The North Delta Secondary Huskies are British Columbia’s 3A basketball champions after a 29-year dry spell and another nail biter of a game Saturday night (March 9).
North Delta guard Suraj Gahir posted another stellar night with a game-high 18 points, but it was point guard Arun Atker who turned the game in the Huskies’ favour with a crucial three pointer with just over a minute to go in the last quarter against the Vernon Panthers. Gahir added a two more points with a lay-up and a free throw to give the Huskies a 46-44 victory over Vernon.
“I think I am having a heart attack,” Huskies coach Gary Sandhu said moments after his ninth-seeded squad won the school’s first provincial banner since 1990.
“I didn’t think we could come back. Vernon is so tough, they are so strong, so well-coached. Our guys just had the will not to die and the way we pulled out these last two wins … these boys are warriors.”
Sandhu praised Gahir, who is still recovering from an ankle injury sustained in February at the Fraser Valley tournament, saying the guard has done everything coaches demanded of him over the years he’s played for NDSS.
Gahir said he trusted Atker would hit his shot to bring the team back, but he still wanted the ball to make sure the Huskies took home the gold.
“I want that ball in my hands when it’s the end,” Gahir said, again referring to the “Mamba Mentality,” Kobe Bryant’s mantra to never give up and always go for the win.
”I’ve got trust in my teammates too – Arun, he hit that big three in the end and I knew he was going to hit that. But I knew I needed that ball in my hands for that last play.”
Despite Vernon’s defensive efforts, including forward Kevin Morgan’s 18 rebounds, the Panthers could not hold onto their slim lead. Morgan also scored 12 points, while Isaiah Ondrik tallied 13 points and seven boards.
“It comes down to a single bounce and it is just the way the game is played sometimes,” Panthers coach Malcolm Reid said. “We came here to win and we didn’t, so we are going to be upset about it. We are competitors, but so are North Delta.”
4 Time BC Champions!!! 🏆🏆🏆🏆🏀🤯😀 https://t.co/IWX10JkAJL
— North Delta Huskies Basketball (@garysandhu11) March 11, 2019
The teams went into half-time with low numbers and Vernon leading 22-19. North Delta made a paltry six of their 30 shots, setting the stage for another hard-fought second half.
Coming out of the locker room, Husky Jagraj Johal sank a three-pointer, followed by buckets from Gahir and Hayer to put North Delta eight points ahead at one point in the third. Gahir, who was later named tournament MVP, lit up the scoreboard in the third, scoring 10 of his 18 total points.
After the teams traded three-pointers at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarters, the Panthers tightened up their defense both in their half and on the attack. They boxed out their rivals several times, grabbing numerous offensive rebounds to get back into the game, while North Delta went almost half of the last quarter without scoring.
As it was in the semis, it was the final minute that had everyone on the edge of their seats, including a large throng of North Delta supporters who were banging on drums and metal lids in support of their team. Vernon led by four with 1:13 left on the clock, but Atker’s three cut that lead dramatically before Gahir sealed the win.
The Panthers had one last attempt at the buzzer, but the ball wouldn’t drop, which sent Huskies fans storming onto the court and mobbing their players in celebration.
In the third-place game, Prince George’s Duchess Park Condors defeated Richmond’s A.R. MacNeill Ravens 75-54. A.R. MacNeill was also named the tournament’s Most Sportsmanlike Team.
— Mark Henry (@JesusShuttles12) March 10, 2019