Fleetwood Park's Gurmum Ghuman, book-ended by King George's Rishin Uppal (left) and Jose Zuluaga (12), finds Adam Spano a tall order during TBI semifinals Friday in Langley. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of Varsity Letters 2021. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Boys Basketball

It’s on to TBI 2021’s Saturday championship final for King George! In a Final Four ‘Battle of Dragons’ Coach Kulic’s Kardiac Kids rally to top Surrey’s Fleetwood Park!

LANGLEY — Darko Kulic talks so much about his King George Dragons as being the “little AA team” that always hard plays to the end regardless of the score,” that maybe you think it’s nothing more than hyperbole.

Yet break down the score line from his team’s 66-59 win over Surrey’s Fleetwood Park Dragons, and you start to think it’s much more fact than fiction, because despite the fact that the doldrums hit just about every team out there on multiple occasions over the course of four quarters, nothing ever really seems to fully phase B.C.’s  AA No. 2-ranked team.

Case in point, on its way to booking a date with the B.C. Quad-A No. 1-ranked Burnaby Central Wildcats in Saturday’s 8:30 p.m. Tsumura Basketball Invitational championship final here at the Langley Events Centre, King George went through an entire mountain range of peaks and valleys in Friday’s Battle of Dragons, yet still managed to come out the victors.

From the highs of a 23-6 lead late in the first quarter, to the lows of trailing 50-39 early in the fourth quarter after surrendering a 44-13 run to the opposition, and finally, over the final 20 seconds, a dynamic dribble-drive lay-up followed by two huge free throws from guard Palmer Currie to make its double-digit comeback complete.

“We’re tired and we’re missing five guys but they had zero quit in them,” exalted Kulic of his players. “ They are amazing and I am so proud of them. Zero quit in them and the believe in each other.”

Believe it or not, to lend even more weight to Kulic’s words, King George actually won a game in which they were outscored 16-2 in the third quarter by Fleetwood Park.

How?

Because when it mattered most, its leaders at the guard spots stepped up with game-changing performances.

Point guard Max Astak scored 10 of his 13 in the fourth quarter, including a steady 7-of-8 from the free throw line.

Currie scored 10 of his 19 in the fourth, including two huge treys.

And Jose Zuluaga, its star Grade 11 guard, hit two huge free throws and scored eight of his game-high 25 in the final frame.

For the record, that’s 28 of the 29 points King George put up in the pivotal fourth, one in which it outscored Fleetwood Park 29-15.

Yes, they scored two points in the third, and then they scored 29 in the fourth.

Fleetwood Park’s fine run almost got to them to the final. They were led by the 22 points of guard Allen Landasan, and 15 more from fellow guard Inder Deol.

“What a wonderfully coached team they are,” said Kulic afterwards. “After we went up 12 or 13 at the beginning, I told the boys ‘That team and that coach are not going to quit’ and they didn’t. Maybe it’s the dragon fire that we both have. They represent the name as well as we do, and that was a wonderful game.”

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