LANGLEY — The outcome was never seriously in doubt Saturday night as the Langley Events Centre once again hosted the BC High School Boys Basketball Championship game.
It was 14-4 five minutes in, and the underdog Tamanawis Wildcats of Surrey were, in all honesty, fortunate it was that close. The heavily favoured Kelowna Owls, ranked number one in all of BC and losers of exactly zero games all year long, had come to play.
They were quicker, they were sharper, and they seemed capable of riding their set plays and fast breaks as far as they wanted. And let’s not forget Kelowna’s not-so-secret weapon, massive power forward Grant Shephard, who would ultimately tally 31 points and an astonishing 22 rebounds in the Quad-A division final.
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By halftime, the scoreboard read 50-34.
“We knew what we were up against,” said Wildcats coach Mike McKay later.
“We weren’t delusional. They are a very, very good team. We weren’t ever going to beat them in a seven-game series. We had one shot to do it and I think our guys came out a little bit nervous.”
But Tamanawis wouldn’t let the onslaught continue uncontested. Halftime adjustments helped, and the third quarter was a different story. Tamanawis forced Kelowna into errant shots, stole the ball in situations that once seemed impossible, and won tough battles under the hoop.
Led by Sagar Dulay, a force all evening, even when the chips were down, and the dangerous Miguel Tomley, who came on stronger as the night wore on and finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds, the Wildcats made their move.
With a minute left in the third, the momentum had clearly shifted, the gap had narrowed to just seven, and the pro-Tamanawis crowd was getting noisy.
“We came out hard in the second half and we cut the lead down to seven,” McKay said.
“That whole second half we kind of had them on the ropes. We were cutting it, cutting it, cutting it. But they’re full of Grade 12 players and it showed.”
Indeed, seven points was as close as the locals would get. The 87-72 final seemed like an afterthought.
There were few tears afterward.
Explained McKay, “If you would have asked us in December where I thought we’d be, I’d have thought maybe a final four in the valley and maybe a mid-seed in this tournament. To get into the final with such a young group is amazing. Our guys knew what they were in for, and gave it their best.”