LANGLEY — At one point pretty early on in Saturday’s Tsumura Basketball Invitational championship final, it became pretty clear that the Dom Parolin who was patrolling the court at the Langley Events Centre for Coquitlam’s No. 3-ranked Centennial Centaurs had stepped onto the hardcourt straight off the pages of a super-hero comic book.
And at no time was that more apparent than with 1:37 remaining in a tightly contested affair against the No. 2-ranked Kelowna Owls.
The 6-foot-8 senior forward had already done virtually everything there was to do to get his team to place where they owned a one-point lead with under two minutes remaining.
The deep-and-dangerous Owls, however, had run a terrific set to get guard Jayden Lalonde what looked to be a sure lay-up opportunity.
Yet at the last second, Parolin seemed to appear out of nowhere, swatting the attempt off the glass and keeping the Centaurs ahead to stay en route to an 84-81 victory and the tournament title.
“I could tell that he didn’t know where I was, and I thought I could pin it off the glass and give us some momentum,” Parolin said after scoring a game-high 41 points and being named the tournament MVP.
“In the last two minutes, that block?” enthused Centaurs’ coach Rob Sollero. “It was LeBron James-like, the way he pinned it on the backboard. The bench was just in awe.”
So, too, was the opposition coach.
“Forty-one points, and that block was pretty key,” admitted Kelowna head coach Harry Parmar. “That goes in and it’s a different game.”
It goes in and the Owls take a 79-78 lead. Instead, the Centaurs used the mojo to hit a pair of free throws, then get a lay-in from Dante Petrescu off a near 94-foot overhand bullet feed from Parolin, to lead 82-77 with 29.4 seconds remaining.
In the end, it proved to be just enough.
Yet Parolin’s performance was in many ways unparalleled.
While not quite the stuff of South Kam’s Kelly Olynyk at the 2009 B.C. Triple-A championships, it was nonetheless, in a regular-season tourney filled with B.C.’s very best teams, every bit as influential.
In the end, he shot 15-of-24 from the field, including two of-three from distance, for 41 points.
He grabbed 20 rebounds, including five offensive, and had three assists, three steals, four blocks and just two turnovers.
Yet if you saw the game, you know he did even more while still fully integrating within a Centennial team which is itself, was filled with other talents, like guard Leif Skelding, forward Paul Didenko and rising shooting star Petrescu.
“I have coached over 30 years and we’ve had a lot of good ones come through Centennial and this is one special kid,” said Sollero of Parolin. “He can do everything at both ends of the floor.”
In fact if Saturday proved anything, it’s that it is now laughable to call Parolin a forward because he literally does everything, despite standing 6-foot-8.
His ball-handling skills are such that he broke Kelowna’s pressure defence on his own with an array of dribble-drive moves.
He dished passes in tempo, and stretched the floor with that same ability in the half-court game.
He dunked twice in three-minute span, and perhaps half of his lay-ins were made by his dynamic spin-pivot moves.
As one sage courtside observer declared late in the proceedings, perhaps the only thing he didn’t do on the night was draw a charge.
That is the true definition of a stat-sheet stuffer.
“He played outstanding, we made some mistakes and they deserved the victory,” said Kelowna’s Parmar, whose Owls led by as many as 13 points on two occasions in the second quarter.
“We had some missed assignments defensively that we have to clean up, but they are a good team,” he added. “He’s a tough match-up. We don’t have a whole lot to go at him with. For us to do it right, though, we need to bring more pace. We’ll go back to the drawing board and we’ll work harder.”
The Owls got a co-team-high 20 points from guard Malcom Greggor, who came out on fire, scoring 14 points over the first 10 minutes, leading Kelowna to a 30-21 advantage after one quarter.
Lalonde, who was tough and excellent throughout, also scored 20 points.
Ajay Gill added 13 points, while Jonathon Haughton and Jarred Taylor each added nine points, the latter off a trio of treys.
Kelowna hit nine triples on the night, low by their averages, and that, along with injured Hunter Simson, remain the wildcards whenever the two meet again.
In addition to Parolin, Centennial got 14 points from Didenko and 10 from Skelding. They also got a revelatory 16 (including four treys) from Petrescu, who gives them an added deep-shooting depth to play off everything physical that Parolin and Didenko bring to the interior.
And while the Centaurs walked away the victors, Sollero tipped his hat to a Kelowna team which is still in its infancy in terms of its cohesion, having just added five members of its volleyball team to practice this past Monday.
“They just take you right out of your comfort zone,” he said. “It’s so hard to run your sets because they are scrambling all over the place. A lot of credit to their guys. Their defence was phenomenal.”
He was most happy with where Saturday’s TBI victory pointed his team than he was with any individual accolades.
“We just carry on with the momentum we built today,” he said, “knowing that we can compete with any team in the province and compete for the title at any team we play in.”
On Saturday, watching him lead the way, it was a hard point to argue.
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