Up four points in the third quarter of the gold-medal game, the Walnut Grove Gators top player was forced from the game after taking a knee to the head.
And the loss of point guard Kevin Kao spelled trouble for the Grade 8 boys basketball team as their opponent seized the opportunity to gain momentum.
“They smelled blood in the water. He’s our best ball-handler and they pressed even more,” lamented Gators coach Terry Stead. “We just never recovered from that.”
The Gators were playing the Vancouver College Fighting Irish on Saturday afternoon at Semiahmoo Secondary in the championship final of the Grade 8 provincial championships.
Walnut Grove lost just two games all season, and both defeats were at the hands of the Fighting Irish.
The Gators had a slim lead when Kao went down and by the time he re-entered the game, Vancouver College was up by six points.
“Even when he came back, we had lost that momentum,” Stead said. “And (Vancouver College’s) best player was outstanding.”
The Gators breezed past their first round opponent, defeating Westsyde 81-23. The quarter-finals were much tougher, a 63-54 win over Sir Charles Tupper.
And the semifinal pitted Walnut Grove against Burnaby South — which had won the previous four Grade 8 boys provincial titles — with the Gators prevailing 53-48.
Unfortunately, the Gators could not secure the gold medal.
“It was tough but the boys gave it all they had,” Stead said. “It was not from lack of effort.”
Kao and Trevor Duffin were selected first team all-stars while Dylan Senft was a second team all-star.