First-team tournament all-star Kevin Morgan collects two points for the Vernon Panthers during their heartbreaking 46-44 loss to the North Delta Huskies in Saturday’s B.C. High School Senior Boys 3A Basketball final in Langley. (Mary-Anne Morgan - photo)

Vernon Panthers fall by two points in B.C. final

North Delta Huskies hold off Panthers 46-44 in BC 3A senor boys basketball final

They beat the No. 1 seed en route to the title game.

For B.C. gold, they beat No. 2.

The ninth-ranked North Delta Huskies won the B.C. High School Senior Boys 3A Basketball Championship Saturday night in Langley, edging the second-seeded Vernon Panthers 46-44 in the title game.

Vernon guard Isaiah Ondrik had a golden chance to give his team the provincial title with a last-second, wide-open three-point attempt. Ondrik’s shot was just a bit heavy, caroming off the back of the rim, giving the Huskies their first provincial title in nearly 30 years.

The Panthers were trying to become the first Vernon school to win a senior boys basketball provincial championship.

RELATED: Vernon Panthers play for B.C. gold

“I think I am having a heart attack,” said North Delta coach Gary Sandhu.

“I can’t believe we won. I am speechless, I am speechless.”

The Huskies trailed the No. 2 seed Vernon Panthers 44-40 in a tight, defensive battle, where every point was hard earned and bodies were continuously hitting the floor.

“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 said.

Vernon led by four points with 74 seconds to play, setting the stage for a dramatic finish.

North Delta’s Arun Atker hit a three-pointer (his second of the quarter and third of the game) to pull his team within a point with 63 seconds to play. And then, for the second consecutive night, Suraj Gahir took control.

The wiry guard had the ball jarred loose as he drove the lane, but without missing a step, collected the ball and went glass and in for the 45-44 lead with 11.9 seconds to play. And then following a turnover, Gahir was fouled, hitting one of two free throws with 6.7 seconds remaining. The Panthers had one last attempt at the buzzer, but the Ondrik’s shot would not drop, sending the large North Delta fan section rushing to the floor in pandemonium.

Gahir, who scored 10 of his game-high 18 points in the third quarter, banked home a three-pointer the night before in the closing seconds to defeat Prince George’s Duchess Park Condors, just to get his team to Saturday’s final.

“Mamba mentality,” answered the tournament’s Most Valuable Player when asked what is going through his mind with the game on the line. “I want that ball in my hands when it’s the end. 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.”

The Huskies have spent part of the season ranked No. 1 but battled injuries to multiple players, including their star, Gahir, who was playing through torn ankle ligaments at provincials.

“This guy has carried the program for five years, he does everything and anything we ask. He has worked so hard (and) is a team player,” Sandhu said about Gahir. “I don’t know how he does it.”

The title is the fourth in the history of the North Delta basketball program and the first in 29 years.

“It’s great to win it for them, because our school has been there for us,” Gahir said.

For the Panthers, it was a bitter pill to swallow as the school attempted to duplicate the feat of winning both a football and basketball championship (with some of the same players) in the same school year.

The Panthers were playing in their first championship final since 1986, when they also finished second.

And Vernon gave North Delta all they could handle, outrebounding the Huskies 49-21 (including 20 offensive rebounds to the Huskies’ 21 defensive boards).

But in the end, they just could not close the game out.

“It comes down to a single bounce and it is just the way the game is played sometimes,” said Vernon coach Malcolm Reid, who was proud of his team’s gutsy effort in going up against both a worthy opponent and a crowd predominantly against them.

“We came here to win and we didn’t, so we are going to be upset about it, we are competitors, so are North Delta.”

The team loses just one player (Thomas Hyett) to graduation, so Reid knows his team can build off the second-place finish.

The Panthers were led by 12 points and 18 rebounds from Kevin Morgan, 13 points and seven rebounds from Ondrik and 11 points and eight rebounds from Hyett.

Ondrik and Morgan were named to the tournament’s first all-star team while Hyett was named to the second all-star squad.

North Delta knocked off the No. 1-ranked Sir Charles Tupper Tigers of Vancouver in Thursday’s quarterfinal.

Vernon advanced to the provincial final with a 19-point win over the A.R. MacNeill Ravens of Richmond.

* Two other Okanagan school reached provincial finals Saturday in Langley.

The Kelowna Christian Knights won the B.C. Boys 1A final, downing the Credo Christian Kodiaks 81-45. The George Elliot Coyotes of Lake Country loss the provincial 2A championship, 78-51 to the Charles Hays Rainmakers of Prince Rupert.

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Vernon Panthers second-team tournament all-star Thomas Hyett, playing his final high school game, scores two points in Saturday’s B.C. Senior Boys 3A Basketball final in Langley. The North Delta Huskies edged Hyatt and the Panthers 46-44 in the championship. (Mary-Anne Morgan - photo)

The Vernon Panthers fell 46-44 to the North Delta Huskies in the B.C. High School Senior Boys 3A Basketball final in Langley Saturday. (Mary-Anne Morgan - photo)

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