BURNABY — When a team goes to penalty kicks to win the two biggest games of its season in back-to-back fashion within a span of about four-and-half-hours, so much of it comes down to mind over matter.
And perhaps no one brought more mental tenacity to the turf at the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex for the B.C. senior boys high school Coastal AA championship final than one of the smallest big-match players your apt to see anywhere.
Brentwood College Grade 11 forward Avik Bakshi attempted to sell his height as “optimistically 5-foot-5,” and while it’s very clear he’s hovering more in the range of about 5-foot-2, he was a giant when he needed to be, scoring both his team’s regulation-time goal and the decisive penalty-kicks winner in leading his team to a 1-1 (4-1 penalty kicks) victory over Campbell River’s Carihi Tyees.
While the win does not go down as a B.C. championship due to the absence of the non-Mainland, Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island schools, it is in fact the first time that Brentwood College (the only school in B.C. without a nickname) has won the season-ending boys soccer competition staged at Burnaby Lakes for AA-tiered schools. It had, in fact, never even played in the final until Tuesday.
Irregardless, Brentwood’s road to the title was no walk in the park, as it won four games in two days when quite literally, just one loss over the opening day’s pool play would put top spot out of reach at this season’s compacted 12-team event.
Brentwood College started the day at 11:45 a.m. with a 1-1 (6-5 penalty kicks) victory over defending B.C. champion Notre Dame, and by the time Bakshi stepped up to decide the game from the spot against Carihi, it was around 4:30 p.m.
“He is a fantastic dribbler,” said Brentwood College head coach Wes Barrett when asked about Bakshi after the match. “He can play anywhere in the final third, be it the wing, at the No. 10… he is shifty, he plays so well side-to-side and Carihi knows it.”
In the first half, however, winger Owen Shlesinger played the set-up role to perfection, allowing Bakshi to put his team ahead 1-0 at the break.
“I just saw him go and so I yelled for a cross and really committed to it,” Bakshi continued, nodding the ball home deep inside the six-yard box to the left side.
Carihi, which got two goals in the final 10 minutes — from Sacha Deschanes and Emile Abele — to snap a scoreless draw and beat Maple Ridge’s Westview Wildcats 2-0 in the day’s other semifinal, indeed knew Brentwood College better than any team in the entire 12-team draw, having beaten them recently by a 2-1 score in the North Island championship final.
And after Bakshi had staked his team to a 1-0 halftime lead, the Tyees were the ones dominating huge stretches of the second half, testing Brentwood College keeper Dylan Gage point-blank on a pair of occasions.
But then with two minutes remaining in regulation, Carihi’s Sam Borrie was able to knot the score and force what would be a scoreless overtime.
“In the second half, I thought we had more control,” said Carihi head coach Ray Wilson, but when you get to PK’s you never know. Our strength was goal-scoring, and although we lapsed a bit here and there, I don’t think we were picked here. Overall we had a pretty good season, but at this point, it’s a little hard to celebrate that.”
Brentwood head coach Wes Barrett applauded his team’s tenacity to pull through the grind of back-to-back” overtime games.
“It seems to happen in finals all the time, and it’s a war of attrition,” Barrett said. “It’s about keeping your legs, and trying to keep your heads a little bit longer.
Notre Dame defeated Westview to finish third.
The 16-team B.C. senior boys AAA Coastal championships begin Thursday at Burnaby Lake.
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