The Rick Hansen Hurricanes senior boys basketball team made history on Saturday.
But, for most of the game, the Hurricanes were set to be not much more than a footnote.
For 85 per cent of the 3A provincial title they trailed the South Kamloops Titans.
A brutal first quarter saw the team score only six points. They shot just 26 per cent in the first half.
But, somehow, they miraculously caught fire in the fourth quarter and erased a double-digit deficit to win 69-63 over the Titans at the Langley Events Centre.
It’s the first basketball provincial title in school history; in fact, it was the first time Hansen had even made it to a gold-medal game.
“We had a very slow start,” said point guard Josh Dhillon, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player. “We’ve been having them all tournament long, but our main thing is mental toughness. We know how to overcome things. It’s not about skill, it’s about what’s in your brain.”
Dhillon scored 30 points and grabbed six rebounds to help his team to victory. Hurricanes head coach Steve Twele said the team spent time all year on the mental aspects of the game, and it paid off in the biggest game of the season.
“It was a battle,” he said. “We didn’t have much luck scoring in the first half, but we had spent a lot of time in the classroom talking about mental toughness and handling situations just like this.”
Twele pointed to Thursday’s game against the St. Thomas More Collegiate Knights as another example of his team’s will. They trailed by 20 points mid-way through the third quarter, but battled back to win in overtime.
“There was a little bit of frustration at the half,” he said, as the team trailed 29-22. “But overall we knew we could play better. We kind of thought, we’ve been here before and we weren’t down by much.”
He noted that Hansen scored just 21 points against the Knights in the first half of that game.
Dhillon said his team’s hustle and energy helped spark the incredible comeback.
“Our defensive rebounding and jumping on loose balls just got the crowd pumped up and it gave us some adrenaline,” he said.
Twele said the team’s defence, particularly several timely steals, helped turn the tide.
Grade 10 student Gurkaran Mangat also had a huge fourth quarter. He scored 20 points and added 11 rebounds on the game. Mangat was also six for seven from the free throw line, with the majority of those shots coming in the fourth quarter.
Twele said Mangat will be a big part of the Hurricanes program moving forward.
Aman Dhillon added nine points, five rebounds and three assists, while Jo Gill grabbed seven rebounds and scored four points.
It’s the second straight year the Hurricanes have earned a provincial medal, after winning bronze last year. Dhillon and Twele said it’s a big achievement for the school.
“These guys have done a lot the last two years,” Twele said. “As well as being good basketball players, they’re good people. I think the school appreciates that. They have all worked really hard for this.”
Dhillon said he’s not sure if he will continue basketball at the post-secondary level because he has dreams in the world of karate. He’s a four-time national champion in his division, and said he’s always wanted to compete in the sport at the Olympics. Karate will be contested at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo for the very first time.
For highlights from Hansen’s win, click here.
For a slideshow from the Hurricanes title win, click here.
Also in the 3A tournament, the Bateman Timberwolves wrapped up a solid provincials with a 88-71 loss to Steveston-London. The Timberwolves finished eighth in the province at the event.
Bateman also had a win over Nanaimo District, and losses to South Kamloops and Lord Byng.
Bateman’s Nate Friesen was named a tournament second-team all-star for his strong play at the tournament, the second straight year he has received that honour. Hansen’s Aman Dhillon was also named a 3A second team all-star.
In the 4A tournament, the W. J. Mouat Hawks ended the season with a 83-73 loss to Vancouver College. The Hawks compiled a record of two wins and two losses at the tournament, and placed sixth in the province.
Mouat beat Handsworth on day one of the event, then lost to Oak Bay on Thursday. The Hawks also posted a win over St. George’s on Friday.
Mouat’s Kenan Hadzovic and Sam Bailey both earned second-team all-star nods for their strong tournaments.
The Yale Lions bounced back after two losses to open the tournament, including one in which head coach Euan Roberts was ejected, then suspended, and then reinstated, to close off the event with wins over Mount Baker on Friday and Pinetree on Saturday.
Lions guard Noah Nickel was named the 4A tournament’s most inspirational player.
Over in the 2A conference, the Abbotsford Christian Knights lost 76-62 to St. Thomas Aquinas on Saturday to finish 10th overall.
The Knights split the four games they played, with wins over Smithers and Nechako Valley and a loss on day one to Westsyde.
Saturday’s 2A final saw Brentwood College defeat St. Micheals 54-44.
For complete results from the event, visit bchighschoolbasketballchampionships.com.
For more photos and final standings from the event, click here.