LANGLEY — While it would take an exhaustive case study to call it the greatest top-tiered Fraser Valley senior boys high school basketball championship game ever, the 2,000-plus in attendance Sunday evening at the Langley Events Centre would all tell you that it needs to be in the running.
Ridiculous shot-making, countless lead changes, a near-50-point performance from one of this generation’s greatest players, and in the end, overtime.
“Playing in the final at the LEC, with everyone watching, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” said senior guard Miguel Tomley, whose 49-point, 10-rebound performance was the driving force for Surrey’s No. 2-ranked Wildcats and their 87-85 overtime win over Abbotsford’s No. 7-ranked W.J. Mouat Hawks in the AAAA title tilt. “I knew it wasn’t going to be a blowout.”
Tamanawis, which built its biggest lead of 11 points (61-50) heading into the fourth quarter, absorbed a furious Mouat rally over the final frame to earn the likely right to sit on the opposite side of the B.C. draw from Vancouver Island champion Oak Bay of Victoria.
In fact over the final two minutes of play, the score was either tied or changed hands on seven straight possessions.
Subsequently, Tomley proceeded to get fouled twice, and his four made free throws pushed Tammy’s lead to 81-78 with 4.4 seconds remaining in regulation.
Mouat, however, answered and forced overtime when Prab Sran hit a three-pointer with four-tenths of a second remaining to tie the score at 81.
Mouat was unable to keep the momentum going in overtime and the Tamanawis defence was at its best when Akash Dhaliwal twice stole passes and turned them into lay-ups, the final one giving the Cats an 87-83 lead with 40 seconds left.
Mouat’s Harvir Garcha sunk a short shot while crashing to the court, but with half a second remaining, it was too little, too late.
“Those steals were huge when we needed them,” said Tomley, who was later selected tournament MVP. “(Dhaliwal) missed a lay-in (off a steal) in the fourth quarter, but those two steals were the biggest part of the game, no matter how many points I had, or he had, or Jeevan (Sidhu) had. We had to have those.”
No one can ever take lightly a 49-point effort in a Fraser Valley final, yet Tomley has been so consistently excellent this season, that head coach Mike McKay, while impressed, was not the least bit surprised.
“It’s what we expect of him and he’s averaged over 40 (points) a game. In that sense, it was like a regular night. But Mouat went after him hard tonight. They doubled him every time he brought up the ball.”
Tally up all the possessions and all the key plays made and missed by both teams in a two-point overtime loss, and if you’re the ones coming out on the short end, it’s tough not to second guess.
“It’s one of those ones where it leaves a thought in your mind of ‘What if?’” Mouat head coach Rich Ralston said. “One less shot. One less rebound. One less turnover, right? It was a great game and either team could have come out on top. We’ve shown guts coming back from deficits all year. But Miguel is a hell of a player and some of the other guys on that team stepped up and made plays. We had a few mental mistakes that cost us, so hopefully we learn from that as we go the B.C.’s.”
Yet for Mouat, they are peaking at the right time of the season.
“If you had asked me three weeks ago if we could make it to the Fraser Valley final, I would have said ‘Not a chance,’” says Ralston. “We were struggling to find consistency. But hitting a big shot at Walnut Grove’s gym (Feb. 19 in the Valley playoffs) set us on a path of good momentum.”
In fact if Mouat had won, it would have knocked off, at the time of each win, the province’s No. 4 (Walnut Grove), No. 3 (Semiahmoo) and No. 2 (Tamanawis) teams in order.
Tamanawis, which led 22-18 at the quarter and 39-28 at the half, got 16 points from Sidhu and 15 from Dhaliwal.
Post Dhivaan Bhogal scored 27 to lead the Hawks, guard Sran added 24, point guard Sukhi Kang 15 and forward Garcha 11.
The victory gave Tamanawis three Fraser Valley Quad-A titles in the past five years.
“In 2014 when we won, the talk was about how a Surrey public school hadn’t done it since 1983,” said McKay. “But now I think we’ve raised expectations. Now, we expect to be here.”
*In the third-fourth game, Semiahmoo’s dynamic senior duo of Vlad Mihaila and Adam Paige finished off their careers in Fraser Valley conference play, scoring 33 and 26 points respectively to lead the Totems to a 105-82 win over the crosstown Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers. Tyson Brown added 15 for the Totems and Dominic Calderon 14.
Arjun Samra and Austin Swedish each scored 18 points in the loss for Lord Tweedsmuir while Dylan Kinley scored 17 points and Alex Le 14.
*In the fifth-sixth game, PoCo’s Terry Fox Ravens had the ball with four seconds remaining but its inbounds play under the opposition basket was snuffed by Langley’s Walnut Grove Gators, who exacted a 64-62 victory.
Alasdair Coyle led the winners with 25 points while James Woods scored 17 and Luke Adams 11.
David Chien led the Ravens with 22 points while Jacob Mand scored 17.
*Holy Cross of Surrey, the B.C. preseason No. 1, was in danger of missing the provincial tournament until it mounted a huge second-half run to beat Coquitlam’s Pinetree Timberwolves in the winner-go-home seventh-eighth place game.
Jamal Osei-Anim with 21 points led the charge for the Crusaders, while Maban Teny scored a game-high 22 for Pinetree.
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