Instead of instilling the fear of Jaws on the KVR Express, the Skaha Lake Middle School Sharks lacked an early killer instinct.
The Grade 8 boys zone basketball championship was on the line and the Sharks fell behind 10-4 early in the opening quarter.
“My guys were fired up and bought into the defensive plan. You could tell that the Skaha crew were dazed by our fierce start,” said KVR coach René Aubin. “They were used to having their way offensively but we were not willing to give them easy baskets.”
Prior to the game, a few Sharks players approached coach John Fry, including his son Kohl Limder, about how nervous they felt. The Sharks had been in tournaments before, however, they realized the importance of that final and were filled with never-felt-before jitters. Words from the coach stressing defence didn’t do the trick and offensively they missed their first five shots. With 1:30 left in the opening quarter, things began to turn around.
“We were able to climb back in,” said Fry. “I told the guys their nervousness is over. Time to go out and play their game.”
And they did, tying the game before the opening quarter ended.
The Sharks came out hungry going on a 20-4 run. KVR continued to battle but could not overcome the deficit that was built up by halftime and lost by 20 points.
“Unfortunately, once they settled in, their experience and athleticism took over and, in part due to our tough journey to make the championship, it was too much for us to handle over the course of the game,” said Aubin, whose team entered as the sixth seed and defeated the second and third place finishers to get into the final. “The final game was a celebration of our season. The players worked hard all year long to exceed early season expectations. I couldn’t be more proud for a bunch of kids than I am for these guys.”
Fry was happy for his players and the effort they put in to win. It’s something they have been preparing for since Grade 6 to win, with him coaching.
“There was excitement throughout the whole group,” added Fry, who felt that the Express played a great game. “They are very humble winners. They don’t over celebrate. That is probably more important to me in the long run.”
The Sharks coach feels the comback effort is a good learning experience. With the team now off to provincials in Pitt Meadows March 10 to 12, they will be challenged by teams expected to be stronger and bigger. The Sharks will also have to adapt to different rules.
“They have an open defence policy meaning you can do zone defences and presses and double teams which we aren’t allowed to do in our zone,” he said. “It’s quite a different game.”
Players selected to the tournament all-star team included: from KVR, Richard Xiang and Blake Holowaty; from Keremeos, Gagan Lasser; from Oliver, Raj Bahniwal; and from SLMS Colton Van Camp, Tyrell Buckley and, tournament MVP, Spencer Kingzett. Season all-star awards went to Colin Eden (KVR), Austin Basso (SOSS), Riley Ledoux (Summerland), Aman Rai (Osoyoos), Brayden Wheeler (Holy Cross), Dan Terry (McNicoll)