One thing was certain, the Heritage Christian Saints did not want to experience last year’s pain.
In 2017, the small Kelowna school lost in the provincial semifinals, before rebounding to claim the bronze medal, a school-first.
And on Saturday, they one-upped that achievement, as the No. 4 seed knocked off the No. 6 Bulkley Valley Royals 65-53 in the gold-medal game of the BC boys 1A provincial finals at the Langley Events Centre.
The Saints led virtually from start to finish, with the Royals only leading for 16 seconds and the score tied for just eight seconds.
“We had the experience from last year and we didn’t want to feel that same pain,” said Saints coach Colton Tripke.
“We didn’t want to be in that same place so we had to work harder.”
Heritage Christian had to contend with the Royals’ Saymon Loki, who picked up the most valuable player award after averaging more than 35 points per game in the championships.
And after a monster 44-point and 21-rebound effort in the semifinals, the six-foot-five forward was ‘held’ to 31 points and 24 rebounds in the finals.
“He is a great player, we knew he was going to score,” Tripke said.
“We ran out of gas. We played our five starters hard,” said Royals’ coach Chris Steenhof.
With Loki such a presence in the paint, the Saints relied upon their outside shooting, scoring just 14 of their 65 points in the paint. The bulk of the damage was done from beyond the arc as 12 of their 22 field goals were three-pointers.
Sam Bell led the way with six three-pointers and 22 points while Ben Robideau had 12 points, all of which came from beyond the arc.
Bell was a first team all-star while Joshua Weekes, who had four points, five rebounds and six assists, was a second team selection.
Heritage Christian also had a balanced attack with 15 points from Raymond Barrett and another dozen from Isaac Opuama.
“Our inside game is good but we needed that outside game going for us.,” Tripke said.
Steenhof said the Saints played Loki different than any other team all season with quick double teams.
“They are a very, very athletic team and they adjusted very quickly,” he said. “Their athleticism hurt us because they made very quick decisions and we didn’t counter.”
Bulkley Valley Christian’s Nathan Steenhof scored 16 points and was named a second team all-star.
The Royals had a tough shooting night, hitting just two of 20 three-point attempts and shot 28.4 per cent overall.
But despite the loss, the Bulkley Valley coach was thrilled with his team’s silver lining to their season.
“We overachieved this season in many ways,” he said. “Before this game, I told them no matter what, this was a victory for us.”
The championship adds to the rich basketball tradition in Kelowna.
“They have worked so hard all year for this,” Tripke said. “(And) for a small school that has four kids per grade, it just great to see.”
The Saints’ Isiah Akurienne was named the player of the game.
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