Walnut Grove's James Woods battles with Kelowna's Owen Keyes during the Snowball Classic final on Saturday.

Walnut Grove's James Woods battles with Kelowna's Owen Keyes during the Snowball Classic final on Saturday.

Walnut Grove Gators win 57th annual Snowball Classic (with video)

Langley high school defeats Kelowna in tournament final

For the first time ever, the Walnut Grove Gators are Snowball Classic champions after defeating the Kelowna Owls 90-84 in Saturday’s final.

Basking in the glow of victory, Gators head coach George Bergen summed up the game rather eloquently.

“Is there anything better than a high school basketball game?” he asked.

The back-and-forth win saw the Gators start hot, building a 23-16 lead, but the Owls awoke in the second quarter and headed into the first half with a 48-46 lead.

“Early on, our shot selection was great and we made a lot of them,” Bergen said. “We defended well and caused some turnovers. But they have a guy named Mason Bourcier, he got rolling and they went on a run in the second quarter.”

Bourcier, coming off a spectacular 52-point performance on Friday, fuelled the Owls’ bounce-back second quarter. He scored 43 against Walnut Grove, but the Owls couldn’t handle the Gators’ depth and the adjustments that Grove made in the third quarter.

The teams were tied at 69 after three, but Walnut Grove took over in the final frame.

A clutch three by Alasdair Coyle was the dagger, and James Woods made some big free throws down the stretch to earn the win.

“Down the stretch they got into foul trouble and with our size advantage we started being able to go inside on them,” Bergen said. “I told them we weren’t going to be able to stop Mason but we have to contain him. Now, 43 points doesn’t sound like containing, but I think the guys learned a lot about helping each other defensively.”

The Gators were led offensively by Ty Rowell, who was named the most valuable player of the tournament and scored 33 points in the final.

First team tournament all-stars were: Bourcier, Owen Keyes, and David Wieczorek from Kelowna; and Jake Cowley and Andrew Goertzen from Walnut Grove.

Second team all-stars were Alex Garcia and Chris Koon from Rolling Hills; C.J. Campbell and Vince Sunga from Burnaby South; and Noah Nickel from Yale.

The Gators rebounded after falling to Winston Churchill in overtime in the third-place game last year. This year they defeated Brentwood College 88-80 on Thursday, and then beat Burnaby South 88-59 on Friday.

The Owls beat Yale 108-75 on Thursday, and then defeated California’s Rolling Hills Prep Academy 104-92 on Friday to reach the final. It’s the second straight year that the Owls fell in the Snowball final.

Bergen said the Snowball is always a fun stop on the yearly schedule.

“I’m an Abbotsford guy and I actually played at the Snowball in the 1960s,” he said. “Why wouldn’t I want to come back here? There are always a whole bunch of competitive teams.”

Rolling Hills beat Burnaby South 100-48 on Saturday afternoon to finish third overall at the event.

The Yale Lions were the top-ranked Abbotsford team at the tournament, and they defeated Brentwood College 85-81 on Saturday afternoon to finish fifth at the event.

Yale’s Noah Nickel was the lone local tournament all-star. The Lions beat Killarney 99-71 on Thursday morning, but then fell 108-75 to Kelowna on Thursday afternoon. Yale then bounced back on Friday with a 92-55 win over Sardis.

The MEI Eagles finished 10th at the event, losing a heartbreaker 102-101 to Brentwood to open on Thursday. MEI then beat Abbotsford’s Robert Bateman Timberwolves 102-90 on Friday, and fell 106-91 to Killarney to close out the event.

Bateman lost 86-72 to Burnaby South on day one, fell 102-90 to the MEI Eagles on Friday and ended with a 92-78 over the host Abbotsford Panthers.

The Panthers were winless at the tournament, losing 105-95 to Sardis on Thursday, falling 109-73 to Killarney on Friday and concluding with a 92-78 setback to the Timberwolves.

For complete results from the event, visit snowballbasketball.com.

The next big local tournament is Bateman’s Timberwolves Classic senior boys basketball tournament, which runs from Jan. 19 to 21. The host Timberwolves, the Panthers and the Rick Hansen Hurricanes are the local teams involved.

A total of 16 teams are participating in the tournament.

For more on that event, visit batemanbasketball.com.

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