One so-so half of basketball deprived the Kelowna Owls of the title at the 38th Interior Savings Basketball Tournament.
However, what Saturday night’s 81-69 loss to the Burnaby South Rebels failed to do was damage the Owls’ confidence or their resolve to contend for the B.C. AAA boys championship next month in Langley.
“We don’t dwell on one game, we look at it as a learning experience, try look at what we did wrong and correct those mistakes,” said Owls Grade 12 wing Charlie Lewthwaite. “We can take the positives from what we did well and move forward. I think we’ve proved to ourselves already that we can play with anyone. One loss doesn’t change that and we feel like it’s coin-toss when it comes who wins the province.”
Inside the boisterous, jam-packed KSS gym the Owls led Saturday’s final by four points at the half and were a mere 20 minutes away from clinching the school’s first West Can title in 28 years.
But the soon-to-be No. 1 provincially-ranked Rebels took command of the contest in the second half with a stifling defense, while Manroop Clair and Ater Degal paced Burnaby’s up-tempo offensive attack, finishing with 28 and 18 points, respectively.
The Owls succumbed to the pressure, committing 26 turnovers in the game while being unable to match the Rebels shooting accuracy from the field.
“They basically outplayed us, they hit the big shots when they needed to and we had way too many turnovers,” added Lewthwaite. “They had it rolling, Manroop and Ater really had it going, and we didn’t.”
The Rebels’ defense also put the wraps on Braxtson Bunce as the 6-foot-11 Owls post managed just seven points in the final, including 2-for-8 from the field.
“We need to do a better job with handling double teams on our big man,” said Owls coach Harry Parmar. “The kids need to be shown physically what to do.”
Still, the No. 4 provincially-ranked Owls walked away from the tourney with a number of positives to build on. KSS downed a feisty Saskatoon Holy Cross Crusaders team 88-77 in the tournament opener, then knocked off B.C.’s No. 1 team, the R.C. Palmer Griffins 73-69 in the semifinal Friday.
“Overall the kids played well,” added Parmar. “We got to compete in pressure situations that will only help us moving forward. The boys do not want to have the feelings they had Saturday night come up again.”
The feeling Charlie Lewthwaite won’t soon forget is atmosphere inside the KSS gym and the unconditional support of the hometown fans throughout the tournament.
“It’s just unbelievable to experience it as a player,” said Lewthwaite, who played in his second Western Canada tournament. “They’re the best fans I’ve ever played in front of, I can’t imagine anywhere else matching it. They kept us in games when they were close and made it hard for opposing teams. They were behind us all the way.”
Lewthwaite hopes the Owls can repay the Kelowna fans first with an Okanagan title, then a win at the B.C. championship next month in Langley.
According to coach Parmar, there’s still work to do but winning a B.C. title remains as realistic a goal as it was when the season began.
“Our goal still stays the same…we want to win the provincials,” he said. “This tournament shows us we still have some things to clear up if we want to be able to achieve our ultimate goal.”
DeBoe Truss was named the Owls top player, while Tanner Leimert was the top defensive player for KSS.
Braxston Bunce of the Owls made the first all-star team, while Truss and Mitch Goodwin were named to the second team.
The Okanagan Valley championship is set for March 3 to 5 in Penticton, with the provincials to follow March 15 to 19 at the Langley Events Centre.