When the final buzzer sounded, it looked more like a family reunion than the end of a basketball game, as the Dawson Creek Secondary School Penguins marked their place in school history.
DCSS booked an appearance in the B.C. high school AAA basketball provincials for the first time since 1977, by knocking off the NPSS Oscars with a convincing 83-72 win in Fort St. John on Saturday.
It was a culmination of 13 years of work with the program according to DCSS head coach Richard Payne, who spoke post game wearing the mesh of the net like a sash as is customary for title winners in the basketball realm.
“It’s been a long road for us,” Payne said. “For me it’s been 13 years since I’ve moved up here. I couldn’t breathe. It was something I’ve never experienced. I’ve seen it, we’ve gone through it with North Peace, battling back and forth. Too bad we don’t have two berths because these are two tough teams. I’d love to see us both go.”
For the players it had been a vision the last four years and senior Ben Van Spronsen, who was named Most Valuable Player for the weekend tournament, said the feeling was simply pure elation.
It was pretty overwhelming,” he said. “We put in a lot of hard work, we wanted to do it last year but North Peace was a lot better team so they got it from us last year. We worked really hard this year and were able to do it.”
Over the course of the season and the weekend zone qualifier it was clear that DCSS and NPSS were posed to meet in the final, both cruising to victories against their game one opponents.
On Friday night the two teams met for the first of three meetings on the weekend in the double elimination event, with the visiting Penguins coming out on top 85-78.
With their tournament lives on the line Saturday morning after the loss, NPSS disposed of Duchess Park 98-81 to line up a rematch with DCSS.
When Saturday afternoon rolled around, the NPSS gym was filled with rambunctious hometown fans and the Oscars wouldn’t disappoint, beating the visitors 79-72 to set up the 8:00 p.m. winner take all final.
Dawson Creek had their own section of rowdy fans for the prime time matchup Saturday night, and the visiting fans willed their team to a first half 39-34 lead.
In the third quarter the Penguins outscored the home side 23-14 and ultimately pulled away from the Oscars clinching the 83-72 win with consistent play down the stretch.
The difference between the first and second game according to Van Spronsen, was a little last minute research.
“They surprised us with a 1-3-1 zone,” the MVP said of the first game Saturday. “We had no answer for that. They played phenomenal defense. My mom was actually videotaping the game, we did a bunch of review after our game and we planned for it and that was the difference for sure.”
That offensive adjustment lead to clever ball movement and some timely three point shooting, all aspects of the game that Payne has been stressing to his team since day one.
“We just believed in ourselves,” Payne said of his team’s ability to pull through in the end. “I worked it out. It was back and forth all season. I looked at it, they won, we won, they won, we won— it was our turn to do it. The boys stayed within themselves and played outside their skin. It was a great effort from all my boys. My coaching staff, everybody involved— the fans. Everybody that supported us for many, many years.”
The Penguins will now travel to Langley from March 10-15 to take on some of the best basketball teams in the province and will also be joined by A North Central zone champ Ron Pettigrew Christian School, also from Dawson Creek.