With two of the season’s premier tournaments next on the agenda, the Kelowna Owls’ No. 1 ranking in B.C. high school AAA boys basketball will be put to the test.
This weekend, the Owls will be at Terry Fox Secondary for the Legal Beagle, then will travel to Abbotsford Jan. 12 to 14 for the Snowball Classic.
Both tourneys will feature several of the province’s elite teams, with the Owls firmly perched atop the rankings as the primary target.
“These are a big two weeks for us,” said Owls coach Harry Parmar. “We’re going have a lot of games in this stretch, and not very much practice time, so this will be a test for the guys. It’s a chance to see what other teams are doing, maybe see how they’ve changed since the early part of the season, and see how we respond to that.”
At Terry Fox, the Owls will open play on Thursday against No. 6 Kitsilano, who KSS defeated by seven points last month on the way to winning the Telus Classic.
No. 3 W.J. Mouat and No. 4 White Rock are also on the Legal Beagle draw.
In Abbotsford, Mouat, Kitsilano, and No. 7 Burnaby South will be at the Snowball, along with some American content, St. Andrews from Rhode Island.
After losing their first two games of the season—with Mitch Goodwin and Buzz Truss both out of the lineup due to the provincial volleyball championship—the Owls have looked every bit like B.C.’s No. 1 team over the last four weeks.
The Owls have since reeled off nine straight victories, including two last weekend in Olympia, Wash., where they captured the Holidays Capital Classic.
In the opener, Mitch Goodwin had 19 points in a 67-54 win over the Bremerton Knights. Buzz Truss added 12, while Braxston Bunce chipped in with 11 points and eight rebounds.
In the final, Goodwin nailed 27 points and Bunce had 17 points and 13 boards in 63-58 win over the host Capital Cougars.
Parmar said his Owls adapted well to a different style of game that is more prevalent south of the border.
“It’s a tougher, more physical brand of basketball than we’re used to seeing,” said Parmar. “In the end, the guys accepted the challenge and came through with two nice wins.”
Two of B.C.’s premier players continue to set the standard for KSS—Goodwin, who is arguably, the province’s best point guard, and the 6-foot-11 Bunce, B.C.’s most imposing player at any position and top recruit of Cornell University.
Still, Parmar would prefer a little more production from other sources as the stakes get higher for the Owls over the next six weeks.
“Mitch and Braxston have really taken control of the team, when the games get tough those guys step up. In the final, they scored 44 of our 63 points, so you can see what they mean this team. Those guys are automatic.”
“At the same time,” added Parmar, “we need someone else to contribute, a third scorer who can fill the gap when one of those guys has an off game.”
The Owls last major tournament before provincials will be the annual Western Canada Basketball Tournament Feb. 2 to 4 at KSS.
The valleys will go March 1 to 3 in Kamloops, with the B.C. AAA boys championship set for March 13 to 18 at the Langley Events Centre.