Kelowna Owls B.C. high school basketball’s team to beat

 

Coach trying to keep expectations reined in for undefeated 4A favourites

 
 
 
 
Kelowna Owls #10 Matt Lafontaine drives the ball past Oak Bay Bays  #8 Myka Tang-Blumenscheinin the boy’s high school basketball final at the Terry Fox Legal Beagle tournament, Port Coquitlam, January 09 2016.
 

Kelowna Owls #10 Matt Lafontaine drives the ball past Oak Bay Bays #8 Myka Tang-Blumenscheinin the boy’s high school basketball final at the Terry Fox Legal Beagle tournament, Port Coquitlam, January 09 2016.

Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann, PNG

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Anyone who avidly follows B.C. high school boys basketball has nominations for the greatest teams ever.

Vancouver Islanders might give a nod to the Oak Bay Bays of the 1960s or the SMU Blue Devils of 1992, led by Steve Nash. The Richmond Colts of the late 1980s were a dynasty. Little White Rock Christian, punching above its weight class, has finished in the top four seven times since 1999 and won the provincial tournament twice.

But memories of magic moments have been absent in the Okanagan Valley — a region known for crushing grapes and apples but not necessarily high school basketball opponents. Until this season.

Riding a 19-0 record against B.C. opponents (25-0 overall against teams north of the 49th parallel) the Owls approach the 2016 provincial 4A tournament that begins today at Langley Events Centre as prohibitive favourites.

“They’ve earned everything they got,” says Rick Lopez, coach of the No. 2-ranked Winston Churchill Bulldogs, who have lost to the Owls three times this season. “The gap has closed, but they’re still the team to beat, clearly.”

More than 2,000 kilometres removed from the proceedings at the LEC, another rival coach, Mike Bartee of the John W. North Huskies, agrees with Lopez. He coaches the senior boys team at the Riverside, Calif., school that is ranked 22nd in the state (California has a population of 39 million) and 97th nationally.

The Huskies are one of four Americans teams that have taken the measure of the Owls this season, but they needed a fourth-quarter rally in the final of an invitational tournament in Edmonton in early December to finally prevail, 95-92.

“They’re as good as any team we’ve played this season,” says Bartee, who has coached the Huskies to a 27-4 record. “In California, people don’t recognize Canadian basketball as being that tough. We hear about the (practice) restrictions you guys have. Here, we can play and practise year round. That said, they (Kelowna) would be good anywhere they played. They’re well-coached, athletic, they’ve got size, they shoot the ball well. They have very few weaknesses. Good luck to them. I can’t imagine another team up there that’s better.”

Where is the incentive to improve if praise is being lavished on his players before they’ve accomplished anything? Kelowna coach Harry Parmar, in his ninth season with the Owls senior boys, is trying to keep expectations reined in, even though it would be a crushing disappointment if the Owls don’t show up in the final, at the very least. Duchess Park (Prince George) in 1980 was the last B.C. team outside Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island to win the top tier of provincial high school boys basketball.

Last year, only an 84-79 defeat in the semifinals to the eventual 4A provincial champion Yale Lions stood between the Owls and their first B.C. title. Kelowna defeated Winston Churchill 100-79 in the bronze-medal game.

“Depth wise, we’re a better team than last year,” maintains Parmar. “I believe that defence wins championships and this is the best defensive team we’ve had. We can play with composure, when we do get in the fire. Playing good American teams (six times) was a good way to see where we are, when we get pressed.”

Much like the quest for any elusive absolute, the likelihood of a first title for the Owls comes with a high degree of probability, but contains no guarantee.

“I’m not going to lie to you,” Parmar admits. “There’s an expectation we’re going to win. It doesn’t always happen. The process is about playing the best we can over four days and seeing if anyone can handle us. Victory is in the preparation, someone once said, and they’re prepared. All I can ask is that we look each other in the eye at the end and say, ‘I did the best I could.’ ”

mbeamish@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/sixbeamers

WHAT: B.C. high school boys basketball championships

WHEN: Today until Saturday, 16 teams each in Divisions A, AA, AAA and AAAA

WHERE: Langley Events Centre, 7888 200th St., Langley

Top ranked teams:

4A: Kelowna Owls

3A: Steveston-London Sharks (Richmond)

2A: G.W. Graham Grizzlies (Chilliwack)

1A: Kelowna Christian Knights

Finals (Saturday):

1A: Arena Bowl, 1:30 p.m.

2A: Arena Bowl, 3:45 p.m.

3A: Arena Bowl, 6 p.m.

4A: Arena Bowl, 8:15 p.m.

 
 
 
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Kelowna Owls #10 Matt Lafontaine drives the ball past Oak Bay Bays  #8 Myka Tang-Blumenscheinin the boy’s high school basketball final at the Terry Fox Legal Beagle tournament, Port Coquitlam, January 09 2016.
 

Kelowna Owls #10 Matt Lafontaine drives the ball past Oak Bay Bays #8 Myka Tang-Blumenscheinin the boy’s high school basketball final at the Terry Fox Legal Beagle tournament, Port Coquitlam, January 09 2016.

Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann, PNG

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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