In a battle for third at the B.C. junior boys basketball championships Saturday night, the host Vancouver College Fighting Irish seized a three-point lead early in the second half but couldn’t contain the Churchill Bulldogs down the stretch.
The Bulldogs, a young and talented team with four Grade 9 starters, beat the Irish 72-67 at a packed Vancouver College Alumni Gym.
Against the Fighting Irish, the Bulldogs built two double-digit leads in the second half by stoking the fire of outside shooters Gary Minhas and Karn Virk.
Minhas scored 22 points, 21 from the perimeter. He was named the player of the game.
On Friday afternoon, Churchill lost in the semi-finals to Burnaby South 48-68 while Vancouver College fell 37-62 to Pitt Meadows. In the championships final Saturday night, Burnaby South came from behind in a thrilling but low-scoring game to beat Pitt Meadows 40-38.
Churchill’s Virk, who had 20 points in the third-place win, said the Bulldogs didn’t reach their goal of winning B.C.’s but recovered from a tough semi-final loss to win the last game of their season.
“I’ve got to thank my team for giving me the ball and I’ve got to thank God for the opportunity,” he said. “We played really well as a team and we trusted each other. It’s a really good finish but I won’t feel good until we get No. 1. I am disappointed, but next time, next year.”
Against Burnaby South the day before, Churchill met an older and bigger team of familiar faces.
“We were really nervous against South because we have a bunch of friends on that team and some of us never played in front of that big of a crowd before. They were a great team,” said Virk.
The Fighting Irish went on an 8-2 run to open the second half and earned a 39-36 advantage before Virk answered big for Churchill. Pushing the pace, he hit back-to-back threes and roused the Churchill faithful in the crowd.
Joe Anthony hit a three-pointer for Vancouver College but at the other end, Virk froze his defender on a crossover dribble and banked the ball off the glass for two points and a 52-42 lead. At the other end, he blocked a shooter then dished the ball to Minhas who sunk his sixth three-pointer to put Churchill ahead 12 points, their biggest lead of the night.
Down 10 points at the start of the final frame, Vancouver College chipped away at Churchill’s lead. Chris McAlpine nailed a three-point jumper with 20.6 seconds on the clock to trail the Bulldogs 67-70. The next trip down the court, he lined up from beyond the arc and was fouled with less than six seconds to play but the Irish wouldn’t score again.
Churchill sunk two from the free throw line to end the game.