As the Walnut Grove Gators saw an 18-point third quarter lead vanish, the players didn’t panic.
The Gators, the second seed, were playing the top-seed White Rock Christian Warriors in the Fraser Valley senior boys AAA championship final on Saturday night at the Langley Events Centre.
The Warriors fully erased the deficit with a basket early in the fourth quarter, tying the game at 53.
But three-pointers from Sam Shin and Sheldon Derton were part of a 10-0 Gators run and the team never looked back, winning 73-64.
The Fraser Valley title is the first at the senior boys level in school history.
The Gators improved to 29-3 on the season, with two of the losses coming at the hands of the Warriors in tournament finals back in January: 86-80 in the finals of the Legal Beagle tournament and then 86-80 in the Emerald Classic.
“When we played them at Emerald, they went in a run like that in the third quarter,” said Walnut Grove’s Jadon Cohee, who finished with 21 points and was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
“We were up 10 at the half (in that game) but they ended up continuing with their energy and beating us.
“We didn’t want to let that happen again.”
“Basketball is a game of peaks and valleys,” he said. “We went through a valley.
“We just came to the bench and the coaches calmed us down. We knew we could win this game, we just had to play our game, not their game, and we ended up playing our game in the fourth quarter and that is why we won.”
The Gators never trailed in the game, racing out to a 6-0 lead and building that to a nine-point advantage after one quarter. By halftime, Walnut Grove was ahead 40-28 and they stretched the lead to 18 points at one point in the third before the Warriors ripped off 19 of the next 22 points to make it 53-51 Walnut Grove with 10 minutes to play.
“We came out with the right mindset,” Cohee said. “We knew our game plan and we knew if we played our game, we would win.”
Gary Ahuja/Langley Times
Walnut Grove Gators’ Jadon Cohee drove to the hoop for two of his team-high 21 points in the Gators’ 73-64 win over White Rock Christian Academy on Saturday at the Langley Events Centre. Cohee earned MVP honours.
Walnut Grove, which was ranked No. 1 in the provincial polls heading into Fraser Valleys, beat the second-ranked Yale Lions 86-68 in the Fraser Valley semifinals the night before to advance to the gold medal game.
White Rock Christian was ranked third.
“First of all, there is no difference in the number one seed and the number two seed,” said Walnut Grove coach George Bergen.
“It was evident in the game tonight and last night was a tough game with Yale too.”
Bergen said as has been the case all season, his team’s depth showed.
“I think we had a little bit more energy in the end,” he said, adding he expected it to be a close game.
“We were expecting a tie game, we were expecting things to go down to the wire.
“In a nutshell, I would put it on we have a team that has depth and they really want to do it as a team.”
In addition to Cohee’s MVP award, Josh Mayorga and Shin were both first team all-stars. The Gators also won the team spirit award and Shin was player of the game in the final.
He finished with 19 points — including four three-pointers — and a number of steals.
Cohee dropped 39 points in the semifinal victory, continuing his strong play at the LEC. As a Grade 10 player last year, he was a first team all-star at the provincial championships when Walnut Grove finished second.
“I love the big stage,” he said. “When there is a crowd, you get so fired up and into the game.”
Walnut Grove opens play at the 2013 B.C. high school championships on March 13 when they face the winner of the Sir Winston Churchill and Pitt Meadows.