A visitor, checking in on Monday night's AAAA provincial varsity boys basketball final at the half, might have thought the game was over.
They might have thought the Sisler Spartans, who came into the championship tournament as the eighth seed, were about to run away with it. After all, at that point the Spartans held a robust lead, 59-39, after running roughshod over the defending champion Garden City Fighting Gophers in the first 20 minutes of play.
This is why games don't end at the half.
Because when the final buzzer rang, after trailing by so much for so long, Garden City had won 87-84. The Gophers are, for the second year in a row, the provincial champs. "It feels even better the second time around," said elated Garden City senior -- and last year's tournament MVP -- Josh Magpantay, who led the Gophers with 27 points. "Hard work pays off."
How to describe the last 10 minutes of the match, the final frame that came after the Gophers made up 15 points in the third quarter to bring the game in reach: That last quarter, it was madness. Suddenly, the game was tied, and then the Gophers were in the lead.
Then Sisler tied it, then the Gophers grabbed a lead again -- it was 81-78 with the Investors Group Athletic Centre exploding into a deafening wall of shrieks and jeers, brought forth from the throats of over 1,600. The score kept flipping back and forth, sneakers pounding across the floor, balls flying through the air.
Something needed to break, and finally it did: With the Gophers down by a single point and under a minute left to play, Magpantay took a pass from Malik Coleman and buried a three-point shot, his sixth of the game. "I kinda just let it go," Magpantay said. "My buddy Malik just kind of kicked it out to me, I just let it go."
That basket put Garden City ahead, 86-84, and despite a few final passionate plays, Sisler just couldn't bury another one. A free-throw point for Garden City later, and the Gophers clinched the comeback win.
The final buzzer sent the floodgates open, players streaming on to the floor: elation, yes, but also heartbreak.
"I knew Garden City would make a comeback, they're too good," said Sisler coach Scott Martin. "I was kind of hoping we'd handle the end a little better, but that's the way it goes sometimes... one shot here, one missed shot there is the difference in the game."
Best of the boys
OTHER provincial varsity boys basketball championship winners over the weekend:
A: Ross L. Gray Raiders (defeated the Glenboro Panthers, 70-56)
AA: Carman Cougars (defeated Ste. Anne Lynx 63-53)
AAA: Westgate Wings (defeated St. James Collegiate Jimmies 87-47)