After seeing their run of eight straight Langley District championships come to an end last year, the Walnut Grove Gators are back on top.
And the scary thing is, this is the most skilled and deepest group long-time coach Terry Stead has seen.
After surrendering the game’s first two points, the Gators rattled off 25 of the next 28 points en route to a 69-41 victory over the Langley Christian Lightning on Thursday afternoon at the Langley Events Centre.
The teams were playing in the Langley District Grade 8 boys championship final.
“The difference in the game was we have more depth. We go deeper and (are able to) tire them out,” Stead said.
“Our game plan was to press them and tire them out. I can rotate guys in and keep them fresher and I think that was the difference.”
Walnut Grove had a balanced attack with four players reaching double figures, led by Callum Neily’s 15 points. Kevin Kao had 13 points while Dylan Senft and Nathan Wright had 11 points apiece.
Langley Christian was led by 17 points from Ben Wergeland while Silas VanHuizen had a dozen points, all of which came from beyond the three-point arc.
“It was one of those games were everything they seemed to do went well for them and it just wasn’t our best game,” Stead said. “But it shows something about the guys that even though they weren’t playing their best, they found a way to get the job done.”
On the other side, Lightning coach Shabbir Bell was happy with his team’s performance despite the loss.
Back in December, the Gators had waxed Langley Christian 80-36.
“This was one of our better efforts of the season,” Bell said. “They are a strong team but we thought we could give them a good game. We played well, but in the end, we just ran out of steam.”
Both teams will compete in the Fraser Valley championships, as will the Brookswood Bobcats, Archbishop Carney Stars and the Betty Gilbert Raptors. The ’Cats beat the Stars in the third-place game while the Raptors came fifth.
The Fraser Valleys are being held at various Langley schools (Feb. 14/15) with Walnut Grove hosting the championship round Feb. 16, 17 and 19.
The Gators should be in contention for the gold at the Valley championships, with just one loss on the season, a 64-58 loss to Vancouver College on Tuesday.