LANGLEY — We’ve had a night to sleep on it, and as the countdown continues to a 3:30 p.m. tip-off to four tiers of exciting Elite 8 quarterfinal action today at the B.C. senior boys basketball championships, it’s time to re-live some of the best of Wednesday’s massive opening-round of 32 sudden-elimination games across all tiers at the Langley Events Centre.
But first, thank you Varsity Letters’ readers for your incredible level of readership and interest on Wednesday.
Our five-year-old site didn’t crash, but it got a workout beyond expectations.
The efforts of our team of writers — Dan Kinvig, Steve Frost and Gary Ahuja — as well as our team of photographers — Blair Shier, Wilson Wong, Garrett James, Kinvig and Ahuja — allowed us our most complete wrap on the opening ever, and our numbers showed it!
As a prelude to today’s championship round, we look back on yesterday with our Top 4 games across all four tiers:
1 PRINCESS MARGARET 63 G.W. GRAHAM 60
It was big play followed by big play, all compressed into the dying moments of the fourth quarter as Surrey’s Lions came away victorious while making its first B.C. tournament appearance in 45 years (1977) under a head coach in his first year leading a team at the senior varsity level.
The Lions built an 11-point lead heading down the stretch drive, yet GW Graham’s Bardia Shokouhi had a steal and lay-up to make it 61-60 with only 48 seconds left.
Jal Gatluk’s massive put-back off a missed free-throw with 12 seconds remaining resulted in the final margin of victory for a school so new to the proceedings that Lions actually asked if its starters were going to be introduced over the public address system prior to the game.
Wrote our Dan Kinvig of the Lions’ dream-like ending: “The Grizzlies had a pair of looks to send it to OT, but Shokouhi’s three-point attempt rimmed out. After a jump ball gave Graham the ball back with 1.1 seconds left, (Braeden) Macdonald’s triple try from the top of the arc was blocked by PM’s Abdullah Ahmad to set off the celebration.”
Said Princess Margaret head coach Karmin Dhaliwal: “I was happy for the kids to get to experience something like this, with fans being allowed back in the building,” Princess Margaret head coach Karmin Dhaliwal enthused afterward. “This will be a memory that will last for the rest of their lives.”
2 A.R. MACNEILL 90 SIR CHARLES TUPPER 83 (OT)
Grade 11’s Josh Mayan of MacNeill and Finlay Chow-White of the Tigers turned Centre Court into the OK Corral, taking clutch to its most descriptive best over the fourth quarter.
After No. 4 MacNeill built a 77-74 lead, Tupper’s Chow-White attempted to tie the game from beyond the arc with an attempted trey, but with the game in the dying seconds, he was fouled by the Ravens’ Everett Swaim.
Chow-White, for the second time in the game, stepped up to the free throw line and cooly hit all three attempts, this time to tie the game 77-77.
Wrote Kinvig: “The Ravens still had time, and (Marco) Esteban drove to the rim, where his shot was swatted away by Hill with 0.4 seconds left. Hill’s swat was clean, but he was whistled for a foul on the body, sending Esteban to the line, but both his free throw attempts rimmed out, setting the stage for OT.”
There, MacNeill gained the separation it needed in overtime to win the game.
“First and foremost, props to Tupper,” MacNeill head coach Justin Dye-Pe said afterward. “They played a phenomenal game. It went down to the wire – they’ve got a bunch of heart, they’ve got ballers on their team, and they really gave us a scare. In overtime, everyone stepped up. On to the next.”
3 BARRIERE 68 MEADOWRIDGE 66
In terms of golden shots on Day 1, Barriere’s Spencer Schilling carried the day.
As our Gary Ahuja wrote: “With just 5.4 seconds left to play and trailing by a single point, the Barriere Cougars had the ball on the Meadowridge Gryphons baseline.
“Coming out of a timeout, the play designed called for a quick entry inside for a lay-up. But with the Gryphons defending the interior, Cougars’ in-bounder Brayden York went to plan B.”
Explained Schilling afterwards of his three-pointer from the corner with 3.6 seconds left which found nothing but net to give Barriere the 68-66 lead: “I saw (Brayden) and he was looking and looking, and we finally made eye contact and he passed it to me and I just shot it.”
The Gryphons would get their own look for a game-winning shot, but came up short.
“It was such a surreal moment; I have so much adrenaline right now. I am shaking,” Schilling said. “This tops it 100 per cent. I have never made a shot like this before.”
4 FLEETWOOD PARK 76 ABBOTSFORD 71
Few Quad-A games in recent memory have tipped off with the knowledge that a barn-burner was in store despite as massive discrepancy in seed numbers as this one featuring teams from the former Fraser Valley conference.
In fact as recent as 2019, this one would not have scheduled as a first-round clash.
Yet Surrey’s Fleetwood Park Dragons and the Abby Panthers, a pair of schools whose average standing in the Top 10 polls over the course of season ID’d them as a pair of Top 6 schools, due to usual unforseen circumstances, wound up as a curious 6 v 11 pairing.
It was a game of punch and counter-punch with the lower-seeded Dragons coming back from a 14-point deficit to win the game, but not before the Panthers put them right back into contention… if not for a number of key free throw misses down the stretch.
Abby’s Grade 11 standout Dilveer Randhawa had cut the lead to 72-71 when he hit one of two free throws with 24.7 seconds left, however Inder Deol’s fast-break lay-in with 16 seconds remaining, followed by a pair of Eesher Sarai free throws, which iced the game for Fleetwood Park.
After the game, both head coaches went out of their way to describe the parity they are seeing in the Quad-A draw, which in many years feature more blowouts than competitive games on opening day.
Said Abby’s Brent Ciochetti: “I think right from 11 up to No. 1, other than maybe Burnaby South being a step ahead, it’s anybody’s game that night. It just depends on if your ball is falling.”
Added Fleetwood Park’s Jordan Taylor: “This is one of the most wide-open B.C.’s we have ever had, and all of these teams can play. We knew Abbotsford had a chance to come back, and when they did, it was just a dog fight.”
HONOURABLE MENTION — 4A Walnut Grove 74 Terry Fox 72.
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