Owen Labadie of the Pen High Lakers shovels off a pass to a teammate against the Kelly Road Roadrunners of Prince George in the opening game of the Christmas Classic Tournament Thursday at Pen High. Mark Brett/Western News

Penticton Lakers basketball lose heartbreaker at Christmas Classic

The Penticton Lakers senior boys basketball team hosting tournament

The Pen High Lakers lost a heartbreaker in a seesaw battle with the George Elliot Coyotes in the senior boys semifinal of the Christmas Classic Tournament Friday at Penticton Secondary School.

The Lakers had an eight-point lead going into the fourth quarter and at one stage controlled the game 55-46 before the visitors rallied with the help of plenty of foul shot opportunities. The winners scored their last four points from the foul line on a series of calls that had Lakers coaches and fans out of their seats.

Penticton trailed 16-14 after the first 10 minutes and 30-28 at the half before taking over in the third quarter thanks to a 10-point effort by Ross Miller and a pair of three pointers courtesy of Spencer Toneatto. Miller finished the game with a team-leading 19 points and Austin Alfonso netted 14.

Penticton moved into the consolation against an undetermined opponent later in the day (after press deadline).

The Lakers, hot off their first league victory Tuesday kicked off the tournament Thursday with a win over Kelly Road Secondary of Prince George.

In the tournament opener against the Kelly Road Roadrunners of Prince George, Pen High got off to a rocky start but turned things around as the game progressed eventually coming out on top by a 78-47 margin behind the oustanding play of Miller who poured in 22 points, snagged six rebounds and collected seven steals.

Jordan Moore came off the bench with a solid seven points and three rebounds.

A total of 16 teams, eight junior and eight senior clubs are taking part in the two-day event at Princess Margaret and Pen High which wrapped up Friday evening with the championship rounds.

Pen High had three squads entered, one in the senior division and two in the junior portion, Grade 9 and 10.

Princess Margaret Secondary has one team in each division and Summerland has one squad in the juniors.

Other local teams include the Osoyoos juniors, South Okanagan Secondary (Oliver) seniors and Osoyoos juniors.

The Lakers first league victory, 68-50 over Mount Boucherie earlier in the week found the Lakers in a must-win situation early in the season having lost their previous two starts by a total of just four points.

“There was definitely some pressure with this game,” said assistant coach Eron Labadie about the first league victory. “With our league only having five teams and therefore eight league games, every game is extremely important. We could not afford to lose that game.”

He pointed to head coach Raj Dhillon’s advice to the team saying the tough lessons early on would pay off and the bonding of team members on a recent tournament in the Lower Mainland making a difference in the win.

“We played together and the boys were looking for each other and moving the ball around getting good looks at the basket,” said Labadie. “We got a complete team effort.”

The biggest difference he added was the strong defence, taking away three pointers and anchored by Jake Stewart’s six blocks and four rebounds.

Related: Penticton Lakers looking for payback at Valley Championship

Ross Miller sparked the offence coming out the gate with a sizzling seven for 11 for 18 points and four rebounds. Owen Labadie missed only three of his 11 shots from the field finishing with 20 points, five steals and four assists.

In the Seaquam tournament in Delta the previous weekend, the Lakers lost in the semifinal to the host Seahawks, the eventual champions, 72-63.

Penticton did go on to the consolation round and knocked off McRobert Secondary of Richmond 94-50 to earn the bronze medal.

“We had 10 guys play significant minutes and every player scored in this game,” said Labadie. “It was good to see the boys out there battling and working hard but having fun together as a team.”

Related: Penticton Lakers rally from late deficit for basketball tournament win

Owen Labadie and Austin Afonso each had 22 points in the game. Lake Gray came off the bench hooping eight points and providing some gritty defence according to the coach.

Owen Labadie averaged 21 points over the course of the three games and was named one of five spots on the all star team by tournament organizers.

The Lakers opened the tournament with a 66-51 win over Charles Best Secondary of Coquitlam.

Full court pressure and a balanced attack wore down their opponents, Afonso scored 17 points and Aiden Danby, Ross Miller and Jake Stewart each added eight points.



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Austin Alfonso of the Pen High Lakers goes around Kelly Road’s Styles Johnston in the first game of the Christmas Classic tournament at Pen High. Mark Brett/Western News

Pen High Lakers Jacob Stewart smothers his Kelly Road opponent in Christmas Classic senior boys basketball action at Pen High Thursday. Mark Brett/Western News

Owen Labadie of the Pen High Lakers looks to the net on this scoring attempt against the Kelly Road Roadrunners of Prince George in the first senior boys basketball game at the Christmas Classic Tournament at Pen High Thursday. Mark Brett/Western News

Princess Margaret Mustangs Jayden Capp breaks to the net in the Christmas Classic tournament opening game against the Similkameen Elementary Second School Sparks at Maggie Thursday. Mark Brett/Western News

Owen Labadie of the Pen High Lakers senior boys basketball team gets around George Elliot Coyotes defender Matt Darly in the semi final of the Christmas Classic Tournament. The Coyotes edged the home team 66-62 in a see-saw battle. Mark Brett/Western News

Pen High Lakers head coach Raj Dhillon goes over strategy with his players during a time out in Friday’s semi final game of the Christmas Classic Tournament at Pen High. Mark Brett/Western News

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