'I had my moment' says WRCA senior

White Rock Christian Academy Warrior Erik Fougner (above centre) returned from a serious knee injury to play just under a minute at provincials last week. - Gord Goble photo
White Rock Christian Academy Warrior Erik Fougner (above centre) returned from a serious knee injury to play just under a minute at provincials last week.
— image credit: Gord Goble photo

The stat line, printed near the bottom of the box score at the end of the basketball game, was unremarkable.

It suggested the type of performance one might expect from a bench-warming underclassman, thrown into the game by a coach in the mean-nothing minutes of a blowout victory.

Even the most ardent hoops fan would have trouble discerning much more of note from the single line of type that followed Erik Fougner’s name: 0/1 FG, 0/1 3PT, 0 PTS, 0 REB, 0:35 MIN

In layman’s terms, it meant Erik, a Grade 12 forward with the White Rock Christian Academy Warriors, was credited with one shot that missed, in 35 seconds of playing time (though both he and coach Dale Shury insist the game clock read 58 seconds when he subbed into the game).

The Grade 12 forward has had better games, of course. He’s scored more, and rebounded better, and played a more integral role in his team’s fortunes. And, without doubt, he’s had games where he’s hit the court for longer than the one minute of action – give or take a few ticks – that he saw last week, at the tail-end of the second quarter during WRCA’s win over the Mount Baker Wild on the opening day of BC High School Boys Basketball Championships March 13.

But still, he’s hard-pressed to remember a game that meant more to him.

After all, any stat line beats the three-letter acronym that had been attached to his name since the Warriors first took the court last fall: DNP (Did Not Play).

• • •

On the second day of the provincial tournament at the Langley Events Centre – shortly after White Rock had dispatched higher-seeded St. George’s Saints in a one-point overtime game that ended as one of the week’s most thrilling – Shury talked to his team about moments.

“That’s what this tournament is all about,” he told his team. “It’s not always about winning everything. It’s about all the little moments along the way. You guys now have your little place in history at this tournament, because it’s these overtime games that get talked about for years.”

He was talking, of course, to all 16 of his players, but one – Erik Fougner – did not have to be convinced.

Erik’s moment came the day before in his brief appearance against Mount Baker.

• • •

Erik is the third son in his family to play basketball at WRCA. Brother Rob – who now lives in New Zealand – won a provincial title with the Warriors in 2005, and Brian played until graduating in 2008.

And ever since Rob first started in the school’s hoops program, it’s truly been a family affair. Parents Bruce and Wendy, who own Lloyds Travel and Cruises in Vancouver, have for years organized travel plans for the team’s tournaments and trips. Bruce has also been the voice of the Warriors as the in-game announcer at home games.

And as veterans of the program, they all had a pretty good idea of how the season would shake down.

WRCA's Erik Fougner plays against Mount Baker (Nick Greenizan photo)There would be plenty of practices, a lot of games against some of the province’s top teams, at least a few prestigious tournaments out-of-town, plus – hopefully – a long playoff run, culminating in provincials.

Those plans came to a dramatic, and painful, halt in September, however, during the team’s annual alumni game that pits the school’s former players against the current crop in a friendly game at the WRCA gym.  Neither of Erik’s older brothers were in the alumni lineup – Rob was in New Zealand, Brian in Quebec – and Erik did not last as long on the court as he would have liked, either.

Midway through the game, Erik drove untouched through the lane and attempted a tricky pro-hop before laying the ball up towards the hoop.

“It was the first time I’ve ever tried that move, and I was going too fast, I guess, and when I came down, my knee just popped,” he recalled.

And that was it. Season over. Two months before it was even slated to officially begin.

His ill-timed hop resulted in a completely torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in his left knee, as well as a partially torn MCL (mediate cruciate ligament) and a sprained meniscus, requiring surgery to repair.

His doctors told him recovery time can be as long as a year.

“Hearing that, it made it just even more earth-shattering,” he said. “It was tough on all of us… it wasn’t the year we had planned.

“It took awhile for it to sink in. I was pretty bummed... I just stuck close to my family, didn’t really go out much at all. It changes who you are. You see yourself as an athlete for so long – your whole life – and then all of a sudden, it’s something you can’t be.

• • •

In the official program for the BC High School Boys Basketball Championships, there are two pages dedicated to families.

The first details every father-son duo to have played in the event, while the second is a list of siblings who’ve all hit the court in various years.

Before this year, Erik was already listed alongside Rob and Brian, by virtue of a 2008 appearance when, as a Grade 8, former WRCA coach Scott Allen threw him on a court for a few minutes so he’d get the chance to play with Brian, a senior.

And while it was a nice moment, it was still not the same as playing as a senior. He didn’t get the chance last year, as a Grade 11, because WRCA failed to qualify for provincials for the first time in 12 years.

It’s why, in the days leading up to White Rock’s opening game of the provincials, Erik told his coach he wanted in.

“Because he’d had played before as a Grade 8, I guess I kind of took it for granted that it wasn’t all that important to him, but I guess I was wrong,” Shury said.

Shury didn’t make any promises, because he knew it might be one he’d have to break. Though Erik is recovering, he is still not medically cleared, and could not risk being stuck out on the court for long.

With coaches not allowed to make substitutions after timeouts, Erik had to hope there would be stoppage with a minute or so left in a quarter, so he could be subbed out when the clocked ran out.

The opportunity came before halftime, with WRCA enjoying a double-digit lead.

Shury told Erik he was in, and he was to replace Alex Filipovic.

“Alex looked at me, and I think he was a little confused at first,” Erik explained.

“I felt comfortable out there right away, though. I felt like myself again.”

Before the buzzer ended the half, he managed his lone shot – a three-point attempt. And though it missed, Erik didn’t much care.

As he made his way under the bleachers, on his way to the locker room for halftime, he walked up to Shury, wrapped him up in a big hug, and said, ‘thanks, coach.”

He wasn’t the only Fougner to thank Shury, either. After the game, Bruce wandered down towards the court and mouthed the words.

“I didn’t realize how much it meant,” Shury said.

• •  •

WRCA finished third at provincials, and Erik never saw another second of playing time before his high school career ended.

He has about two months of rehab left on his injured knee, after which he plans on attending Queen’s University, where he will try to walk on to the basketball team.

But all that will come in time.

For now, he’s still relishing his 58 seconds of glory.

“My brothers went through the program, and this was something I’d been looking forward to my whole life, so I’m over the moon with the minute I played,” Erik said.

“I didn’t think I’d ever get in. I got my moment.”

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