RICHMOND — In the final analysis, when the aim is to get to the dance, you don’t quibble with details like seeding, margin of victory, or style.
You just say ‘We’re in’ and you let the chips fall where they may.
In his senior year, playing the best basketball of his life, and in danger of missing out on that opportunity, all Luka Lizdek could do Friday was express his relief and thank the basketball gods above.
“The provincials is our biggest goal, no matter what seed we go in as,” the Kitsilano point guard said after he scored a game-high 29 points, helping the Blue Demons fend off a hellacious fourth-quarter comeback from the Burnaby South Rebels in an 83-77 win at The Oval.
The victory, in the Lower Mainland tourney’s dramatic third-fourth game, sends the Blue Demons to the Langley Events Centre for the B.C.’s and slams the door on a South team that was so gutsy right down to the final buzzer.
After scoring the first two buckets of the fourth quarter, the Blue Demons were looking like shoe-ins with a 72-51 lead.
Yet behind the efforts of Rebels’ C.J. Campbell and Jusuf Sehic, the glacier began to melt.
South went on a mind-numbing 22-2 run to pull within one point at 74-73.
Point guard Campbell put the team on his back, scoring 13 of his team-high 29 points in the final frame while Sehic added eight of 14 points in the same quarter.
After Kits made it 78-73 on a reverse lay-in by forward Tyrone Asenoguan, Vince Sunga capped a mini-run with a fast-break layup that had the Rebels back to within a point at 78-77 with 1:02 remaining.
But a layin by Filip Sokic off a nifty Lizdek dish, a free throw by Asenoguan and a finally, two Lizdek free throws, all over the final 49 seconds of play, allowed the Blue Demons to advance.
“We knew how good a team they were,” said a relived Kits’ head coach Sylvester Noel. “So we said to our team ‘This is not an elimination game, this is a championship game.’ We had a battle with them before Christmas (a 92-91 Kits win in the final of South’s own Rod Thompson Memorial) so we knew they could shoot the lights out.”
Sokic added 22 points for the winners and Asenoguan 14.
Afterwards, with an extended break in place prior to the start of provincials on March 8, Lizdek nailed every qualifying team’s thoughts square on the head.
“That big loss to Saints (earlier in the Mainland tournament), we didn’t expect it,” he said. “But we’ve come back and now we have to make a statement. Basketball is all about bouncing back. We can do this. I believe in miracles.”
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