Jake Cowley was determined to play in his final high school basketball game.
Cowley, a six-foot-nine forward for the Walnut Grove Gators entered the BC 4A provincial championships already hobbled, having rolled his right ankle last month at the Fraser Valley championships.
And then in the first quarter of the quarter-finals at the provincial tournament at the Langley Events Centre, Cowley rolled his left ankle. The damage was severe enough that he missed the team’s semifinal game, designated to the bench and his role changed from towering inside presence to cheerleader.
Head coach George Bergen had said after Friday’s semifinals, a 90-58 win over Holy Cross, that Cowley would not be playing in Saturday’s championship final.
But there he was in the opening line-up of Saturday’s gold-medal game against the Kelowna Owls.
His numbers were well below a normal game — Cowley averaged about 20 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks during the season — as he scored just six points, but more importantly, he clogged the lane for when the Owls tried to go inside and he pulled down 16 rebounds, 14 of which came on the defensive end.
The Gators would win the provincial title with a 78-65 win over Kelowna.
After the game, the pain was evident as Cowley grimaced as he made his way on stage to accept his gold medal, as well as afterwards as he climbed the ladder for his turn to snip away a part of the netting, as per championship tradition.
Bergen joked that Cowley had gone into the woods and visited a shaman, who performed a miracle job on the ankle.
But in reality, it was the work of some physiotherapists who made the difference.
“I was ready to do anything I could to play,” a smiling Cowley said.
“There was nothing that was going to stop me from playing this game today.
“My leg could have been broken but I was still going to play.”
Cowley went to 3 Peaks Health in Langley to see Paul Turner and he also went to the Richmond Olympic Oval on Saturday morning for physiotherapy and acupuncture with Jason Birring.
Cowley had a hard time coming up with words to describe his emotions after the game.
“It was a pretty surreal experience,” he said. “I have been watching this tournament since I was a kid and it was just an unreal experience.”