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Bhullar’s bombs win the ‘War’ for Cougars

Long-distance bomber Rajen Bhullar is carrying on a family tradition.

Long-distance bomber Rajen Bhullar is carrying on a family tradition.

Bhullar, a Grade 11 guard for the College Heights Cougars, knocked down five three-point shots and scored 23 points in total in Saturday night's championship game of the Trojan Wars senior boys basketball tournament. His red-hot hands were a big reason why the Cougars easily beat the Duchess Park Condors for the title. The game, played at D.P. Todd, ended 74-51 in favour of College Heights.

A few years ago, Bhullar's older brother, Justin, was hitting the same types of shots for the Cougars. When Justin got on a roll, there seemed to be a magnetic relationship between the ball and the hoop.

The younger Bhullar had the same phenomenon working for him against the Condors. He was particularly proficient in the second quarter. In those 10 minutes, he drained four treys and the Cougars outscored the Condors 28-9.

And it's not like the Duchess defenders were letting Bhullar have open looks at the basket. Even when they were in his face, he found ways to get the ball airborne and through the nylon.

Essentially, Bhullar was on automatic pilot and had his radar working perfectly.

"I was feeling it quite a bit," said the five-foot-10 Bhullar. "Once I get a streak, I just keep going. When I take a shot, and I'm in the zone, I feel like every shot I take is going to go in."

When the Cougars are playing, Bhullar's older bro is usually in the building. And not just as a passive observer.

"I always look over at him and he'll give me pointers -- sometimes he'll just yell at me," Bhullar said with a grin. "I can hear him when I'm in the corners, hear him just yelling at me. I try to take what he says into consideration."

The brothers are similar in style and abilities for a reason -- they grew up playing outdoor hoops against each other.

"We were so competitive," Bhullar said. "In our back yard every summer, all we do is play -- unlimited hours per night. We don't stop playing until late at night."

Duchess Park coach Kyum Shogren used to have his own battles against Justin Bhullar and could only shake his head at what he saw from Version 2 during Saturday's game.

"We tried throwing different defenders at him all game long, we tried different ways of defending him," Shogren said. "We did our best and a good shooter is just going to pour it in some nights. I told my guys, 'If he starts throwing it in like that, we just have to do the best we can to put a hand up in his face, box him out and hope he misses.'"

From the Condors' perspective, two of Bhullar's three-pointers were especially backbreaking. One was a buzzer-beater at the end of the first quarter and the other sent the teams into the halftime break.

College Heights coach Jeff Goodrich said Bhullar came alive after he had struggled during a 65-50 win against Houston Christian in the semifinal round.

"When he gets hot, he can put up the points in a hurry," Goodrich said. "I've never seen him do it quite like that but in our (Wednesday) league game (an 88-79 win over Kelly Road) he did the same kind of thing. He had 27 points and it seemed like he just couldn't miss."

The tournament win was the first of the season for the Cougars. In the final, guards Sam Goodrich and Nolan Hanson added to the offensive outpouring by scoring 13 points each. Kade Bosmann led the Condors with 14.

In the third-place game, the host Trojans beat Houston Christian 74-62.

Goodrich was chosen as the tournament's most valuable player. Local first-team all-stars were Bhullar, Bosmann, Josh Raphael (Duchess Park) and Jai Kaushal (D.P. Todd). Local players on the second all-star team were Matt Badial of College Heights and Steven Bradshaw of D.P. Todd.

The Cougars and Condors will be at a tournament at Vernon's Clarence Fulton secondary this weekend.