The King George Dragons kept their season alive after they came out on top in two must-win games at the senior boys AA Lower Mainland tournament last week.
After a loss to Richmond's Palmer Griffins on Feb. 20, the Dragons beat St. Thomas More 58-48 Feb. 21 and then waited to see if the Griffins could beat the Notre Dame Jugglers.
The Griffins won, and the Dragons challenged the Jugglers for the second and last Lower Mainland berth to the AA senior boys provincial championships. On Friday afternoon at King George, the Dragons won 44-68.
"For the Palmer game we were a bit tense and it caused us to make mistakes," said Dragons coach Darko Kulic. "For the STM and Notre Dame games, even though they were both win or go home games, we relaxed and stuck together. I though it helped us play our game and execute a lot better and smoother."
King George survived the majority of the season despite injuries that sidelined several key players, including George Mija and Tristan Arthurs, both who were named to the tournament first all-star teams. The Dragons were also missing six-foot-seven post Jacob Juras and starting shooting guard Akim Zongo for a stretch.
"Our only starter to not miss a game was Filip Bozalo," said Kulic, who also praised Stefan Acimovic, a would-be sixth man who "stepped up huge this year" and started for King George.
Even with the handicap, the Dragons went 27-9 through the regular season and won two tournaments. They finished the year 10th in B.C. AA rankings but had reached No. 4 early in the season. Kulic said the tenacity was one reason the Dragons realized a major ambition of their season in qualifying for Provincials.
"It has been a tough season with lots of injuries, but I am so proud of the boys for how we have battled back and reached our first goal."
Last year at the B.C. Championships, the Dragons equalled their best-ever finish of fifth place.
"For B.C.s my main goal is really to continue playing our game, play every game 'til the end and stay focused and determined. I strongly believe that a lot of teams will forget that we came into this year as a 4th-ranked team," said Kulic. "I think we will surprise people because now we are finally healthy and starting to click together again."
The senior boys AA basketball Provincials run March 6 to 9 at the Tournament Capital Centre in Kamloops.