British Columbia Christian Panthers, a Threat for the National Title
With under a week left before the NPA National Championships tip off, the dust has settled in the regular season.
Coming off of their strongest showing in Windsor, the British Columbia Christian Panthers finished with a 3-1 record at the League-Wide Session which included a 90-81 win over Toronto’s Central Tech Blues, who hold the #1 spot entering nationals.
It was a statement victory for BC, and a message sent across the league, that this squad can compete with the best of them.
Led by an international contingent, BC’s performance during the second half of the season has vaulted the team into the conversation of serious Championship contenders.
“It’s always important to have big wins,” said BC Christian Head Coach Doug Dowell. “I honestly think that was the standard for us anyways, I think we can play at that level all the time. It’s just a matter of being able to put it together.”
The victory was a big one for BC, who lost some very winnable games this year and were looking to finish on a strong note before the final session. Croatian import Marijan Obad led the way for the Panthers with 21, while Polish import Przemek Golek added 19 points. Belarus product Maksim Leichyk contributed 14 of his own in the win, while BC native Keenan Dowell led from the point, distributing the ball and playing stout defence on opposing guards.
BC is at its best when the ball is moving, and multiple guys are contributing, remaining aggressive.
“Przemek and Marijan especially have really stepped up and filled in a big gap, and Marijan is such a versatile player, he can play anywhere from the 1 to the 4,” said Dowell. “And because of that versatility it has opened doors for us, and they’ve really adjusted well.”
This culturally diverse core has led BC to an overall season record of 7-4. The Panthers lost a tough game early in the season against Notre Dame, and had a single-point loss against GTA Prep.
Their other two losses have come at the hands of London Basketball Academy (96-69) and Canada Topflight (89-69), two teams that have also found their groove coming into the final turn of the season.
BC will have a chance to make up for the loss against LBA in the first round at nationals.
“I think the kids have really come together, I think they’re very strong as a team right now, we just came back from playing Prolific Prep and the kids had a good showing there, and I think we’re ready,” said Dowell.
It’s a difficult task for the West Coast team to make their way over to Ontario for sessions, throwing off their internal clocks and forcing them out of their comfort zone. But the Panthers have adapted to the time zone change more and more each session, and expect to move into Mississauga seamlessly for the National Championship this time around.
The West Coast squad currently boasts two Seniors, in Dowell and Obad, who are in the hunt for NCAA D1 offers. Dowell has garnered serious interest from a multitude of Division 1 Programs, while Obad could have his pick of Canadian programs, but also has the option to stay back for another year with the Panthers.
The schedule has been set, and no game is guaranteed. One loss will put you out of championship contention. The BC Christian Panthers are ready.
“Any game we play is going to be tough, and are we thinking of going home with it all? We’d love to go home with it, but our job isn’t to predict our future, it’s to do the work to get there. We put the work in, and I think it’s anyone’s game, and God willing we walk away with a prize.”