LANGLEY — Saturday night at the Langley Events Centre, it was the Miguel Tomley show.
Tomley scored 47 points – half of them in one of the most dominating first quarters you’re likely to see at any level – as his Tamanawis Wildcats cruised to a 97-69 win over the Panorama Ridge Thunder in the title game of the 2016 Surrey RCMP Basketball Classic.
Tomley was named Player of the Game and tournament MVP. All this after pouring in a record-setting 51 points a couple weeks earlier during a tilt with another one of B.C.’s best, the Walnut Grove Gators, at Port Coquitlam’s prestigious Legal Beagle tourney.
And here’s the thing. Tomley’s not some seasoned senior. Heck, he’s not even in Grade 11. He’s in Grade 10, a mere 15 years old. He’s two, and sometimes three, years younger than the vast majority of the players he encounters on the court.
Saturday night, he set the tone early, scoring all but eight of the Wildcats’ 32 first-quarter points. He hit three-pointers seemingly just because he wanted to. He faked and weaved and juked, treating the ball like a yoyo. His passes were slashing and deceptive, and his drives to the basket mostly unstoppable.
You can credit his grandma.
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“I started playing when I was six years old,” he laughs, “but I was really bad. But my grandma found the Steve Nash Basketball League at the YMCA, and I started getting better.”
Tomley says he “got serious” about the sport in Grade 7, when he realized what it could do for him as he grew into adulthood. Saturday night, that growth was obvious to anyone in attendance.
“I have good games and I have bad games,” he said. “Tonight I felt I could see the game a step before anyone else. I might be weaker than some of the guys (remember, he’s only 15), but I play with the mentality of the bigger, faster guys.”
The Thunder’s bigger, faster guys showed up in the second quarter. At least on the defensive side, where they worked like demons to block shots, intercept passes, and break down all that Tamanawis had set up earlier. And it worked for a time – the basket-fest slowing and the gap narrowing to two at one point and six at the half.
Conversely, the second half felt pre-ordained. Panorama Ridge would never get closer, and slowly but relentlessly the speedier pre-tournament favourites marched toward victory.
Veteran Sagar Dulay, held to just a trey in the first half, scored 14. Gurman Bhangu put up 10, and Tomley added 17 more. Six-foot-seven Harsimran Bhullar drained 13 for the Thunder, but the spread just kept widening.
After the game, the unflappable Mike McKay, back again as Wildcats’ coach after a year’s sabbatical, was… predictably unflappable. Look closely though and you’d see the occasional smile – which by Mike McKay standards is positively ecstatic.
“I think we had a lot of energy tonight. We were going for our third championship in a row at this tournament, so it meant a lot of these guys. Many of them have won it as juniors before. This is the Classic week for them.”
But was the coach even mildly concerned in the second quarter?
“In the second quarter they came at us with more energy. They had a bunch of shots in close. But at halftime, we made adjustments to our press. Then we just outlasted them in the third and fourth quarter.”
Tamanawis now guns for the provincials, in March. McKay cautions that they “need to get through league play first,” but admits the fifth-ranked Wildcats are “well positioned.”
They’re also accustomed to being there. The Wildcats are no strangers to the provincial tourney in recent years and McKay says, “It takes a lot of hard work. But they’re continuing the tradition. The younger kids want to play like the older kids who’ve been there.”
You’ll see Tomley there too of course, but next year maybe not. The kid’s already garnered attention from outside the province and even outside the country.
“Right now I’m focusing on this year,” Tomley says, “And in the summer I’ll think about what I want to do. I know a few friends who’ve played for prep schools in the States…”