LANGLEY, B.C. — As the final buzzer sounded and the Scarborough Shooting Stars claimed the Canadian Elite Basketball League championship, their MVP said his mind went blank with shock.
Isiaha Mike helped Scarborough secure the title, tallying 22 points and nine rebounds as the Shooting Stars avenged last year's final loss to beat the Calgary Surge 82-70 on Sunday night at the Langley Events Centre.
"I have no idea (what went through my mind), I was just happy. It was kind of surreal and I'm trying to experience every second of this while it lasts," Mike said after the game.
Scarborough went 29-for-68 from the field in the win as Cat Barber chipped in with 23 points.
"He's an exceptional talent and he's done great things for us all year-round. He's a gamer," said Scarborough coach Chris Exilus about Barber. "But there are so many people connected with this win. That's what makes it so special."
Jordy Tshimanga led the Surge with 15 points and 15 rebounds.
The Shooting Stars, who never held the lead in the first quarter, grabbed it early in the second and never gave it up.
The Shooting Stars finished the CEBL's regular season with an 11-9 record, good enough for third in the East. They advanced to Sunday's showdown with a 74-71 win on Friday over the league's top-ranked Niagara River Lions in the Eastern Conference final.
Last season's 90-88 loss to the Brampton Honey Badgers fuelled Scarborough throughout the season, both Mike and Exilus said.
"It means everything. To lose last year was heartbreaking but I’m not even worried right now," said Mike.
The Shooting Stars' championship run was bolstered by a stingy defence that did not allow more than 74 points to an opponent in the playoffs.
"We really executed our planning (on defence.) This team really understood that's how we were going to play. Defence wins championships," said Exilus.
The ability to bounce back from last season's loss highlights the team's resiliency, Exilus added.
The Surge topped the West with a 12-8 regular-season record, but went 27-for-71 from the field in the final, with Tshimanga bagging 10 points in the first quarter but then only adding five throughout the rest of the game.
"Scarborough did a great job defensively,' said Surge head coach Nelson Terroba. "They're just a good team and well-coached. Our guys fought and I wouldn't take another group in any other league or any other place than our guys."
The Guelph Knighthawks, who relocated to Calgary in August 2022 to become the Surge, have had a superb season playing in Alberta. Terroba said the loss doesn't take away from how his team has developed over the course of a season.
"Everyone has their own way of recovering and grieving," he said. "For us, we wanted to win. We're all disappointed. There's no way around it. But there's also truth in that this has been an impressive season for these young players.
"They can have pride in what they accomplished and they can accept there's more work to do for what they want in terms of their next goals."
The game ended on the "Elam Ending" rule where the game clock is stopped with four minutes or less in the fourth quarter. Timed play ends and a target score is set, equal to the leading team’s score plus nine. The target score for the championship game was set at 81.
The rule is named after American academic Nick Elam.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 13, 2023.