VANCOUVER — Darko Kulic went to bed Thursday night knowing that he wasn’t going to need a rousing pre-game speech in the minutes before his King George Dragons took to the court for the Vancouver City 2A-3A championship final on Friday.
Star senior guard Yoel Teclehaimanot was feeling drastically under the weather, and so on Thursday evening, head coach Kulic dropped him an e-mail asking if thought he would be able to play in the big game the next night against the Lord Byng Grey Ghosts.
“He got back to me and he said ‘Your favourite player, Michael Jordan, played and he called that one his flu game,’” relayed Kulic, impressed that Teclehaimanot was referencing Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals in which MJ shook off his illness and scored 38 points in a Bulls’ win over Utah. “I love that kid.”
Teclehaimanot (tek-lah-hay-mah-not) scored 21 points, while Kyle Guerrero added 24 and Chris Bouseh 21 as the Double-A City No. 1 Dragons topped the Triple A City No. 1 Grey Ghosts 79-57 before a packed house at Windermere Secondary.
Both schools had already qualified into their respective Lower Mainland championship tournaments as Vancouver’s No. 1 seeds, but the blue banner which recognizes a united champ was on the line.
King George’s defensive effort was superb in the fourth quarter, as they limited a talented Byng team to just 11 points while scoring 24 themselves, including a clutch 14-of-18 performance from the free throw line over the final 10 minutes.
“One of the things we do is say we’re 0-0 before every game,” said Kulic. “We treat every game like a championship game. We hope to go 1-0, and if we don’t we say LOB. We make an L and that means Love Our Brothers. We stick together.”
The contest featured a stunning show of long-distance shooting prowess from Dragons’ senior guard Kyle Guerrero who hit five triple in the third quarter. He finished with six on the game as part of his contest-high 24.
“When he gets going he reminds me of a young Diego Kapelan,” said Kulic of his former King George teammate and the 2005 grad who averaged 32 ppg in his senior year before moving on to a Div. 1 career at McNeese State. “I was fortunate to be able to have passed the ball to Diego. Kyle has had a bit of a knee injury all year, but in games like this, we all just come out and stick together.”
Kulic applauded the play of his country-strong and somewhat height-challenged posts Nikan Najafi and Boris Obradovic who stood in well against the taller pair of Declan Herbertson (6-7) and Nathan Bromige (6-8).
“They are both wonderful young men and they work so hard,” began Kulic. “(Byng) had Declan on the other side and he is a great player, and Nathan is a big boy who knows what he is doing.”
Peter Gibbons led the Grey Ghosts, who trailed 31-23 at the break, with 13 points. Bromige added 12.