As a fan for many years, then as a player in 2017, Matt Williamson has experienced firsthand the hype and hoopla that accompanies the Interior Savings Western Canada Basketball Tournament.
With all eyes being on the host Owls this week in Kelowna, the KSS captain stressed the need for his teammates to just relax and embrace the experience.
“Just enjoy it,” said Williamson, the 6-foot guard Owls’ guard. “It’s a big weekend for us but it should be a fun weekend. The school is going to be there to support us, so we don’t need to put too much pressure on ourselves.
“Don’t over-think it, just go out, play basketball and execute.”
The Owls will tip off the 45th edition of the storied tourney Thursday at 7:30 p.m. against Winnipeg’s Vincent Massey, the No. 2-ranked team in Manitoba.
The field also features B.C.’s top-two ranked teams in Oak Bay and Semiamhoo, and Edmonton Harry Ainlay, the No. 1 squad out of Alberta, as the tournament has once again drawn many of the best teams in Western Canada.
“There are no easy games, that’s the way it’s always been at this tournament,” said Owls coach Harry Parmar, who is coaching at the WCBT for the 11th straight year. “We’re going to get three tough games, it would be nice to get back to the final again, but we’ll have to play really well to do that.”
The Owls have been rather adept at making the finals in recent times—six of the last seven years—including winning it all in both 2015 and 2016, and finishing second last year.
Ranked No. 10 among B.C. AAAA teams this season, KSS is beginning to get healthy after struggling with some key injuries this season. Consequently, their best basketball has come in the last few weeks, including three consecutive victories at the Snowball Classic in Abbotsford.
Not an overly big team, averaging around 6-foot-2 per player, the Owls are often out-rebounded by other teams, so need to compensate with their shooting, team defense and execution, according to Parmar.
As always, Parmar looks at the WCBT as an annual event for his Owls to enjoy and also use as a tune-up for the final five weeks of the season heading towards provincials.
“The guys have been doing a lot of good things lately, they’re working hard and I think they might start surprising some people,” said Parmar. “The guys are always excited (for the tournament), they might have a little trouble sleeping this week, but once they get to the gym, it’s just basketball. Just play the game one possession to the next.”
Thursday, Feb. 1—Opening games
1:45 p.m.—Oak Bay Oaks vs Saskatoon Marion Graham 3:30 p.m.—Edmonton Harry Ainlay vs South Kamloops 5:15 p.m.—W.J. Mouat Hawks vs Semiamhoo 7:30 p.m.—KSS Owls vs Winnipeg Vincent Massey
A girls tournament, featuring host KSS, Duchess Park, Harry Ainlay and South Kamloops, will run in conjunction with the WCBT.