NPH Top Performers
- Gurjote Jhaj – 17 points, 4 assists
- Jitinder Lohcham – 16 points, 10 rebounds
- Brody Greig – 14 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds
- Harmeet Mahal – 24 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists
- Harpreet Randhawa – 17 points, 10 rebounds, 3 steals
A lot of players are labelled as ‘guys who do things that don’t show up on the stat sheet’. They’re glue guys, guys who contribute as much to the team as the stud who averages 30 a game.
But for Ranjodh Hare, his game-saving block actually didn’t show up on the stat sheet.
The Falcons 6-4 rookie forward swatted away the potential game winning three-pointer to help Langara to a 69-67 win over the Douglas College Royals, Saturday Feb. 3 at Langara’s south Vancouver campus, but the scorekeepers didn’t manage to record it.
“He’s awesome,” said Falcons head coach Jake McCallum of Hare. “I can’t say enough about him. He works hard, he does all the right things, he’s in all the right places, he rebounds well, he defends well – he’s a leader. Honestly I can’t say enough about him.”
The game began with Douglas playing inspired, no doubt hoping to rebound after a 17-point loss to the Kwantlen Eagles the night before. The Royals looked a lot more polished in this one, not turning the ball over or forcing bad shots – two things that plagued them the night before.
Harpreet Randhawa nailed two threes to put the visitors up 18-17 after one quarter, and in the second, it was all Mity Mahal.
The fourth-year combo-guard took over the Royals’ offence and scored 15 between the first two frames.
But Langara’s 6-4 guard, Gurjote Jhaj, put together an impressive first-half outing of his own, breaking down Douglas’ defence, usually opting to finish with either a silky pull-up or an on-point asbessist.
Thanks to Jhaj’s performance, as well as the down-low dominance of 6-7 centre Jitinder Lohcham, the Falcons headed to halftime up 36-29.
The two squads kept it tight in the third, neither being able to amass a double-digit lead in the quarter. After Mahal and Jhaj traded buckets for a majority of the frame, the Falcons managed to keep a narrow 52-49 advantage going into the fourth.
Then things started to get interesting.
Langara scored seven straight to open up the final quarter, and Douglas looked as though they had regressed into the same team that got blown out the night before.
Except it wasn’t the same team.
“In the team meeting that we had, we identified that our season can go one of two ways,” said Royals head coach Denis Beausoleil. “Either we don’t make playoffs and lose out the rest of the season, or we can try to turn the tides.”
The Royals definitely did some tide-turning in the next few minutes, going on an 11-3 run to cut the lead to 63-60 with 2:52 to go in the game.
Again Mahal and Jhaj went after each other’s throats, with one draining a tough bucket on one end, only to have the other hit an even bigger shot the very next possession.
With Langara up by just two with 13 seconds left on the clock, and the ball in Douglas’ hands, they called a timeout.
Several feet down the sideline, McCallum wasn’t panicking.
“I try to keep it simple in timeouts. I don’t change, I don’t draw up anything that we haven’t done. A lot of the time I sound like a broken record but I tell them to keep it simple,” he said. “I didn’t say anything mind boggling, I told them to take a deep breath and be where you’re supposed to be.”
And that’s all his players needed to know.
Douglas inbounded the ball and Mahal was draped by Jhaj, forcing the Royals to give it to Randhawa, who was 2-for-3 from three-point territory before the final play. But Randhawa couldn’t free up enough space and instead drove into the lane then kicked it out to point guard Mike Zanidean, alone in the corner.
As Zanidean released the potential game-winner, Hare reached out and got enough of a touch on the ball to keep it well short of the rim. The buzzer went, as did the Royals chances of completing a comeback.
The chance that Douglas, well-known for its three-point prowess, would try to go for a cold-blooded bomb, didn’t escape McCallum’s mind heading into the final play.
“It was in the back of my mind,” he said. “I don’t even know if that’s what they intended to do. I think we took away maybe the initial look. That was his [Zanidean’s] first three of the game so I was surprised that he would have put it up.
“But you never know what coaches are going to do. Or players – you dress them up and they do what they want.”
Jhaj ended with 17 points, nine of them coming from beyond-the-arc, as well as three assists. Lohcham recorded a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds, while point-guard Brody Greig contributed 14 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
For the Royals Mahal finished with 24 points, six rebounds and five assists, and Randhawa notched 17 points and 10 boards.
“I told the guys that it was the best loss we’ve had all year – as odd as it sounds to say that,” said Beausoleil. “But it has been a while since the team has really played hard, and tonight they did. You lose a close game, those games happen. But it was nice to see the guys actually competing.”
With the win, Langara remains in fourth place with a 9-5 record, slowly creeping up on the third place Camosun Chargers. For Douglas, it’s their fourth loss in a row, sliding to seventh in the PacWest at 5-8.
“Usually in a scenario like this when teams are on a slide, it’s a culmination of a lot of things,” said Beausoleil. “It’s been a lack of effort, lack of rebounding, multiple turnovers, poor shot selection. It’s a lot of things.”
Considering that Douglas now sits out of playoff contention, I asked Beausoleil if he thinks his squad is capable of making the playoffs in a league that’s been tightly contested all season long.
“I do,” he responded. “But it’s tough to say that. It’s not up to me. It is ultimately my responsibility if the team doesn’t win.
“But I don’t play.”
Next weekend, Langara will face off with Kwantlen (6-8) on Friday and then get a day of rest on Saturday. Douglas is slated to play the struggling Capilano Blues (6-6) on Friday, and the even-more struggling Quest Kermodes (0-12) on Saturday.