Kiran Gosal goes strong to the basket as Gage Chernoff looks on during the Eagles’ Kootenay Zone triumph over the weekend.

Golden Eagles fly into provincials after dominant Kootenay Zones

The Eagles were hardly threatened on their way to next week's provincials in Langley.

Golden Secondary’s senior boys’ basketball team is off to the provincials in Langley once again after thoroughly trouncing their Kootenay competition over the weekend.

The Eagles secured a very comfortable 106-46 victory in their Kootenay Zone opener against J.L. Crowe before pasting Prince Charles Secondary School by a 132-66 count in the championship game.

Saje Gosal and Neal Randhawa filled up the stat sheets as per usual, but it was Meva Dhami who led the team down the stretch of the championship game, posting 26 points, 16 of which came in the second half.

While the Eagles were obviously pleased with the end result, head coach Kindy Gosal felt the officiating left something to be desired throughout the tournament.

“They were calling every small contact. The referees basically dictated how the game was to be played,” Kindy opined, while also mentioning that it had a negative affect on both the Eagles and their opponents.

The lopsided victories and the spotty officiating meant that the Kootenay Zones lacked the intensity that the Eagles have been used to throughout their impressive run this season, meaning the next week of practice before provincials will be paramount to the team’s success at the next level.

“The game felt slowed down to us compared to the pace that we’ve been playing at all year,” Saje said. “We’ve gotta remember in our minds the level of basketball that we’ve played in the past and really bring that going forward.”

“There’s a few things that we’re going to have to do in practice. Our execution has to be better and our defensive intensity has to be better,” Kindy added.

The draw for the AA provincial tournament was set on Sunday afternoon and the third-seeded Eagles will face Langley Christian in the opening round when the tournament gets underway on Mar. 11.

“They’re a home team and they’re going to fill the stands and it’s going to be loud,” Kindy said.

“I think it makes a big difference being there last year and getting that experience,” said Dhami.

“Last year when we were watching the [Final Four] Kindy said to us that we want to be here next year. That’s a big thing to motivate us.”

In addition to their experience, the Eagles have team chemistry working in their favour, with Saje, Randhawa, Dhami, Josh Hiraoka and Kiran Gosal having played together since any of them can likely remember.

“We know exactly what all of our strengths and weaknesses are so we play to that and we use it to our advantage…we use each other perfectly, we know exactly what to do and where to be,” Randhawa said.

It’s a close knit group both on and off the court and that was evident when the team returned from the Kootenay Zones Saturday night.

Hiraoka, who had to work Saturday and missed the game against Prince Charles, texted the guys when they got back and asked if they wanted to hang out. The rest of the Eagles were a little tired out from the weekend and weren’t too keen.

“[He said] ‘I miss you guys and I want to hang out,” Saje laughed. “So we went hot tubbing with him last night. He was away from us for 12 hours…we spend all of our time together at school, outside of school and playing basketball.”

Beyond their starting five, it will be the club’s bench that will make the difference, especially after Golden lost some of its depth with the likely absence of rookie standout John Oszust due to injury.

Playing pivotal roles from the bench will be Reece Williams, who had an excellent tournament at the Kootenay Zones, Vikram Sidhu and big man Gage Chernoff.

Having been labelled the scrappy underdogs from a small town in the past, the team believes it is finally their turn to act as favourites.

“Now we’ve got a target on our back, which I think is a positive for our team,” Saje said.

“We like that swagger,” Dhami added.

“We’re sick of being the underdog,” Saje agreed.

It will all be on the line right from the very beginning as just a single loss would place Golden in the consolation bracket, a place they’d rather not visit.

“We can win this,” Kindy said.