Walnut Grove Gators’ Jessica Wisotzki earned second team all-star honours over the weekend at the Fraser Valley championships. Gary Ahuja Langley Times file photo

Gators fall to Panthers in Valley final

Walnut Grove seeded third for next week’s provincial championships at the Langley Events Centre

An early 10-point deficit proved too much to overcome for the Walnut Grove Gators.

“Every time we made a little run, they would respond,” said Walnut Grove coach Darren Rowell. “We just weren’t able to close it.”

The Gators, seeded No. 1, were facing the No. 2 Abbotsford Panthers, in Saturday’s Fraser Valley senior girls AAA championship game.

It was played at Abbotsford Secondary.

The disappointing thing from Rowell’s perspective was the fact he felt his team was coming off one of their best games of the year, a 77-47 win over No. 4 Semiahmoo in the Fraser Valley semifinals.

“And we felt were ready for the challenge of Abbotsford but we just didn’t play very well,” Rowell said.

The Panthers played a physical and Walnut Grove wasn’t able to adapt.

“That changed the way we wanted to play and we didn’t respond very well,” he said.

It was the second time the two teams played this year with the Gators winning in the finals of the Tsumura Basketball Invitational back in December.

In the opening round of the Fraser Valleys, Walnut Grove thumped No. 16 Charles Best 95-38 and beat No. 8 Yale 84-56 in the quarter-finals.

Walnut Grove is 29-2 on the season and just like the team’s other loss — a setback in league play to Lord Tweedsmuir — Rowell is sure the team can use this as a learning experience.

“We had a loss a few weeks ago that really helped focus us going into the Fraser Valleys and showed us some things we needed to work on. And I think this loss to Abby showed us some other things that we need to focus on prior to B.C.’s,” Rowell said.

Rowell said at the start of the year his team would have been thrilled with a second-place showing at Fraser Valleys.

“At this point, we see ourselves being able to compete with any team in the province,” he said. “To not compete the way you want is always a disappointment but we are looking forward to provincials.”

The Gators are seeded third for next week’s B.C. provincial championships (Feb. 28 to March 3) at the Langley Events Centre and they face the Mount Baker Wild in the opening round.

Tavia Rowell and Natalie Rathler earned first team all-star awards for Walnut Grove while the Gators’ Jessica Wisotzki was a second team pick.

The Brookswood Bobcats were also competing at the Fraser Valleys, with the team finishing seventh. The ’Cats did win a wild-card qualifying game on Feb. 20, 71-37 over Handsworth to qualify for provincials.



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Natalie Rathler and the Walnut Grove Gators are seeded third for next week’s B.C. senior girls AAA provincial championships. Rathler was named a first team all-star. Gary Ahuja Langley Times file photo

Tavia Rowell and the Walnut Grove Gators finished second over the weekend at the Fraser Valley championships with Rowell earning first team all-star honours. Gary Ahuja Langley Times file photo

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