Character rises to the top in Bulldogs' rally at STM tourney

The personality of a bulldog isn't always pleasant.

But what they do what a bulldog does, they are determined.

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Showing some of the form that catapulted them into last year's 3-A B.C. boys basketball final, the Byrne Creek Bulldogs shook off a dogged effort by the Rick Hansen Hurricanes Thursday for a 71-70 victory to move on to the quarterfinals at the St. Thomas More Collegiate Chancellor tournament in Burnaby.

It wasn't perfect, but when you can erase a 13-point deficit with suprising ease as Byrne did in the second quarter against a fellow top-10 ranked 3-A program, you know there's some good things happening.

"We battled back. They battled back. (Hansen), we know they never quit. We know each other well now. We played them three times last year, a time before. That's what they're about, it's what we're about. Two scrappy teams," remarked the Bulldogs coach Bal Dhillon.

Getting some quality scoring from Grade 12 guards Sufi Ahmed and Bithow Wan, the squad countered every Hurricane rally with one of their own to grow the lead to nine points midway through the fourth frame. But just as the Hurricanes rode a hot three-point run to stake out the early lead late in the first quarter, and battled back halfway through the third for a 46-43 edge, they were not going to go away quietly.

The Abbotsford program shot back with just over two minutes to play to go ahead 66-65, only to have Ahmed knock down a big trey from the left side with 1:58 left. Hansen would pull even one more time, but Wan's bucket with 1:29 on the clock, followed by a free throw from Ahmed, gave the Bulldogs a three-point cushion. A late field goal from Hansen's Gurkaran Mangat, giving him a team-high 23 points, was the final bucket of the night.

Ahmed led the Bulldogs with 30 points, including 20 during the first half where the formerly No. 1-ranked squad flipped the score. Half his points came from outside the arc, with five treys.

Wan contributed 26 points, including 11 in the second quarter. The two accounted for all the team's points at the half, for a lead of 37-36. Haj Dzebic chipped in six points, while Chidubem Nkoloagu added five in support.

"We saw what we wanted, we were looking to see our guys be more aggressive and they were. Chidubem got some big points down the stretch... It was a good night," added Dhillon.

In their first game of the tournament, the Bulldogs handled Brookswood 94-57. The host St. Thomas More Knights were also victorious in their opener, topping McNair 75-38.

Byrne Creek, who are slotted sixth in the provincial rankings released earlier Thursday, were to face No. 1 North Delta in the semifinal at 7 p.m. today (Friday). The Huskies knocked off the Knights 63-47 in their quarterfinal match.

In the other semifinal, unranked West Van squares off against No. 2 Sir Charles Tupper at 8:45 p.m.

The final is slated to tip-off at 6 p.m. at STM.

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