LANGLEY — Vancouver’s Sir Charles Tupper Tigers led Burnaby’s Byrne Creek Bulldogs for a grand total of one minute and one second on Thursday night.
Yet it seemed like one of those games where no lead was safe, one of those games where the head coach of the winning team takes a second to wipe his brow at the buzzer, then gets on with the business of prepping for the Final Four.
“They’re gritty, we’re gritty and so it was match-up of two (like-minded) teams,” admitted Byrne Creek bench boss Bal Dhillon after his team took a four-point lead into the fourth quarter and ground out a 68-57 victory by doing enough of the little things right.
“We’re bigger and we’ve got more length, and I think in the end that is what won us this game,” continued Dhillon whose team now prepares to face the young and restless North Delta Huskies in a 5:15 p.m. semifinal Friday in Arena Bowl. “They are hard to play against, and I’d wished we’d faced them earlier so we would have had a better taste of it. I knew this was going to be tough the moment I saw the draw.”
Tooth and nail the whole way, a Tupper team which never had its full line-up together for any length of time this season led 27-26 at the break.
Majok Deng, every skillful and sublime with the basketball, scored 20 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in what was a low-scoring, defence-first contest for the Bulldogs.
Bithow Wan had 17 points and seven rebounds, under-rated Titgol Jok 14 points and 10 boards, and point guard Sufi Ahmed 10 points.
Sebastian Lemos with 13 points and Guarab Acharya with 12 led Tupper.
Given all the bracket busting going on in the Quad A draw, Dhillon boiled the post-season road map down to basics.
“It’s March Madness,” he said. “You gotta play the games. It doesn’t matter if you win a tournament early in the year or get the number one ranking. That is meaningless at this point. We all come here to win four games.”
Byrne Creek has played North Delta three times this season and won all three: 65-58 at the Tsumura Basketball Invitational in December, then 75-55 at the STM Chancellor tournament, and 95-69 at the Robert Bateman tourney, the latter two both in January.
However, since that time, North Delta is one of the most improved teams in 3A, a fact it showed in winning last week’s Fraser Valley championship tournament.
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