Like each and every one of the Kelowna Owls, Nav Sandhu was only going to be satisfied with one outcome at the end of the 2015-16 B.C. high school basketball season.
The Grade 12 senior and his KSS teammates reliazed their ultimate goal on Saturday night, winning the school’s—and the Okanagan’s—first ever provincial 4A boys championship.
The Owls, who went a flawless 26-0 against B.C. opponents this season, put the finishing touches on their title run with an 87-72 win over the Tamanawis Wildcats in the gold medal final.
After falling short of their own expectations with a bronze medal at last year’s provincials, the Owls were ranked No. 1 and favoured to win from the season’s opening tip off.
Sandhu said there was never a doubt in what the Owls expected from themselves in the spring of 2016.
“From the start, we were focused on going all the way, accomplishing one thing, and if we didn’t do that, we were going to consider the whole season a bust,” said Sandhu, one of six graduating players on the KSS roster. “Winning provincials was really the only thing that mattered and any other wins we had, just saw as part of the legacy.
“It’s a big deal for us, we’re really happy,” he added, “and no one can ever take it away from us.”
While the Owls dominated much of the provincial tournament, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Walnut Grove actually led KSS by four points after three quarters in the semifinal, before the Owls rallied for a 15-point win.
“We got pushed and the boys could have packed it in, but they picked up their socks, played smarter and really took over the game in the fourth quarter. That’s where our mental toughness came in.”
Tournament MVP Grant Shephard delivered a monster effort for the Owls in the final game with 31 points and 22 rebounds. Shephard, Parker Simson and Mason Bourcier were all named to the tournament’s all-star team, while Simson added the top defensive player award.
And as much as pure talent weighed in Kelowna’s favour, head coach Harry Parmar said the Owls’ success at provincials—as it did all season—came down to hard work and a unified team effort.
“The boys worked really hard on defense and they worked hard all year,” said Parmar, whose team also won the Interior Savings Western Canada tournament for the second time. “They played unselfish basketball, they played for each other and they were rewarded for it.”
Owls’ seniors Sandhu, Simson, Matt Lafontaine, Davide Ciancio, Colin McGrath and Darren Hait are all bidding farewell to the program, while Shephard, Bourcier, Owen Keyes, Spencer Braam, Gavin Saini and David Ieong will be back next season to further build on the program’s legacy.
Sandhu said he and his fellow grads couldn’t have asked for a better parting gift for their high school careers.
“I don’t think think a lot of people realize how much it takes, how much hard work goes into this, so it just feels really good,” Sandhu added. “It was such a fun year, and we’re all really good friends. We’ve helped set a high standard and hopefully players and teams in years to come can carry that legacy on.”
For Parmar, who just completed his ninth season as head coach of the Owls, winning the B.C. title is further validation that the program is headed in the right direction.
“It’s been a long haul, so it feels good, it’s nice to know what we’re doing here is working,” said Parmar, who is assisted by Brad Heuser and Quinton Thiessen. “There’s a great foundation now at KSS, we’ve added some more wins to the program and I think the future is bright.”