The Moscrop Panthers made senior boys' volleyball school history, when they won their first-ever Lower Mainland championship banner following a nailbiting 19-17 tie-breaking final set over Vancouver champion Eric Hamber at Moscrop Secondary School on Nov. 15.
The Panthers took the No. 8-ranked Eric Hamber Griffins to four championship points before Jonathan Kum's attack was blocked out of bounds for the banner-winning final point.
"We've worked five years for this. We've worked too hard," said Kum after the thrillingly tense final set. "I'm so happy. It's one of the biggest achievements of my life."
But it was not earned easily.
The bigger and harder-hitting Griffins took the opening set easily with a 25-15 win, neurtalizing the power of Moscrop's J.J. Cross with with effective blockmaking.
But Moscrop answered with decisive wins in the next two sets, 25-12 and 25-17 and looked on their way to an upset.
Cross got the Panthers back on track with seven service aces in the second and third sets and 13 thundering kills.
A desperate Hamber team regrouped and forced the tiebreak with a come-from-behind 25-20 win.
But Moscrop was not to be denied its moment in history. Cross provided eight winners in the tiebreaker that was never more than a one-point lead for either team up until Kum's eventual banner-winning attack.
Cross was named the tournament MVP, while seniors Zach Or and Ricky Sun were also named to the all-tournament team.
"So many emotions were flying through all of us. I was thinking, 'Please don't go in (bounds),'" said Cross of the final match point. "We wanted this bad. ... For all of us it means a lot because a lot of the guys are (graduating)."
Last year, Moscrop was beaten out by Hamber at the Mainland's after Brandon Chin went down with an injury in the semifinals.
This year, the honourable mention Panthers have been working on improving their game against the largely bigger opposition school programs.
"We've been trying to focus on the mental aspect of the game. We're getting it down and it's really showed it paid off," said Cross.
"We're trying to be a smarter team. But as a team we really band together. It's the supporting cast that really brought us through."
With the No. 1 zone seed nailed down, Moscrop co-coach Ed Chin said everything else that happens at the provincials is gravy.
"Right now we got our goal. Now that we won, we're going to try and enjoy the time we have together, and we'll be happy with whatever happens," he said.
The B.C. AAA high school boys' volleyball championships will take place in Kelowna at the UBC Okanagan campus from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1.
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