LANGLEY — Whatever basketball’s version of the all-points-bulletin is, Abbotsford Panthers’ head coach Brent Ciochetti was wishing he could have put one out Sunday evening at the Langley Events Centre for his star Grade 11 forward Dilveer Randhawa.
In its tense and spirited clash with Langley’s Walnut Grove Gators for the Eastern Valley Quad-A championship title, played before what was surely the loudest B.C. high school basketball crowd in two years, the Panthers needed Randhawa’s A-plus game in the worst way.
And whether by APB or Bat Signal, the message was received just in the nick of time.
Randhawa, an ‘it factor’ player when it comes to combining raw power and deft touch with just a pinch of playful showmanship, had scored two points in the first quarter, none in the second, and three in the third.
Yet as everyone, including university coaches with an eye for the intangible looked on, in a championship-level game in front of a huge crowd with the lead seemingly never more than a possession or two either way, Randhawa took over.
He scored 14 points over the final 10 minutes, including four treys as the Panthers pulled away from a 74-74 tie to win 95-86.
“Dilveer got hot,” smiled Ciochetti afterwards when asked what the difference in the game was over its latter stages. “He’s been our go-to guy for scoring but he was ice cold to start. He finally found it and he gave us some separation.
“He’s been solid the whole season, but for whatever reason, tonight was a bit of a struggle. But he did what good players do, and that’s finding it when we need it.”
All of that said, the Panthers have an enviable cache of players able to step forward, and without them, the game would have had a different ending.
Wyatt Ciochetti hit five treys and finished with a team-high 22 points, while fellow senior Jahvon Maksymiw had 16 points. Grade 11 guard Hayden Sansalone had 19 points.
For the Gators, finally healthy after a season of struggle, the pieces have fallen nicely back into place for head coach Reid Taylor.
Walnut Grove, also B.C.-bound, has always had heart, but now, the play of the senior inside-out duo of guard Kevin Kao and forward Dylan Senft has returned the team’s lustre.
The 6-foot-5 Senft scored 19 of his 22 points in the second half, while Kao, the 5-foot-10 shot-maker, scored 12 of game-high 27 in the fourth quarter, including three straight treys, the second of which was one of best fade-away triples you’re apt to see this season.
“We battled with Grove all year and it’s been back and forth all year so we didn’t expect anything any different tonight,” said Ciochetti of what was the rubber match in the three-game trilogy. “They are an awesome team, so disciplined and so hard working.”
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