Defending champion Owls back in the mix

KSS is ranked No. 2 in high school boys basketball heading into a tournament this weekend in Edmonton.

Senior guard Mason Bourcier leads Kelowna Owls team into the 2016-17 high school boys basketball season.

Last season’s B.C. champion Kelowna Owls were heralded by many as one of the best senior boys’ basketball teams ever assembled.

Now, with the corps of that team no longer wearing black and gold, the 2016-17 version of the Owls is in the process of carving out an identity all its own.

Losing the likes of Parker Simson, Matt Lafontaine and Nav Sandhu to graduation, and the 6-foot-9 Grant Shephard to a school in Florida, most programs would likely be left in shambles.

But led by Grade 12 guard Mason Bourcier, the newest edition of the KSS squad is off to a 9-2 start this season and is currently ranked No. 2 among the top 4A teams in the province.

With a relatively young lineup, head coach Harry Parmar sees the Owls as a work in progress—but one with plenty of potential.

“We’re a young team, a lot of the guys are inexperienced so we have a lot of learning to do,” said Parmar.

“Our work rate needs to improve, we have to figure out a way to put together a full 40 minutes of basketball.

“It all takes time, but the more we play and learn from tough situations, the better they’ll get. Hopefully we’ll be right where we want to be come February.”

In addition to Bourcier, who is so far averaging 24 points per game, the Owls will be leaning on 6-foot-9 senior forward Owen Keyes and Grade 11 guard Matt Williamson for leadership and on-court production.

KSS is coming off a second-place showing at the Tsumura Basketball Invitational, losing only the final to No. 1-ranked Walnut Grove 83-62.

Kelowna’s only other defeat this season came against Burnaby South who were, at the time, ranked third.

With such a significant turnover to their roster, this season’s Owls may not strike fear into their opponents in the same manner as did the 2016 B.C. champs. And that’s just fine with Harry Parmar.

“Everyone knows who we are, but they also know who we’ve lost,” said Parmar. “I’m hoping teams will underestimate us and hopefully we’ll have some surprises for them.”

As for how KSS continues to put a competitive team on the floor despite all the key personnel changes, Parmar credits a healthy and well-supported basketball environment in Kelowna.

“Basketball is on the rise in Kelowna, it’s just getting better and better,” he said. “We have leaders (on the Owls) who have learned the game the right way coming up and they work very hard. Our junior program here is very good, and so are the minor programs in Kelowna. It all contributes.”

KSS is in Edmonton this weekend for the Reb Invitational at Jasper Place, featuring teams from California, Ontario and across Alberta.

In Okanagan league play on Tuesday night, the Owls defeated the Mt. Boucherie Bears 110-66.

Matt Williamson scored 25 points for the Owls, while Bourcier added 21. Sterling Peterson netted 26 for the Bears.