LANGLEY — The Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers, like all of the teams here at the 49th annual B.C. junior boys basketball provincial invitational tournament, had watched from afar as the underdog Belmont Bulldogs rolled to upset after upset.
When it got to their turn to try to put the brakes on the Cinderella team from Victoria, Surrey’s Panthers knew they had to control things early or risk becoming yet another statistic.
“Obviously Belmont came in on a crazy run,” said Tweedsmuir co-coach Chad Olafson. “They were a (No.) 23 seed that had knocked off No. 10 (Centennial), No. 7 (Kelowna) and No. 2 (Sir Charles Tupper).
“Our game plan was to try to get up on them early, and then try to impose our will a bit.”
The last part of the plan was essential, as the Bulldogs had just kept coming all week-long in their first three victories.
No. 3 Lord Tweedsmuir, however, had an answer that Belmont’s first three foes did not, and in the end, the Fraser Valley champions won by their largest margin of the tournament, securing a convincing 69-37 victory and setting up a championship game clash with No. 5 seed St. George’s Saints on Tuesday (6 p.m.).
“We gave them a lot of respect,” admitted Olafson.”When we were up by eight, we told the guys to keep pushing because they would come back. So it was a good team effort.”
Tweedsmuir’s 23-4 run to begin the second half was perhaps the most dominant surge of any team this week on the championship side of the draw.
Jaeden Reid led the winners with a game-high 20 points while Josh Hamulas hit five threes, including three in the third quarter, to finish with 19. Forward Jackson Corneil added 13.
Cole Belton and Hunter Thomsen each scored nine for the Bulldogs, while Dillan Moore added seven.
Lord Tweedsmuir’s boys basketball program, one season after its senior girls won the coveted B.C. Triple A title, is at perhaps the highest point of its existence.
All four of its teams qualified for provincials, with the Grade 8 and Grade 9 teams each finishing second in the Fraser Valley.
The junior team came first in the Valley while the senior boys finished fourth after losing to Semiahmoo on Sunday.
“It’s really come a long way the past 10 years,” said Olafson. “This is the first time our juniors (boys) have made a provincial final and it is special to play a storied franchise like Saints.”
The two teams met at a tournament earlier this season with the Saints winning against a Tweedsmuir team missing three Grade 10 starters.
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