If Vegas took wagers on the AAA Fraser Valley boys basketball tournament, you could have made a nice chunk of change betting on Gurminder Kang and the W.J. Mouat Hawks.
The Hawks, seeded 10th at regionals after a disappointing regular season, came from way back in the field to stun the top-seeded Terry Fox Ravens 79-57 in the title game at Thomas Haney Secondary on Saturday night.
Kang, the Hawks’ versatile senior swingman, was hardly a household name when the tournament began, but he finished it by hoisting the MVP trophy.
“We didn’t start off so strong, but we worked and we worked,” Kang enthused afterward. “And look where we are now. We’re the Fraser Valley champions.”
Mouat’s success at the Valleys shouldn’t necessarily be framed as a Cinderella story. The Hawks, after all, had enough talent on the roster to begin the season ranked No. 9 in the province.
But Mouat struggled at times during the regular season, and a record of 19-14 heading into the Fraser Valleys suggested an early exit was more likely than a deep run.
But the Hawks reeled off wins over Port Moody, Gleneagle, Pitt Meadows and Walnut Grove, before dispatching of Terry Fox in clinical fashion on Saturday.
Grade 11 guard Jesse Coy led a larcenous Mouat defence with seven steals, and his game-high 22 points paced an attack that found a few seams in the Ravens’ tough zone defence. Kang stuffed the stat sheet with 19 points, 11 rebounds and three steals, while Sunny Johal and Desmond Bassi chipped in with 12 points apiece.
Johal was a first team tournament all-star, while point guard Josh Beasley was a second-teamer.
“We’re not as surprised as everybody else is,” Hawks coach Sean Beasley said. “We’ve seen rankings thrown at us and all sorts of stuff, but we knew what we were capable of.”
Kang might have been considered a role player when the Hawks’ season began, but the role he played at the Fraser Valleys was leading man. Mouat’s emotional leader spent more time on the hardwood than a dust mop, whether diving for loose balls, taking charges, or absorbing hard fouls on gritty drives to the hoop.
“It’s all the little things that add up to win games,” Kang explained with a shrug.
Saturday’s victory marked Mouat’s first-ever Valley title at the AAA senior boys level, and was yet another highlight in a season of unprecedented basketball excellence for the school.
All five Mouat basketball teams – senior boys and girls, junior boys and girls, and Grade 9 boys – qualified for the provincial championships while finishing no worse than fourth in the Valley. The Hawks went two-for-two at the senior level, as the girls also won the regional championship.
Abbotsford schools have now won the AAA boys Valley title four of the past five years – the MEI Eagles triumphed in 2007, and the Yale Lions won in 2008 and 2010.
In the wake of Saturday’s win, the Hawks gathered in the circle for an “On to the next one” chant – a ritual they adopted during the Valley tourney. It’s a mindset that should serve them well at AAA provincials, which run March 15-19 at the Langley Events Centre.
Mouat opens at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 16, against the winner of a first-round game between Fleetwood Park of Surrey and the Lower Mainland’s fifth-place finisher (to be determined).
Kang said he feels “really good” about his team’s chances at provincials, which is shaping up to be the most wide-open tournament in recent memory.
“Every game we’ve been the underdogs, but we’ve been on to the next one,” he said. “We’ve proved everyone wrong.”
• The Mouat junior boys won bronze at provincials in Victoria on the weekend.
Rich Ralston’s squad came in seeded No. 6, but battled their way to the semis, where they dropped a 58-45 decision to eventual champion White Rock Christian.
The Hawks bounced back with a dominant 72-59 win over McMath in the bronze medal game, with first team all-star Daniel Pawliuk leading the way with 16 points.
• The No. 1-ranked Mouat senior girls are the favourites heading into their provincial tourney, which tips off at Capilano University in North Vancouver on Wednesday. The Hawks open against Prince George at 12 p.m.