The Langara Falcons' record-setting winning season came to a disappointing end in a Final Four loss to the Holland Hurricanes on March 15 at the Canadian College Athletic Association national men's basketball championships at John Abbott College outside of Montreal.
The No. 1 Falcons lost 86-87 to No. 5 Holland College from Charlottetown, PEI,
Head coach Paul Eberhardt said the loss was "bitterly disappointing."
The Falcons seemed to have the advantage in the final minutes and led 86-80 when the Hurricanes went on a 7-0 run to take the title. Their game-winning rally began with a three-pointer and a defensive stop but was capped by a stroke of luck when a Holland game-winning three-point attempt jammed at the rim. With 18 seconds left to play, it was ruled a jump ball and the possession arrow pointed in Holland's favour.
"You're lucky if you see that once a year," said Eberhardt, back home in Vancouver, speaking with a very hoarse voice. "It was a bad break."
On a Holland free throw attempt, the shot bounced out, but Lee Morris grabbed the rebound and scored the winning points to knock Langara out of contention.
The Falcons, who dropped only one regular-season game on their way to a B.C. championship, had to regroup in order to qualify for the third-place game. They narrowly beat Red Deer College 80-79 to keep their season alive and then in the medal game against Toronto's Sheridan College, Langara won 99-93 in overtime.
The Falcons came close to beating Sheridan in regulation with just one second left on the clock. Jess Jeffers stared down two foul shots but missed them both, adding extra minutes to the third-place game, the second match for both teams that day and the third in 24 hours.
Jeffers missed both shots but then went on a tear to secure the Falcons the win, contributing four points and several key rebounds in the victory. He had 28 points and 17 rebounds and was named the Falcons player of the game. Langara out-scored Sheridan 17-11 in overtime.
"The really cool thing was, usually after a loss like that especially when your goal is to win the whole thing, it can be hard. It feels like you're done," said Eberhardt. "But the guys played great the next morning. Sheridan was athletic, the most athletic team there. It was a great win. I think it showed a lot of character to win those two games and after such a devastating loss. I was really proud of the boys."
Likewise, the players had reason to be proud of their coach. Earlier that week, Eberhardt was named the Canadian college coach of the year, an honour he didn't see coming.
"It blew me away," he said. "It's funny - I was so focused on other things that I wasn't even paying attention. It was humbling. It is a pretty select group of guys."
Falcons Brody Greig and Jeffers were named to the first all-star team.
Eberhardt will coach the Falcons next season.
With files from the CCAA.