LANGLEY — The St. Patrick’s Celtics spent the first two days of the 2020 B.C. junior boys basketball championships looking like a team seemingly miscast as the 32-team event’s No. 1 overall seed.
Yet as the second half of it’s provincial semifinal against the No. 4 seed Walnut Grove Gators of Langley began Monday evening at the Langley Events Centre, quite suddenly the team which needed overtime to beat No 16 Handsworth on the first day of the tourney, then needed a late surge in the Sunday quarterfinals to shake off No. 8 Lambrick Park, suddenly looked every bit the dynamic outfit the organizers had pegged them to be.
“It was experience,” said St. Pat’s program architect Nap Santos, the senior boys head coach who was assisting JV boss John Boateng at the tourney after the Celts got by the Gators 75-61. “We’re young. We’ve got a lot of Grade 9s on this team, it’s the provincials and they were making a lot of Grade 9 mistakes. But they always found a way to win.”
On Monday, a very talented Walnut Grove team, one which took the Celtics to triple overtime before bowing out earlier this season at the Holy Cross Crusaders Invitational in Surrey, were every bit in the game at the break, trailing just 32-29.
Yet a hurricane-force third quarter proved to be their ultimate undoing as the Celtics, so strong off the dribble-drive game, found their way to the glass for layups, and as result were able to loosen the defence and find a winning mix of shots and drives.
Irish Coquia, the 5-foot-11 Grade 9 forward, was a rock steady force for the winners, scoring a game-high 29 points, including a 5-of-6 performance from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
The victory propels St. Pat’s into Tuesday’s 7 p.m. championship final against a crosstown foe, the No. 2 seeded Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs.
Three other starters hit double figures for the winners.
Joey Panghulan had 12, and Jornel Ursua and Rey Bahena each had 11.
Callum Neilly had 15 for the Gators, while Kevin Kao and Daniel Lee had 13 and 10 points respectively.
As the seconds ticked down, and Celtics began to prepare for the post-game celebration, Santos could be seen with tears streaming down his face.
“We’ve all put in a lot of hard work the last eight years together,” said Santos of a program which in 2010 won the B.C. Single A senior varsity title, but had never appeared in a junior final until paving the way on Monday. “We’ve been working for this.”
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