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Gators outlast Crusaders to win bronze
The Walnut Grove Gators scored 40 points in their semifinal loss to the Gleneagle Talons.
By comparison, the next night, Gators star guard Jadon Cohee went off for 32 points on his own in a dramatic 66-65 victory over the Holy Cross Crusaders.
The teams were playing in the bronze medal game of the Quad-A senior boys Fraser Valley basketball championships at the Langley Events Centre on Saturday night.
“It was really important, especially coming off a game like last night,” Cohee said.
The night before, the Gleneagle Talons used a box-and-one defence to defeat the Gators 64-40.
The Talons and Gators have played four times over the season, with each winning twice. But Glenagle has won the last two.
The box-and-one defence is a hybrid between a zone defence and man-to-man defence where four players are responsible for certain areas of the court while the fifth marks the opposition’s top player, in this case Cohee.
Cohee said the Gators held a team meeting the day of their game against Holy Cross and some early success on the offensive end allowed them to race out to a 13-3 lead and forced the Crusaders out of the defence.
The Gators took a 37-29 lead into halftime but Holy Cross had cut the deficit to one point, 51-50 after three quarters, setting up a back-and-forth final period.
And after Holy Cross went up by a couple points late in the fourth, Walnut Grove battled back and Cohee sunk the winning basket with less than a minute to play.
The Crusaders had the ball in the final seconds and a good look at the basket, but the shot attempt rolled around the rim and stayed out.
The fourth quarter offence was almost entirely handled by Cohee (seven points) and Tyler Anderson, who also scored seven points as the team’s low-post presence. Anderson finished with 15 points while Bryce Derton chipped in with 11.
Cohee (first team) and Derton (second team) earned all-stars for the Gators.
It was the first meeting between the two teams who entered the Fraser Valley tournament ranked third (Holy Cross) and fifth (Walnut Grove) in the province.
“The key was to play hard and keep them off the boards and I thought we did a pretty good job of that, considering their height,” Cohee said of the athletic and lanky Crusaders squad.
Walnut Grove coach George Bergen said it was important for his team to put the Gleneagle loss behind them.
“It was a clunker,” he said.
“We put it in the bag and zipped it up and forgot about it.”
He was happy with his team’s response although he did stress that more communication was needed on the defensive end.
“Defensively, our zone had them flustered most of the game,” Bergen said.
“We have to work on certain things in the zone (and) most of it has to do with, believe it or not, a very simple thing: communication.
“We need to talk out there.”
The victory has the Gators seeded fourth for next week’s Quad-A basketball championships at the Langley Events Centre (March 12 to 15).
Going in on a winning note is important.
“We wanted to build momentum,” said Lucas Hodgson.
“We had a tough loss and we needed the momentum (with 10 days off between games).”
Walnut Grove opens against No. 13 Queen Charlotte on Wednesday morning (8:30 a.m.)
The Gators won the Triple-A provincial title last season and while they were one of just a trio of heavy favourites, this year sees a lot more teams in the mix.
“I think it is going to be an incredible war in the last two or three nights,” Bergen said. “It will be tighter than ever.
“This year there are probably eight or 10 teams that can win it,” Cohee added.
“We can play with anyone in the province.”
The Gators are 31-6 and all six of the team’s defeats came at the hands of four teams who are all on the other side of the draw at provincials.