LANGLEY — Together, they were the Saturday night dream that happened two nights too early.
The No. 1-ranked, undefeated Oak Bay Breakers of Victoria and the No. 2-ranked Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers of Surrey.
Amongst a cache of similarly talented but much younger contenders, they were the seasoned warriors, polar-opposites in size and style, teams whose past failures on the grand stage made you root for their redemption.
Of course, when the Panthers slipped and fell at the Fraser Valley championships and ensured themselves a seeding low enough to invite a week’s worth of second-guessing, a wrench had been thrown which would force their clash 48 hours ahead of its true vintage.
On Thursday, that battle ensued, and when Shelvin Grewal drained an epic three-pointer late in the contest that gave her team its ultimate margin of victory, the Panthers were Final Four bound for the second year in a row behind an 81-78 win.
Oak Bay, 28-0 heading in, was out of the title hunt.
“What can you say?” asked Tweedsmuir head coach Curtis McRae after the victory in his team’s first meeting with the Breakers this season. “The No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the province matching up in a quarterfinal is not the way we planned it. It’s not the match-up we wanted to see. They had beaten everyone they had played pretty convincingly this season.”
Grewal, the Grade 11 long-range specialist, was absolutely on fire Friday, scoring a game-high 35 points that included 9-of-17 shooting from three-point range.
Meanwhile, Panthers’ senior guard Maryn Budiman continued on a tear by scoring 33 points, including 6-of-12 shooting from distance.
It was all just enough to top a Breakers team which, for large stretches, played four 6-foot-plus players, including Georgia Alexander (22 points, 14 rebounds), Sophie de Goede (21 points, 21 rebounds), Imogen White (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Natalie Froese (four points, four rebounds).
The game was tied 10 times and the lead changed hands 14 times in a contest which offered no genuine clues to its ending until Grewal’s threes established late separation.
“We knew we had two completely different styles of basketball coming at each other,” McRae continued. “It was a bigger, slow-it-down paced team against a smaller, three-point shooting team that was going to push the tempo and turn it into a track meet.
“(Oak Bay) pounded it inside, but I think we shot the three-ball better than we ever have.”
Lord Tweedsmuir was 16-of-31 from distance, making two more treys than regulation field goals (14-of-38).
The box score had Oak Bay grabbing more offensive rebounds (31) than Tweedsmuir had total rebounds (23).
Oak Bay head coach Rob Kinnear was nothing but classy in defeat.
“When the draw came out. we knew it was going to be tough, but at the same time, we came here to win it, and we were going to have to beat them at some point,” said Kinnear. “I think they are the best team in B.C. I wish them all the luck.”
Lord Tweedsmuir will clash with Panorama Ridge, its crosstown rivals, in a 3:30 p.m. game Friday as part of a Final Four which is made up exclusively of Fraser Valley teams.
Brookswood meets Abbotsford at 5:15 p.m.
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