Walnut Gators through to final four at Langley Events Centre
In a day filled with upset victories in the quarter-finals, the Walnut Grove Gators were able take care of business.
The Gators dispatched the W.J. Mouat Hawks 74-57 in the last quarter-final of the day on Thursday at the Langley Events Centre, site of the 2012 B.C. AAA senior boys basketball championships.
Walnut Grove, the tournament's fourth seed, trailed for most of the first quarter before taking control and beating their league rivals for the fifth time in six tries this season.
The win advances the Gators to the semifinals on Friday (March 16) at 6 p.m. when they take on the Vancouver College Fighting Irish.
The game is a rematch of last season's round of 16 match, which was won by Vancouver College 76-62, on their way to a second-place finish.
The Irish, ranked eighth coming in, knocked off the tournament's top seed, the Kelowna Owls, 78-76 in the first quarter-final on Thursday.
The other semifinal has the No. 10 Terry Fox Ravens taking on the No. 14 White Rock Christian Academy Warriors.
White Rock was the first to knock out a top four seed, edging the No.3 St. George's Saints 63-62 in overtime in the quarter-finals.
In the Gators victory over Mouat, the team showed off its superior depth.
One game after being led by the trio of Jadon Cohee (33 points), Brad Hoffman (15 points) and De'Sean Monsanto (15 points) in their 78-73 win over the Mount Douglas Rams, Walnut Grove had two different players step up and carry the offensive load.
Ethan McKean came through with a game-high 20 points — including five three-pointers — six rebounds and four assists.
Paul Getz delivered 16 points and five rebounds.
Cohee had 14 points, eight rebounds, five steals and four assists.
A big difference in the game was three-point shooting.
While Mouat failed to hit a shot from beyond the arc in nine tries, Walnut Grove went 11-for-28 from three-point land.
"We've always been a pretty good three-point shooting team," explained Gators coach George Bergen.
"From last year, we decided they hey, we don't have much size, so we'd better have a perimeter game. So we've spent a lot of time shooting, and it's paid off."
On those relatively rare occasions when the Gators missed, they came away with the rebound more than their share of the time. The small-but-gritty Langley squad actually collected more offensive caroms (21) than the taller Hawks got on the defensive end (20), and they out-boarded Mouat 49-30 overall.
The foul count, at least, seemed to be in the Hawks' favour – they picked up just nine personal fouls, compared to 15 for Grove. But Mouat coach Rich Ralston felt that stat was not a product of discipline, but of his team's lack of aggression on defence.
All in all, it was a forgettable outing for the Abbotsford squad, which had been seeking a trip to the Final Four for the second straight year.
"We got beat by a better team," said Ralston, alluding to the fact the Gators won four of five games vs. the Hawks this season.
"We've struggled against these guys all year – they just play harder than us. And our guys tried hard, it's just that their effort wasn't always focused in the right direction."
Tristan Etienne, Mouat's 6'9" Grade 10 centre, had an efficient offensive outing, posting 15 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the floor, along with seven rebounds. But every time he made a basket in the paint, the Gators seemed to answer with a trey.
— with files from Dan Kinvig/Abbotsford News