While most coaches would love to have the top-ranked team, there are definitely challenges to being the one everyone is gunning for. But the Walnut Grove Gators took on that pressure and delivered.
The Gators captured the Grade 8 boys Fraser Valley championship banner on Monday with a convincing 55-28 victory over the No. 2 Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers. The game was played at Walnut Grove Secondary.
For the season, Walnut Grove has lost just one game.
“That’s the tough part — when you are pegged to do really well, the pressure is on to follow through,” said Gators coach Terry Stead. “Everyone is trying to knock you off, so there’s pressure.
“I have been the No. 1 seed before and not won, so it is a huge relief.”
Walnut Grove raced out to a 19-12 lead after one quarter and then seized control in the second quarter as the Panthers were limited to just two points in the eight minutes while the Gators poured in another 14 points.
“I challenged them to be aggressive,” Stead said about his team going up against a strong, physical opponent.”We had to battle back, we had to fight for the loose balls.”
“We just had to wear them down and in the end, that worked.”
Lord Tweedsmuir coach Rob Oyesiku was lamenting his team’s missed shots.
“We came out a little flat,” he said. “(And) throughout the entire game, our boys had chances but they just didn’t drop for us.”
The teams were the top two seeds at the 32-team Fraser Valley championships.
Walnut Grove won their opening game by forfeit over Chilliwack Middle, before delivering three consecutive 70+ performances to advance to the finals.
The Gators beat No. 16 Pitt Meadows 79-34, No, 8 Langley Christian 76-42 and No. 5 Fleetwood Park 73-30.
Lord Tweedsmuir defeated Vedder 55-30, won 62-34 over Elgin Park, topped Holy Cross 62-50 and then edged MEI 50-45 in the semifinals.
Gators’ Kevin Kao, who scored 11 points in the victory, picked up MVP honours.
“He is a competitor. He is not that big but he has a big heart,” Stead said about his point guard. “He did the job and is a worthy MVP winner.”
Trevor Duffin had a dozen points to lead Walnut Grove, including six in the fourth quarter, and was named a Fraser Valley all-star.
The Gators’ Callum Neily and Lord Tweedsmuir’s Joshua Limbasan were also all-stars.
Neily scored eight points, all in the first quarter, to pace the Gators to early lead, while Limbasan had a team-high nine points.
Both teams will play at the BC Grade 8 boys invitational provincial championships March 1 to 3 at Semiahmoo Secondary.
Langley Christian also qualified for the Fraser Valley championship round, finishing in eighth spot.
The Lightning beat Pacific Academy 66-43 in the opening round and defeated Panorama Ridge 48-35 in the round of 16. They lost to the Gators in the quarter-finals before closing with 43-33 and 76-44 losses to the Howe Bulldogs and Matheson Mustangs, respectively.
Brookswood and Betty Gilbert both lost in the opening round.
The 21st-ranked ’Cats lost 46-37 to No. 12 Enver Creek while the No. 30 Raptors fell 65-37 to the No. 3 Mustangs.