With the top teams from three western provinces competing, the Kelowna Owls will be aiming for a three-peat next week at the 2017 Interior Savings Western Canada Basketball Tournament.
The Owls, who won the title in both 2015 and 2016, will host the 44th edition of the storied tournament Feb. 2 to 4 at KSS.
The draw features the top three 4A teams in B.C.—the No. 1 Walnut Grove Gators, the second-ranked Owls and the third-ranked Oak Bay Oaks.
Also in the field are the Oak Park Raiders from Winnipeg, the top-ranked team in Manitoba, and Saskatchewan’s No. 1 team, the Regina Campbell Collegiate Titans.
Rounding out the lineup are B.C.’s second-ranked 3A team, the South Kamloops Titans, the Raymond High Comets from Alberta, and the Semiamhoo Totems, the ninth-ranked team in B.C.
The Owls will face South Kamloops in their opening game of the tournament at 7:30 p.m. next Thursday, Feb. 2.
Last year, the Owls defeated the Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs in the final.
Here’s a look at the first round match-ups and a summary of each of the eight competing teams:
• Game 1: Thursday February 2, 1:45 pm
Campbell Collegiate Tartans vs. Walnut Grove Gators
The first game of this year’s tournament gets things started quickly with a battle of number ones. Campbell Collegiate is a talented squad, and the Gators of Walnut Grove will have to be sharp to move move forward to the late games on Friday.
Campbell Collegiate Tartans
Style of Play: Coach Will Redl says the Tartans like to play a fast-paced offense that thrives on ball movement and dribble penetration. Every defender plays a role while communicating their responsibilities to each other to finish each defensive possession before looking for offense. Fundamentals and a focus on the little things are their keys to success.
Strengths: Offense- Ball movements to open driving lanes, and balanced shots when they get opportunities in the paint.
Defense- Pressuring the ball, communicating rotations and affecting each attempt at the rim.
This team is like FAMILY. When the going gets tough, they can always count on one another.
The Tartans are led by a strong trio of grade 12 seniors ready to take on the challenge of playing at Westerns. In his third year of senior basketball is guard Jess Trussler. This multipurpose guard has played four years of provincial team basketball and possesses a very high basketball IQ. Joining Trussler in the Tartan backcourt is guard Tyrese Potoma. Potoma’s season high for points is 51, so everyone should keep a close eye on him. Leading the way inside for Campbell Collegiate is forward Luke Harold. This senior is one of the most efficient shooters in Saskatchewan and is an explosive athlete possessing great length.
Walnut Grove Gators
Style of Play: Coach George Bergen brings perennial contender Walnut Grove back to Westerns to hopefully avenge a semifinal loss to the Owls in 2016. As per usual, the Gators are balanced offensively and can score in transition and in the half court. Defensively they are fast, big and nothing comes easily.
Strengths: The Gators have a good balance of Grade 11s and 12s.
Walnut Grove runs a balanced inside outside attack. Leading the way is senior point guard Ty Rowell. The Gator’s court general is averaging 22 points and 7 assists per game. His main target inside is 6’8″ forward Jake Crowley (18 points and 12 rebounds per game). Together with a complement of talent, Rowell and Cowley make the Gators a formidable opponent.
• Game 2: Thursday February 2, 3:30 pm
Oak Park Raiders vs. Oak Bay Bays
All tree jokes aside, this is number one in Manitoba versus number four in British Columbia. Both of these teams have visited Westerns before, so they know what it takes to compete. This could be the best game of the first round.
Oak Park Raiders
Style of Play: Coach Jon Lundgren likes his team to play at a fast pace. They work well together to find open shots for each other and defend and rebound aggressively.
Strengths: Overall, the Raiders have the ability to play through their posts and guards. They have skilled players who are difficult to stop on the defensive end.
Things start inside for Oak Park. Six-foot-six senior forward Wyatt Tait averages 24 points and 14 rebounds per game. Tait is a strong rebounder with the ability to score hoops from either inside the key or from the perimeter. Complementing Oak Park’s inside attack are a pair of sharp shooting guards that are also able to distribute the ball. Chris Chang averages 15 points and 6 assists per game and can create opportunities off the dribble to find open teammates. Also from the outside is guard Cam McNeil. Awareness of where he is on the court is crucial at all times.
Oak Bay Bays
Style of Play: Coach Chris Franklin has the Bays playing tough man to man defense. Offensively, they are well-structured, but will not give up a chance to push the ball up the floor.
Strengths: Oak Bay balances their attack offensively from the inside and the outside, and they play very well together for a young team.
