then 29 points, and all on our side. But they were on a high. They did a great job.”
Graham led Unity with 18 points, Schuurman, later named tournament MVP, added 15 points and nine rebounds, point guard Wilton Haan had 10 points, Colton Vanderkooi eight points and Colby Vanderkooi six points and 10 rebounds.
Highroad point guard Easton Abel had 10 points.
“Championships are so rare and even though I am a young coach, I haven’t ever won one of these,” Bron added. “But it’s a game of inches and even if Highroad had pulled it out, we gained so much through this process… about teamwork and buying in and taking the hard way instead of the easy way. That’s why this is so special.”
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