It was a slightly duller colour medal than they were hoping for, heading into the Telus B.C. junior boys basketball championships, but the Walnut Grove Gators were happy to take home bronze.
A 71-59 victory over the fourth-seeded Steveston-London Sharks on Saturday afternoon at the Langley Events Centre (LEC) gave the Gators a third-place result at the provincial tournament, which ran Feb. 25-28 at the LEC.
The Gators were four points shy of competing for a B.C. title.
In one of two semifinals played on Friday, the No. 7 Killarney Cougars edged the Gators 53-50.
The nail-biting game came down to the final few minutes where Killarney got some clutch baskets from guard Jason Tantengco and come away with a tight victory over the Gators.
Walnut Grove went into the half with a 27-23 lead but were outscored 30-23 in the second half as they was unable to make some shots down the stretch.
Gators guard Brett Christensen led all scorers with 21 points.
The Gatorsâ€™ James Woods earned a first team all-star selection while his teammate Andrew Goertzen was named as a provincial second all-star.
While his team fell short in its bid to win B.C. gold, Gators coach Lucian Sauciuc said he was happy with the effort the Walnut Grove Secondary junior boys put forth, during the tournament and all season long.
â€œWe had a great season,â€ Sauciuc said, a few minutes after the Gatorsâ€™ victory over the Sharks. â€œWe came three points shy of playing in the final game. Iâ€™m really proud of the guys, they worked hard. We have 11 Grade 9s on this team so weâ€™re extremely young. We had an unbelievable season.â€
Sauciuc continued, â€œitâ€™s a great program, great kids who work their butts off, so Iâ€™m really happy with their accomplishments.â€
Defence was the key to the Gatorsâ€™ success throughout the year.
Sauciuc noted that the Gatorsâ€™ goal was to keep their opponents under 50 points, every game.
â€œWe did that for the most part and it kept us in games,â€ Sauciuc said.
With 11 players eligible to return to play junior hoops at WGSS, the Gators have the potential to take another run at the B.C. title next year.
On Thursday, the Gators had strong crowd support in their game against the Terry Fox Ravens from Port Coquitlam.
The lead never got to more than seven points for either team but the Gators tightened up their defence in the final quarter holding the Ravens to just five points and came away with a 47-44 win.
Woods led all scorers with 20 points
The Gators are Alasdair Coyle, Andrew Goertzen, Azino Urefe, Ben Whiton, Brett Christensen, Brody Ward, Dannon Sturn, James Woods, Lucas Adams, Luke Chalk, Min Kim, Noah Shopland, Ritesh Nandakumar, Ryan Taylor, Sheldon Frew, and Yannick Lauzon.
FINAL BUZZER: In an all-Vancouver final played right after the bronze medal game, Killarney upset the top-seeded Kitsilano Blue Demons 64-55 to capture the B.C. championship title.
Tantengco was named tournament MVP.
In 2014, the Gators finished fourth at the provincial tournament, that was won by West Vancouver.
Sr. boys Gators
The Gators senior boys finished fifth in the tough Fraser Valley Quad A playoffs after a 79-72 win over Port Moodyâ€™s Heritage Woods Kodiaks early Saturday afternoon at the Langley Events Centre.
Abbotsfordâ€™s Yale Lions are the Fraser Valley champions as they defeated the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers from Cloverdale 88-78 in the championship game at the LEC on Saturday afternoon.
The Lions earned a spot in the title game by upsetting the provincially top-ranked Terry Fox Ravens 107-94 early Friday night at the LEC.
Also Saturday, Terry Fox rolled past Semiahmoo 103-70 in the match-up deciding third and fourth in the Valley.
The Gators are now heading to the B.C. tournament, which they won in 2013.
Walnut Grove finished seventh at the provincials last March.
The Gatorsâ€™ opener is March 11 at 6:45 p.m., when they play Burnaby South at the LEC.