Gators bronzed at BC’s

Team overcomes heartbreaking loss in semifinals to win bronze medal at provincial tournament held at Langley Events Centre

Walnut Grove’s James Woods was a first team all-star at the B.C. junior boys provincial basketball championships as the Gators won the bronze medal.

Walnut Grove’s James Woods was a first team all-star at the B.C. junior boys provincial basketball championships as the Gators won the bronze medal.

After a heartbreaking loss in the provincial semifinals, coach Lucian Sauciuc had to deal with an emotional Walnut Grove team.

“They were hurt, there were some tears in the locker room,” he said.

“I tried to keep their spirits up as much as possible, but there is only so much you can say in a situation like that.

“I told them it’s OK to hurt, it’s OK for them to be upset, but I don’t want them to use that to pout or use this as an excuse because we still had chances to win that game, we just made a couple of mistakes down the stretch.”

He was referring to the semifinals on Friday night at the Langley Events Centre of the B.C. provincial junior basketball championships.

The Gators, seeded No. 14, were up against the No. 7  Killarney Cougars, and the teams were tied at 50 with one minute to go.

But Walnut Grove was called for two intentional fouls in the final minute — bogus calls, Sauciuc said — and Killarney hit three free throws for the difference in the game.

Killarney would defeat No. 1 Kitsilano 64-55 in the gold medal game.

In Saturday afternoon’s bronze-medal game, the Gators came out with a determined effort to beat No. 4 Steveston-London 71-59.

“We had a good effort and beat a good team to get third,” Sauciuc said.

“The best way to finish it off is on a win. I was really happy with the effort in that game.”

“Obviously our goal was to play in that final game and give ourselves a chance for a provincial banner, but it was still a successful season,” he added.

The Gators have a young roster with five Grade 9 players getting significant minutes.

The team was among the top-ranked junior teams in the province, but were upset in the Fraser Valley quarter-finals by the Terry Fox Ravens, which resulted in Walnut Grove getting a lower seed for provincials.

The Gators would beat No. 19 Notre Dame 49-43 in the opening round and then upset No. 3 St. George’s 46-38. In the quarter-finals, Walnut Grove got revenge on No. 11 Terry Fox with a 47-44 win.

James Woods earned first team all-star honours while Andrew Goertzen was a second team selection.

Brett Christensen didn’t earn all-star accolades, but Sauciuc called him “a pivotal part of our team.”