Oak Bay comes to the interior with a young and very talented squad looking to shake things up at the top of the BC provincial rankings. The inside attack is led by six foot seven forward Riley Cronk. The grade 11 Cronk can score inside and provides a sizable presence on the defensive end. Speaking of defense, the Bays have a stopper in grade 12 guard Jaden Touchie. When the Bays need a big play on D, Touchie can be counted on.
Game 3: Thursday, February 2, 5:15 pm
Raymond Comets vs. Semiahmoo Totems
Do not go anywhere. Game 3 sees the #6 ranked Comets take on a #8 ranked Totems squad for a coveted semifinal berth at Westerns.
Style of Play: The Comets play up tempo trying to get some early transition baskets and have lots of players who can shoot the ball. They have a strong presence in the post to clean up rebounds and can play aggressively inside the key.
Strengths: Quick and aggressive. Move the ball well, looking for the open shot. Only two grade 11 players and the rest are grade 12’s returning for their final season.
The small town of Raymond in southern Alberta has long produced some stellar athletes. And this year’s edition of the Comets is not short on talent or experience. Head coach Todd Heggie brings a team that is balanced and looking to knock off some bigger programs. Leading the way is senior point guard Boomer Heggie with some Russell Westbrook-like statistics. Heggie is averaging a triple double (18 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists per game) and is far and away the catalyst for the Comet’s offense. Versatile guard/forward Brock Dewsberry is a great defensive player capable of guarding nearly anyone on the court, while also scoring 21 points and grabbing 9 rebounds per game. And from beyond the 3-pint line, the Comets have pure-shooting senior guard Chase Bohne who averages 25 points per game and can score from anywhere on the court.
Style of Play: A strong Totems squad can push the ball, but can also execute and score in a half-court offense. They like to put pressure on teams in the full court and we will shoot early three pointers if they are open.
Strengths: Overall size, athleticism and skill is their strength. The Totems can put a few different lineups on the court depending on match ups. They have a big athletic point guard who puts lots of pressure on other teams defensively, which can leave other Totem shooters open.
Semiahmoo is coached by Ed Lefurgy brings a talented and up-set minded team to Westerns. Point guard Brian Wallack is Semiahmoo’s grade 12 team leader on and off the floor. He isn’t your typical grade 12 star, as he has grown very much in the past 2 years along with his game. At six foot five, he has great size for the point guard position, shots well, is a great athlete, and a very good rebounder. The Totems will need him to reach even higher heights for them to go deep at Westerns and Provincials. Along side Wallack, wingman Vlad Mihaila balances the Totom’s attack on offense. Mihaila is an elite scorer with great size and athleticism at the wing position. He has a great feel for the game and patience on offence and an improving defender. This is Mihaila’s second season playing senior boys basketball as he was a full-time starter last season on a team that almost reached the Provincial Championships.
Game 4: Thursday February 3, 7:30 pm
South Kamloops Titans vs. Kelowna Owls
The 2017 Interior Savings Western Basketball Tournament finishes day one with a tilt between the hometown Kelowna Owls and the South Kamloops Titans. The Owls come in as the #2 ranked 4A team in BC. That said, the Titans, ranked #2 in 3A, are a proud team with a strong history of producing top players (Boston Celtic Kelly Olynyk) and have a long rivalry with KSS.
South Kamloops Titans
Style of Play: The Titans think defense first. They play a fast-paced, up and down the floor type of game.
Strengths: South Kamloops always give 100% effort on defense. On offense, they are unselfish, with their top producers changing every game.
The South Kamloops Titans are coached by Tim Unaegbu and feature a trio of grade11 stars that are ready to step into the spotlight. Inside, the Titans feature six foot nine center Ripley Martin who averages 20points and 10 rebounds per game. Martin is a strong center with a soft touch around the rim, who can run the floor with the guards and keeps out of foul trouble. Shooting guard Nick Sarai averages 18 points and 6 assists for the Titans. Sarai is a prolific shooter, capable of scoring with both hand and uses his quickness to his advantage. Running the show, is point guard Reid Jansen (15 points, 8 rebounds, and 12 assists per game). His strong stats are proof that Jansen can put the ball in the hoop, as well as distribute the ball. He is a traditional point guard with strong IQ of the game.
Style of Play: Up tempo, offence from defense
Strengths: Balanced scoring, experience
Coach Harry Parmar and the KSS Owls come into this year’s tournament with something to prove, that they can win again. The two-time defending Westerns winners and defending Provincial champions are not resting on their laurels, and they are as hungry as ever. Leading the way this year is super-senior Mason Bourcier. The do-it-all guard at times seems unstoppable, and is as comfortable shooting from the perimeter as he is taking the ball down the lane for a dunk. Bourcier has a solid supporting cast which has the Owls ranked #2 provincially, but ready for more.