The North Delta Huskies basketball team won the Triple-A Provincial Championships
Earlier in March, the North Delta Huskies basketball team won the Triple-A Provincial Championships held at Langley Events Center. The win was significant as it was North Delta’s first provincials win in 29 years, a historic achievement for a program with a rich tradition. After a long, gruelling season with tournaments and playoffs, the Huskies went into the provincials with the belief that they could win it all, and that is exactly what they did.
The North Delta Huskies basketball team comprises mostly of East Indian youth and Grade 12 students. The team’s major hardships came in the form of two serious injuries to a couple of their best players. Starting center Vikram Hayer suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) early in the season that could have ended his high school career right there. However, after discussing options with doctors, Hayer chose to play out the season wearing a brace and being extra careful with his leg. It was a tough time for the team to come to grips with a key member getting significantly hurt.
Additionally, the team’s top player, Suraj Gahir, had torn ligaments in his ankle due to a previous injury which could have hampered his game going into the final tournaments. Team manager Sonia Grewal revealed how “whenever one man went down, the rest of the team picked them back up. These are great players; great people and we are very proud of everything they have done.”
Despite both injuries, the team never lost sight of their goal, and remained committed to their plans. In the tense final against the Vernon Panthers, the game became a tight, defensive battle that coaches were not expecting. The Huskies were down 22-19 at the first half, shooting just 24 per cent from three and 20 per cent overall. This was a lot different than their usual higher scoring games, so they had to really channel their strengths for the second half, which is what they did. Head coach Jesse Hundal pointed to the team’s creativity as a big reason for their adjustment. They made 36 per cent of their shots in the second half with the best improvement coming from three-point land where they shot 38 per cent in the second half to pace their comeback.
The team was down by four points with a minute to go, before senior Arun Atker hit a deep three to bring the team within one. Then, with 11 seconds to go, Gahir drove to the basket to drop the winning layup. Gahir was voted as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the tournament while Atker was the Player of the Game for the final and a First-Team All-Star.
The Huskies core team has been together since grade eight. Players have filtered in and out over the years but the main group along with the coaches have been together for years. Coach Hundal has seen the growth in the team, and after two consecutive Final Four exits, they worked even harder to bring home the title this season. The coaches noticed that mental breakdowns had cost the team highly in prior years, so mental preparation became a major focus in this season.
The coaches knew mental toughness was the key to success; they needed the players to believe in themselves enough and know that they deserve to win. In the semi-finals and finals, the Huskies used this mental toughness to win nail-biting close games and bring home the championship. Immensely proud of the team, Coach Hundal asserts that “finals aren’t meant to be played, they’re meant to be won.”
The significance of this achievement is amplified by the fact that the team and coaching staff were almost entirely composed of Indo-Canadians. Never before has a team with this makeup won a top boys championship in BC basketball. Assistant coach Gary Sandhu remembers playing the game himself with a lot fewer South Asian players and recognizes the impact that Punjabi coaches can have on the players. “The game has changed, we are able to have these special connections from the shared backgrounds we have with our players. We believe in these boys and they went out and proved to the whole world that they are champions.”