Gator Nation rules the hardwood
It was deja vu: same place, same situation.
In the 2012 title game at the B.C. AAA boys basketball championships at the Langley Events Centre, the Walnut Grove Gators saw a nine-point disappear as the Terry Fox Ravens rallied for a 75-74 victory at the Langley Events Centre, denying the Gators the championship.
Fast forward to Saturday night, once again at the Langley Events Centre, and this time it was the White Rock Christian Academy Warriors who went on a 9-0 run to knot the score at 53 points with less than two minutes remaining.
“Basketball is a game of peaks and valleys,” said the Gators Jadon Cohee.
“We went on a peak and they responded. We just knew if we played Gator basketball for two minutes, we would win the game.”
And Cohee delivered, executing a perfect spin to the hoop, turning away from the double-team and laying the ball in, breaking the deadlock and putting Walnut Grove up for good.
“They just kept overplaying me, so I went to a secondary move, which is the spin,” Cohee said.
The Grade 11 star finished with 22 points, four rebounds, four steals and four assists, while playing all 40 minutes. He was named player of the game, a first team all-star and the tournament’s most valuable player.
Following Cohee’s basket, Sam Shin came up with a steal on the defensive end and was fouled on his drive to the hoop. He hit one of his two free throws to make it a three-point game and after White Rock Christian missed a three-point attempt, the Gators got the rebound, forcing the Warriors to foul. Walnut Grove hit their free throws down the stretch to claim the first AAA senior boys title in both school history and among Langley schools.
It also erased the bad memories of last season’s title loss.
Coach George Bergen said the thought of last season’s defeat never even entered his mind.
“No, blocked it all out,” he said. “What was going through my mind was this is our time.
“I knew in the last few minutes, we were going to wrap it up.”
Bergen said the team was ready.
“It was like whatever doesn’t kill you, doesn’t hurt you,” he said. “It was painful last year, but it didn’t kill us.”
“A resilient group of guys; they remember what that feeling (of losing) was,” he added.
Gary Ahuja/Langley Times
Walnut Grove's Jadon Cohee (photo right) scored 22 points to lead his team to a 59-53 victory over the White Rock Christian Academy Warriors at the Langley Events Centre.
“Coming into this year, we knew what the feeling was like and we were not going to let it happen again,” said Cohee. “We were not going to go through that twice."
“This year, we were so hungry for it,” said Paul Getz, one of the team’s eight graduating seniors. Getz, who battled foul trouble, had nine points and five rebounds. He was also one of five players who were each awarded a $2,000 Telus scholarship.
“We just rallied together and just had to go out and give it everything,” Getz said. “This is the moment of my life.”
Josh Mayorga wasn’t with the Gators last season, but his family moved to Walnut Grove from Ontario. And the graduating senior — a first team all-star — said he felt his teammates pain from 2012.
“I heard about it so much I started to feel like I was there,” he said. “I shared that with them (and) didn’t want to let them down.”
Mayorga finished the final with eight points and eight rebounds.
Walnut Grove began the season as the pre-season No. 1, but were knocked out of that perch after an early season 59-56 loss to the Gleneagle Talons in exhibition play.
The Gators only lost twice more, and both times it came at the hands of White Rock Christian in a pair of tournament championship games in January.
But since a visit with a sports psychologist the following month, the Gators have not lost a game, finishing the season with a 32-3 record against Canadian competition.
Included in that was a 73-64 victory over White Rock Christian Academy in the Fraser Valley championship game.
“They worked their butts off this summer and fall and rightfully deserve this (championship),” Bergen said.
“I couldn’t be more prouder; a great group of guys.
“Never bitched or complained about practice, so what else could a coach dream for?”
With the victory, Bergen became just the third person to win a B.C. AAA boys title as both a player and a coach.
Bergen helped the MEI Eagles win the title in 1970.
The other two to pull off the double-double are Bill Garner and Stan Stewardson.
Garner won a title as a player in 1950 with Duke of Connaught and as coach of the 1966 champions from Victoria.
Stewardson was on the 1956 squad from Lester Pearson and then was at the helm of the North Delta team which won the title in 1976.
Gary Ahuja/Langley Times
Walnut Grove’s Sam Shin (photo below) drives to the hoop against the defence of White Rock Christian Academy’s Tyus Allen (right) and Peter Spanghel.