It took a couple of minutes for the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers to get going. But there was no stopping them after that.
Tweedsmuir won its first-ever Senior 3A Girls provincial high school basketball championship Saturday night, defeating the Abbotsford Panthers 67-57 in the tournament final before 1,500 fans at the Langley Events Centre.
“For our four seniors who absolutely led us, it’s amazing,” said Tweedsmuir coach Curtis McRae. “The first championships at the senior girls triple-A level in the school’s history, it’s something I’m so proud to be a part of.”
For a few minutes at the start of the game, it seemed Abbotsford – a team which upset Lord Surrey’s Tweedsmuir in the second round of the Fraser Valley Championship tournament – was going to run away with it.
Tweedsmuir fell behind 9-0 early, but surged to a 33-32 lead by half time. They outscored Abbotsford by nine points in the third quarter, then traded buckets with their opponent in the final 10 minutes.
“It was early, it’s a long game. We learned that it’s 40 minutes. You go nine down early, you have a lot of time to come back,” said McRae. “”We’ve been in so many one-point and two-point games, we knew how to close them out and that was the difference.”
Maryn Budiman paced the Panthers with 25 points and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player as well as Lord Tweedsmuir’s Player of the Game. Shelvin Grewal added another 16 points for the Cloverdale squad, and was a first-team all-star selection.
The win was the seventh straight for Tweedsmuir since the loss to Abbotsford at the Fraser Valley tournament 17 days earlier, a defeat which almost ended their season. Abbotsford, seeded eighth at the Fraser Valley tournament, upset the Valley’s top-seeded team 85-83.
“Honestly, it was the best thing that ever happened to us,” said McRae. “At the time, it was terrible. But we came together that day, and we’ve been playing phenomenal basketball since then.”
Lord Tweedsmuir won three straight games to place fifth in the Fraser Valley and earn the eight-seed for the 16-team provincial tournament.
They then hammered the R.A. McMatch Wildcats 86-44 in the first round of the B.C. Championship tournament, upset the first-seed and previous undefeated Oak Bay Breakers in the quarterfinal round, then outlasted the fifth-seed Panorama Ridge Thunder 66-64 in a rematch of the Junior Girls provincial final of two years ago.
Panorama Ridge defeated the Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs 78-41 in the first round then stopped the Walnut Grove Gators 85-70 in the quarterfinal round, placed fourth in the tournament. The Thunder fell 84-77 in a consolation game Saturday afternoon to the Brookswood Bobcats.
Savannah Dhaliwal of the Thunder was selected to the first all-star team. Teammate Simrat Dosanjh was a second team selection.
Lord Tweedsmuir and Panorama Ridge secondaries were also represented in the Telus Junior Girls Provincial Basketball Invitational, also staged last week at the Langley Events Centre.
Both teams won twice on the opening day of the tournament to reach the quarterfinal round, where they played head-to-head Thursday afternoon. The Panthers prevailed 49-42, but lost 53-38 to the Kelowna Owls in a semifinal game Friday and fell 54-53 to the Robert Bateman Tomberwolves and placed fourth.
After their quarterfinal loss, Panorama Ridge won twice more in consolation play, 70-59 over the Seycove Seyhawks on Friday and 47-40 over Little Flower Academy Angels on Saturday.
India Aikins of Lord Tweedsmuir was a first-team all-star while Arman Dulai of Panorama Ridge was a second-team all-star.