Gators fall short in medal quest

Walnut Grove Gators
Walnut Grove Gators' Daniel Stead goes up for the hoop during his team's 62-39 opening round victory over Duchess Park at the junior boys basketball provincial championships at the Langley Events Centre.
— image credit: Gary Ahuja/Langley Times

Up by seven points in the fourth quarter, the Walnut Grove Gators went dry and lost 49-43 in the semifinals to Panorama Ridge at the junior boys basketball provincial championships.

It didn’t help that the Gators were without their top player of the tournament, Daniel Stead.

“You hate to say this, but a couple of questionable calls from the referee took (him) out,” said Walnut Grove coach Jon Fast.

“We were playing not to lose instead of playing to win and we just couldn’t score down the stretch.”

The tournament finished on Saturday at the Langley Events Centre with West Vancouver beating Panorama Ridge 53-50 for the gold medal.

Fast said the team failed to score over the final five minutes as Panorama Ridge beat the Gators for the second time in less than two weeks, having also beaten them by three points in the Fraser Valleys the weekend before.

In the bronze medal game, Fast altered his game plan and got as many players in as he could, but Walnut Grove lost 58-50 to the Tamawanis Wildcats.

He used more players than he had in the past with this being the season’s final game.

The Gators, who were seeded third at the 20-team tournament, had opened with a 62-39 win over Duchess Park and then beat Fleetwood Park 54-46 in the quarter-finals.

Two Walnut Grove players did earn accolades for their play as Stead was named a first team all-star while Joel Harrison picked up the defensive player of the tournament award.

“He has the ability to disturb the ball handler and found a way to come up with steals at the right time for us,” said Fast about Harrison, a Grade 9 guard.

“He had a chance to step up and play and really proved himself.”

As for Stead, Fast said the Grade 10 forward has shown glimpses all season of his potential.

“He has had the potential all year, it has just been a lack of aggression,” Fast said, adding that Stead’s play has really picked up over the stretch drive of the season.

“He has shown he is ready to play up to his potential and that is definitely something to build on.”

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