Game Gators drop heartbreaker to Wildcats

Walnut Grove
Walnut Grove's Sam McNicoll (#24) goes up for the shot during the Grade 8 boys' Langley district championship game on Feb. 16. The Gators finished second at the Fraser Valley championships.
— image credit: Gary Ahuja/Langley Times

The Walnut Grove Gators are hoping for one more shot a the Tamanawis Wildcats.

Back in January, the Wildcats "thumped up really good," admitted Gators coach George Kozlovic, talking about a 20-point loss in Walnut Grove's home gym.

Fast forward to Monday night (Feb. 27) and the two Grade 8 boys' basketball teams — who entered as the top two seeds — squared off at Westview Secondary in the Fraser Valley championship final.

The Wildcats won by a bucket, 55-53.

"It was a tough loss, but our team played fantastic," said Kozlovich, who is co-head coach along with Terry Stead.

"Despite the loss, we are very proud of the way we played.

"We would have liked to have won, but Tamanawis has been the best team in the Valley all year."

The Gators — the Langley district champs — cruised to the final eight after a pair of dominating wins in the first two rounds: 70-9 against the G.W. Graham Grizzlies and 53-25 versus the Eugene Reimer Ravens.

In the quarter-finals, they edged the Holy Cross Crusaders 66-59 and then they won narrowly over the W.A. Fraser Falcons.

Playing the Wildcats for the second time, Kozlovic said the team didn't change their strategy from the first contest.

"Our kids just played a real tough, tough game," he said.

"(Tamanawis) are way bigger than us and have more skill than us.

"Our kids came to battle; they didn't back down."

Kozlovic said that in the first game, the Gators may have "overmatched and intimidated."

"That wasn't the case (in the final); we basically went toe-to-toe with them for the entire game," he said,.

"It basically came down to one or two plays at the end, that was the difference."

The Gators stormed out of the gates in the final, leading 17-7 at one point, which forced Tamanawis to switch from man-to-man and into a zone defence.

The move worked as the Wildcats turned an eight-point deficit after one quarter into a six-point lead at the half.

The Gators cut the lead to four points heading into the fourth and were within two points for most of the fourth quarter.

"It was a great team effort from top to bottom," Kozlovic said.

Wei Chung and Sam McNicholl earned all-star awards.

The Gators also advanced to the provincial championships, which are being hosted by Pitt Meadows.

The tournament runs March 8-10.

Three other Langley teams were competing at the Fraser Valley championships.

The Brookswood Bobcats won their opener, 38-37 over L.A. Matheson, but lost in the second round to Southridge, 51-46.

The Langley Fundamental Titans lost 42-29 to Thomas Haney while The H.D. Stafford Skyhawks dropped a 39-24 decision to North Delta.

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