Fleetwood Park's Aaron Uppal, pictured at this past December's TBI, helped his Dragons to their first-ever championship title at St. Thomas More's Rich Goulet Chancellor Memorial on Saturday in Burnaby. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of VarsityLetters.ca 2022 All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Boys Basketball

Goulet Chancellor Memorial 2023: Eesher Sarai plenty big enough to meet the challenge as Fleetwood Park edges St. Pat’s for Dragons’ first-ever tourney title at STMC!

BURNABY — B.C.’s No. 5-ranked Quad-A senior boys basketball team is playing up to its provincial pedigree, and that means a lot of good things have been coming the way of the Fleetwood Park Dragons.

On Saturday, the Surrey squad achieved a program first, defeating Vancouver’s St. Patrick Celtics 71-68 in the championship final of the freshly-dedicated Rich Goulet Chancellor Memorial at Burnaby’s St. Thomas More Collegiate.

“First time in school history, so for us, that is a big one,” said Fleetwood Park head coach Nick Day of the Dragons’ first-ever title at one of the province’s most prestigious invitationals. “We’ve been playing in it for 20 years. And for me personally, I played in it myself (1992, ’93 with Delta Secondary) so that is a lot of history.”

It’s also the second straight ‘major’ for Fleetwood Park, who just before Christmas topped host Oak Bay and cross-city rival Enver Creek Cougars en route to first place at the Bays’ own Gary Taylor Invitational in Victoria.

On Saturday in Burnaby, the Dragons got an inspired performance from its wingspan-laden 6-foot-7 senior forward Eesher Sarai, who en route to earning tournament MVP honours, poured home 30 points in its narrow three-point win over the Triple-A No. 2-ranked Celtics.

With Grade 11 guard Inder Deol, the Gary Taylor MVP, unavailable due to injury, Sarai picked up the pace for his team.

Fleetwood Park forward Eesher Sarai (6) steps off the floor at the 2021 TBI at the Langley Events Centre. On Saturday, the 6-foot-7 Sarai scored 30 points en route to earning MVP status as he helped lead his team past St. Pat’s and to the school’s first-ever Rich Goulet Chancellor Memorial title. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of Varsity Letters 2021. All Rights Reserved)

“He just really established himself in that game,” said Day. “There are games where the match-ups favour him because of his length and he was aggressive and rebounded the ball well inside. He was a force inside and we need him to be that for us. Not too many teams have a 6-7 kid that athletic, so we have to use that to our advantage.”

The game was as tight as the final score indicated, the Dragons leading 36-33 at halftime, and the Celtics leading 46-45 midway through the third quarter.

St. Pat’s later pulled to within 69-68 before Fleetwood Park’s Jodhin Bhangoo hit a pair of free throws to make the 71-68 final complete.

Now, with two months left until the start of the provincials at Langley Event Centre, where does Day see his team these days?

“I like our consistency and I like our balance,” he said. “I feel like we’re not a one-trick pony. Any night it could be this guy or that guy. I like the team energy and their spirit, and the way that they support each other.”

Grade 10 guard Rohan Dhanoa scored 15 points, and Grade 11 guard Izaec Oppal added another 13. Both were later selected to the tourney’s first all-star team. Senior guard Aaron Uppal added 12 for the winners.

Joey Panghulan, the Celts’ senior guard, led his team with 23 points and was later selected to the tourney’s second all-star team 

Also named first team all-stars were a pair of St. Pat’s players. Jovin Sunner scored 13 points in the final while Kaden Carrion added nine.

Elgin Park’s Adam Olsen, pictured here during the 2022 B.C. senior boys Triple-A basketball championship quarterfinal round at the Langley Events Centre, led his team to a win over Byrne Creek on Saturday and third place at the 2023 Goulet Chancellor Memorial at STM in Burnaby. (Photo by Wilson Wong 2022. All Rights Reserved)

Rounding out the first all-star team was highly-regarded 6-foot-7 guard/forward Adam Olsen whose game-high 39-point performance led his Elgin Park Orcas to an 86-62 win over Burnaby’s Byrne Creek Bulldogs in the third-place final.

Olsen scored 24 points in the first half, staking the Orcas to a 51-26 lead at the break.

Grade 11s Mattix Harrison (10 points) and Dylan Homenick (13), the latter picked to the second all-star team, also each broke double-figures in scoring for the winners.

A pair of Grade 11 guards led the Bulldogs.

Cusmos Djunga scored 13 of his team-high 21 points in the second quarter while Atawa Baraba added 18 more.

Also selected to the second all-star team were: Logan Stewart (Brookswood), Tarrance Booker (St. Thomas Moere) and Mohammed Dukuly (Byrne Creek).

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One thought on “Goulet Chancellor Memorial 2023: Eesher Sarai plenty big enough to meet the challenge as Fleetwood Park edges St. Pat’s for Dragons’ first-ever tourney title at STMC!

  1. Congrats to Nick Day and the rest of the Fleetwood coaching cadre . If Nick’s group is as feisty as he was in high school , the Dragons could go far .

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