The Okanagan Valley Champion Rutland Voodoos. Back Row (left to right): Brian Wambacher (coach), Jeff Balkenhol (coach), Arjan Thouli, Austin Shreeves, Prabthej Deol, Ty Baskin, Tanner Balkenhol, Brenden Aylard, Josh Dorf (coach). Front Row: Robin Loney, Eric Wambacher, Brandon Porter, Marcus Strother, Isaac Young. Missing are Alex Thompson and Austin Lowen. - Image: Contributed

Salmon Arm, Penticton fall short in basketball valleys

Rutland upset KSS in the final to earn its first valley win in 40 years

For the first time in 40 years, the Rutland Senior Secondary Voodoos have won the Okanagan Valley senior boys basketball championships.

Marcus Strother was named tournament MVP and fellow Voodoo Eric Wambacher was named a tournament all-star as RSS defeated cross-town rival KSS in the tournament final to claim the win in the event hosted by Salmon Arm.

Rutland, Salmon Arm, KSS and Penticton High played in the event with RSS advancing to the final with a win over Salmon Arm and KSS getting to the final with a victory over Pen High.

“This has been a long time coming for RSS,” said an elated head coach Jeff Balkenhol. “You have to go back to 1977 and the team consisting of Ken Anderson, Dave Leadbetter and Bob Osbourne. The 1977 Voodoos won valleys and still hold the highest ever score at the Western Canada Tournament with a 115 points in the final to win it.”

Balkenhol said it was an intense effort from his team that led to the victory.

“​I have never seen so many players diving for balls and making the extra effort to get the win. I can’t even tell you how proud Josh Dorf, Brian Wambacher and myself are of this amazing group of young men that we have coached this season,” he said.

RSS got off to a slow start this season, opening with only one win in its first five games including losses to Penticton and KSS. By the middle of the season they were turning it around with a 5-4 record including tournament and league play.

But it was since Christmas that the team showed it had the heart and skill to compete for the valley championship. RSS was 12-2 post Christmas including back to back tournament wins at the Salmon Arm tournament and their own Okanagan Hardcourt Classic at RSS.

The teams only league loss came at the hands of KSS and they entered the valley championship as the second seed.

In their opening game RSS played the host Salmon Arm Golds. The Voodoos got out to an early 14-4 lead and went into the dressing room at the half with the score 41-24 RSS. The Voodoos led wire to wire with the final score 70-57.

KSS players Parker Johnstone and Hunter Simpson were also named tournament all stars.

RSS now heads to the senior boys AAAA basketball provincials in Langley.

“The job is not done. We will use the next nine days to prepare for the AAAA Provincials March 7 to 10 in Langley,” said Balkenhol.

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