Walnut Grove and Terry Fox set to clash in B.C. AAA final
Semifinal #1: Walnut Grove vs Vancouver College
NPH Top Performers
- Ethan McKean: 18 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals
- Jadon Cohee: 14 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists
- Paul Getz: 10 points, 5 rebounds
- Cole Penman: 25 points, 6 rebounds
- Isaiah Solomon: 18 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists
Langley, B.C. — Everyone’s eyes were transfixed on Jadon Cohee.
The grade-10 hoop prodigy for the Walnut Grove Gators was absolutely torching the Vancouver College Fighting Irish, his young legs spurring him on to finish the game as the only Gator not to get a breather.
A humble 1-for-4 outing in the first quarter, then an eight-point explosion in second, Cohee began to turn heads as he continuously slithered his lanky frame around the tough Fighting Irish defence.
But the young 6-3 guard got quiet in the second half while his veteran back court counterpart Ethan McKean; who had quietly been having his biggest game of the tourney, emerged in the fourth and completely took over.
It was a McKean three, followed by a steal, and finally another three for the senior guard that put the Gators up 61-58 and effectively closed the doors on Vancouver College’s chance for redemption at the B.C. Triple-A boys championship.
“I just love it, I love the big game moments,” said McKean after his Gators had just beat the Fighting Irish 61-60 in the provincial semifinals on Friday, Mar. 15 at the Langley Events Centre (LEC).
“That’s what I dream about.”
He finished with 18 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four steals in the game, providing the senior leadership that the Gators desperately needed in the final minutes.
Vancouver College held a slim 18-16 at the end of the first quarter as point guard Isaiah Solomon scored in bunches – tough layups, pull up jumpers, and a few freebies from the line.
Solomon continued to put the Irish on his back, scoring 18 by halftime, while sharpshooting guard Cole Penman struggled to find his footing from the field.
Penman, set to suit up for the CIS national champion Carleton Ravens next year, went just 1-7 in the first half and was noticeably frustrated – barking at himself after each errant attempt.
A closely fought third frame saw the Gators head into the fourth with 47-41 advantage, but Penman did his best to spoil Walnut Grove’s night in their hometown.
The 6-3 combo guard dropped 16 points in the final frame on 75 per cent shooting, and knotted the score up at 58 with just under three minutes left in the match.
After McKean’s monster three ball, Penman got hacked on the other end and calmly nailed both free throws, bringing the Irish to within one.
Vancouver College eventually got the ball back after the Grove came up with nothing offensively, but Solomon barely missed a mid-range pull up at the buzzer – sealing the fate of both squads.
Penman finished with 25 points, while Solomon added 18 and 11 assists for the Irish. Cohee tallied 14 points and six rebounds for the Gators.
“All year we’ve sort of been inexperienced,” said McKean, still beaming from his player of the game honours. “We’ve got Jadon as a grade 10, then nine grade 11’s and only three seniors. But us three seniors, we keep it going – we’re leaders out there.”
Vancouver College, a school who hasn’t won a ‘ship since 1967, was dealt a result that’s been all too familiar for the perennial powerhouses. In the last five years, the Fighting Irish have finished second, third, second, third and third.
Reporters surrounded Walnut Grove head coach George Bergen after the electrifying victory, hoping for an eloquent spiel of quotes, but received much less.
“One word: Unbelievable.”
Semifinal #2: Terry Fox vs White Rock Christian Academy
NPH Top Performers
- Jesse Crookes: 18 points, 5 rebounds
- Trevor Casey: 15 points, 6 rebounds
- Ryan Sclater: 12 points, 10 rebounds
- Tanner Moss: 15 points, 5-6 3PFG
White Rock Christian Academy
- Jake Newman: 21 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals
- Kristophe Baerg: 17 points, 3 assists, 2 steals
- Tyus Allen: 13 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists
As the Terry Fox Ravens remained poised and focused in the final two quarters of Friday’s other semifinal matchup, head coach Steve Hanson was screaming, jumping, and waiving his hands frantically throughout the second half.
His team was steadily handling every bit of adversity on the court – although too calmly for his liking.
“I saw our energy sagging a bit so I became a bit of a spaz on purpose,” said Hanson, a former Raven himself back in the early 1990’s.
His squad had been outscored in both the third and fourth quarters, but had built too big of a lead in the first half and held on for a 73-64 victory over the White Rock Christian Academy Warriors, Friday, Mar. 15 at the LEC.
Ravens forward forward Trevor Casey banged and bullied his way to 15 points and six rebounds, while 6-7 wing Ryan Sclater put up 12 and 10.
But it was 6-4 guard Tanner Moss who made the difference for the Ravens, scoring all of his 15 points, all three-pointers, in the second quarter.
Fox’s offence got a little stagnant after Moss’s lights-out performance in the second, but Sclater, Casey, and the Raven’s size and length that kept them unscathed after each attempted Warrior comeback.
“We just had a long stretch where we didn’t execute on offence. I knew we were going to dry up a little bit from the three, but we just had to buckle down,” said Hanson. “But really, what we just did was defend. We defended in the fourth quarter and that’s why we won.”
WRCA’s Jake Newman, a lanky 6-7 offensive force (who Basketball BC’s Jay Deo compared to Seinfeld’s Newman, always plotting against Jerry Fox), scored 21 points in the loss, while guard Kristophe Baerg added 17 and workhorse point guard Tyus Allen chipped in 13.
Terry Fox now faces off with Walnut Grove in a rematch of the Fraser Valley zone semifinals, a game that the Gators won 80-64. That contest was held at the same venue that will host tomorrow’s final, in the Gator’s hometown of Langley.
“I have a lot of respect for George Bergen and his group of guys,” said Hanson. “They’re by far the toughest team we’ve played all year. They’re undersized but they play as big as anybody in the province. We’ve got our hands full, and last time we played it wasn’t very close, so we hope to make it a bit of a game tomorrow.”
So as the spotlights in the LEC will shine bright on each and every player in tomorrow’s final, illuminating their achievements while the jumbotron magnifies their mistakes, each squad is as confident as ever.
“We’ve come together so strong for the B.C.’s,” said Sclater. “Coming off some tough losses at the Fraser Valleys, we’ve just pulled together so strong and we’re playing our best basketball of the year right now.”
What about the young Cohee? Is he nervous?
“No. No. I’m just ready. I just want to play. I get a little anxious, but I just come to play. I don’t get nervous.”
And then there’s McKean, Friday’s hero for the hometown favourite. I asked him before the second semifinal matchup who he would rather play.
“I honestly don’t care. We’re 3-0 against Terry Fox and haven’t played White Rock. Best of luck to both of them but we’re winning tomorrow.”
While each of the major players exude confidence, whether it’s for real or just an effort to mask nerves, Hanson acknowledges that no matter how he personally feels about taking the province’s biggest stage, it’s the boys within the 94 feet of hardwood that decide the outcome.
“It hasn’t hit me yet. It’s overwhelming, and as coaches, we’ve been preaching stuff all year – but this weekend the players have taken over.”
The final tips off just after 8pm at the LEC.