Forced to play catch-up for more than three quarters of the championship game in the Junior division of the Surrey RCMP Classic, the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers seemed to have run out of time Saturday afternoon at Enver Creek Secondary.
The Panthers trailed the Semiahmoo Totems by as much as 13 points in the second half, but spent most of the final 16 minutes of play chipping away at the deficit, finally overtaking their South Surrey rivals at the free throw line in the final five seconds of play for an improbable 67-66 victory.
“At half time we just said every possession counts,” said Panthers head coach Drew Gallacher. “And we just tried to stay positive. Everyone rallied behind the guys who were on the floor. And I think the power of positive thinking really came through in the end.”
Trailing 66-63 with time running out, the Panthers caught a break when tournament MVP Arjun Samra was fouled while attempting a game-tying three-point shot with five seconds remaining. The Grade 10 guard calmly hit all three shots from the foul line to tie the game.
“Arjun Samra is the most clutch player I have ever coached in my life,” said Gallacher. “He’s a straight-A student, a model citizen in our school, and he is and incredibly clutch player.”
The game appeared to be heading to overtime, but Semiahmoo turned the ball over in the final five seconds of regulation time and fouled Josh Hendricks of the Panthers with one second left on the clock. Hendricks hit the first of two free throws for the winning point, then fired the second off the back board to end the game.
Samra, who was also the tournament’s three-point champion, finished the game with 20 points. Alex Le added 12 points, including a pair of three-point buckets during the Panthers rally in the final minutes.
“When you have great shooters to just want the ball even though they have missed the last few, you just can’t coach that,” said Gallacher. “That’s just something they’re born with and when they had a chance to ice it, they did.”
Hendricks and Elijah Devison, who scored eight points in the final, were the two Panthers on the tournament’s first all-star team.
Dominic Calderon with 24 points and twin brother Damien Calderon with 18 topped all Semiahmoo scorers. Both were also named to the first all-star team.
Amrit Bassi of the Fleetwood Park Dragons rounded out the first all-star team. The placed third in the Junior tournament, and also collected the Most Sportsmanlike Team trophy.
Second team all-stars were Titgol Jok of the Johnston Heights Eagles, Vick Sidhu of the North Surrey Spartans, Brent Padilla of the Holy Cross Crusaders, Andrew Tejada of Fleetwood Park, and Semiahmoo’s Dennis Alizadeh.