LANGLEY — When you talk about the 2017-18 Semiahmoo Totems senior boys basketball team, it’s impossible to do so without referencing the importance they have placed on something best described as their intangible basketball culture.
Ask head coach Ed Lefurgy about what inspires him and he references B.C. coaching legend Rich Chambers by saying ‘Good teams have great players, great teams have great teammates.”
From taking his first Grade 8 team at the South Surrey school nine seasons ago to tonight, when his Totems take to the Arena Bowl court at the Langley Events Centre in the program’s first B.C. senior varsity championship game since 1961, Lefurgy has done what so many aspire to do but never accomplish, and that is build a true program.
Of course there are so many who have helped put that vision into place, but what he’s done in just under a decade has not been missed by his current players who will take to the court tonight (8:15 p.m.) against the Burnaby South Rebels and try to win the school’s first-ever senior boys basketball title.
“Personally, my main inspiration is Lefurgy,” said senior Totems’ guard Vlad Mihaila, who fouled out of Friday’s 74-67 win over Surrey’s Tamanawis Wildcats with 1:31 remaining and his team clinging to a 67-65 lead. “I see how much he has put into this for us. He works every day. And the reason we’re all here is because of him. He is definitely the motivation for all of us.”
Ask Lefurgy about what the final 90 seconds of Friday’s game were like, and independently, he brings up Mihaila.
“Vlad fouled out and he was really upset and we had a moment,” admitted Lefurgy of his senior who scored a team-high 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds. “Then he started to encourage everybody. It said a lot in that moment when your leader knows that it’s not just about him.”
If they didn’t have that bond, they would not have won because they couldn’t have stopped Tamanawis’ Miguel Tomley, who put an entire team on his back, and scored 48 points despite the most physical multiple-man defensive coverage we’ve seen for while here at the tournament.
Everyone took turns with help, and when you asked Mihaila about it, that selfless team side once again emerges.
“I just have to say ‘Hats off to Jordon’” Mihaila said of point guard Jordon Chen, who played a primary role along with the likes of Damian and Dominic Calderon. “Jordon is an amazing defensive player. Our whole thing was to just stop Miguel. He got off to a hot start and we had some iffy moments. But we showed a lot of resilience and we finished it off.”
Lefurgy has seen the rise of Tammy’s Akash Dhaliwal and Jeevan Sidhu this season, yet he admitted amazement about the number of times teams are willing to guard Tomley straight up.
“Obviously he scored a heap against us, but to see teams just use single coverage against him?” asked Lefurgy. “I just respect his game too much. He’s an amazing talent. It’s out of respect that we are going to throw everything we have at him.”
Yet the Totems had their own wildcard, and that was the interior presence of 6-foot-7 Adam Paige, a senior of such athletic prowess that he was also voted, by the head coaches of B.C. men’s U Sports volleyball programs, as one of the province’s 15 best at that sport, as well.
Paige scored 15 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
“We have wanted this all year long,” said Paige, who already has a provincial title under his belt this season after he helped lead the Totems past Mt. Baker in early December in the B.C. AAA volleyball title game, also played at the LEC. “They’re our league rivals, and this is a big win, because now we’re one win away.”
That, of course,is a reference to Saturday’s title tilt against the Burnaby South Rebels.
Quite amazingly, with such outstanding players on both teams, it is amazing how little they have actually played against each other over their five-year high school careers.
“We played them at the Kodiak Classic but we had two players missing and we lost,” said Mihaila, referencing the fact that Paige, among others, were not in the line-up the day they fell 90-69 to South at the tourney hosted by Port Moody’s Heritage Woods Secondary.
The only other time?
“We played them in the quarterfinals of the Grade 8 B.C.’s and we lost by six, so we’re 0-2 against them,” Mihaila said.
And thus the stage has been set.
“This means the world to us,” adds Mihaila. “We have dreamed of this game ever since we were little kids. We watched it every year. Now we have one more game left and we have to leave everything on the floor.”
Indeed, great teams do have great teammates.
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