Aside from the coaching staff, no one on the 2011 Kelowna Owls had experienced a single minute of play at a B.C. boys AAA basketball championship before last week.
Head coach Harry Parmar said that lack of familiarity may well have been the difference as his No. 2 Owls fell short of expectations at the provincials in Langley.
“None of our guys had been there before, so they maybe weren’t ready for the atmosphere and everything that goes with it,” said Parmar, whose Owls were last at the provincial tournament in 2008. “It’s a learning process knowing how to play at the provincials, at that level, and how to stay composed when things get tough. We weren’t really able to do that, and when you have a single-knockout event, you don’t get second chances.”
After an opening day win over Gleneagle, any dreams of the school’s first ever provincial championship were dashed on Thursday night in the quarterfinals when the No. 4-ranked Vancouver College Fighting Irish brushed off the Owls 82-65.
KSS led by eight points at the half but couldn’t contain the Irish in the second half who outscored the Owls 48-23 the rest of the way.
“We hadn’t been down in too many games this year and when we got down in this one, we didn’t respond well,” he said. “We didn’t have the leadership we needed and that starts from the coach. In those situations, some people step up and some get tight. We rushed things too much instead of trusting what we’ve been able to do all year. It’s a learning process.”
Still reeling from the loss to Van College, Parmar said the Owls came up a little flat against No. 1 Burnaby South—also the victims of a second-round upset—in their third game of the tourney and ended up on the short end of a 76-68 score.
But in their final game of the season—and the swan song for seven graduating members on the Owls—KSS delivered the goods with a convincing 78-68 win over No. 10 Heritage Woods.
“That was the last game for a lot of us, we we’ve been playing together for a long time and we wanted to do this for each other,” said Grade 12 player Tanner Leimert who led the Owls with 20 points in their last game. “It was a frustrating week, but a good way to end it.”
And despite finishing out the medal hunt at provincials, Leimert still considers 2010-11 a successful season for the Owls.
“At provincials we underachieved, but we still had a really great year in a lot of ways,” he said. “We were ranked No. 1 for a bit and No. 2 at times during the season and we beat a lot of the top teams.”
The Owls finished 30-6 overall, won the Kamloops tournament, while finishing second in Edmonton, at the Legal Beagle and at the Western Canada in Kelowna.
Also on the upside, Parmar said his top two Grade 11 players, Braxston Bunce and Mitch Goodwin, logged plenty of experience at the B.C. championship will be key leaders on next year’s squad.
With fellow Grade 11s Nevin Knezevic and Austin Axenty returning as part of the supporting cast, and the additions of Malcolm Hlady, Darrion Bunce, and Joel Burma from the junior program, many expect the Owls to surface as a contender again next season.
“Our top two Grade 11s played a lot, Braxston (Bunce) and Mitch (Goodwin) have been there now and they know what needs to be done,” Parmar said. “They’ll be the leaders next season and we’ve got a good group to surround them.”