Nolan Hanson missed a portion of the second half of Saturday evening’s zone basketball final at College Heights Secondary to repair his left eye.
It’s a good thing he returned to the court.
The Grade 11 guard on the College Heights Cougars left during the second half after taking an elbow from teammate Joseph Beaman. Hanson may not have appeared like a threat, coming back sporting a bandage over his left cheek bone. But he provided a spark late in the game, and scored two baskets as part of the home team’s late fourth-quarter surge in a 92-81 triumph over the D.P. Todd Trojans.
The win gave the Cougars the North Central District senior boys double-A title. They’ll represent the region at double-A provincials March 9 to 12 in Kamloops.
Whatever pain Hanson felt earlier in the game turned into jubilation as he and his teammates celebrated on the floor after the final buzzer. Moments later, Hanson was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament.
“They’re so awesome,” Hanson said of his teammates. “If I’m off or if Sam (Goodrich, Grade 12 guard) is off, just shooting-wise we always have at least one guy who’s just on, and everyone is just intense. Everyone is talking in the huddles before the game, in the huddles during the game, just constant leadership is being given.”
Hanson’s 23-point effort was second in team scoring to Grade 12 guard Rajen Bhullar, who recorded 32. Grade 12 guard Ethan Bhangu and Grade 12 forward Jai Kaushal led the Trojans with 24 points each.
“We’ve been playing together for so long. We got that nucleus going and even from the beginning of the year, we got some guys that just have kept improving,” Bhullar said. “(Grade 11 guard) Nolan Schwab has come off the bench and emerged as one of our best defensive players. (Grade 12 forward) Josh Power, he comes off the bench, gets boards. As far as our starters are concerned, it seems like we just started clicking over the past couple of months, but it’s the best time to start clicking and it feels great.”
With 12 points, Power was the Cougars’ third-highest scorer in the final.
The 11-point win might’ve appeared flattering to the Cougars considering it was also their biggest points advantage of the game. A 9-0 fourth-quarter run by the Trojans tied the game 74-74, but College Heights outscored the visitors 18-7 the rest of the way.
“You got to hand it to (the Trojans). They played great and they were hungry for it. They had every reason to be,” said Cougars head coach Jeff Goodrich, Sam’s father. “I don’t think they have anything to hang their heads about because they sure played hard and just came out on the wrong end.”
The zone title is College Heights’ first in senior boys basketball since 2003. It follows another 2010-11 season title as the Cougars defeated the Trojans 81-72 in the City League final on Feb. 16 at the Northern Sport Centre.
College Heights was also awarded the North Central District senior boys double-A title in volleyball in the fall.
The Duchess Park Condors, Columneetza Cougars (Williams Lake) and Nechako Valley Vikings (Vanderhoof) also entered the zone basketball tournament.
The Cougars will be one of 16 teams competing for the provincial double-A title next week. Goodrich expects they’ll be ranked between 10th and 12th.
“That means we’re going to see a tough team to start. Not much we can do about that now.”
Although it was a loss for the Trojans at College Heights Secondary, D.P. Todd captured the senior girls double-A basketball title in Vanderhoof. They defeated the host Nechako Valley Viqueens 81-62 in the first-place game.
With a 79-52 win over the College Heights Cougars, Nechako Valley grabbed the second of two North Central District berths to provincials. Duchess Park, Columneetza and Fort Nelson also competed.
The girls tournament is also held March 9 to 12 in Kamloops.