Kelowna Owls coach Harry Parmar referred to a recent high school 3A basketball game against the Walnut Grove Gators as being one in which his team was out of its "comfort zone".
That the provincially No. 7-ranked Owls were humbled 95-57 makes Parmar's assessment something of an understatement. And that might be what the Gators' No. 3 ranking is as well.
Coming into 40th annual Interior Savings Western Canada Basketball Tournament on Thursday with an overall record of 20-3, the Gators are behind only the No. 1 Yale Lions of Abbotsford and the White Rock Christian Warriors of Surrey in the B.C. High School Boys Basketball Association rankings.
While having lost two tournament final matches to White Rock in January, the Gators are, in Parmar's view, a team that will be major contender for the 2013 B.C. 3A championship March 12-16 at the Langley Events Centre.
"They (Walnut Grove) are a very balanced team with plenty of depth and they're just plain fierce when he comes to defence," said Parmar, who, in his team's defence, met Walnut Grove at the Emerald Tournament in Vancouver a day after losing its top scorer in Buzz Truss (broken ankle). "They like to play transition basketball, and are very good at it.
"I have no doubt they are going to be the thick of things at provincials, and that we'll see them gearing up for that scenario at the Western Canada."
The Gators will open the storied tournament at the Owls Nest at Kelowna Secondary at 6 p.m. on Thursday against the Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs of Calgary, ranked No. 3 in Alberta.
Six-foot-four Jadon Cohee leads the Gators' attack from the guard position, averaging 18 points per game. He scored a season high 44 points in December against the No. 8-ranked W.J. Mouat Hawks of Abbotsford.
The multi-talented supporting cast includes senior forward Paul Getz, who has a 13-point per game average and contributes seven rebounds a game.
Rounding out the Gators' top three performers is do-it-all Josh Mayorga, with a solid 10 points and 10 boards per game average.
The Bulldogs will counter with an above average outside shooting game that is supplemented by an equally efficient inside game should their shooting misfire.
Churchill is led by Adonis Montford-Palomino, considered by many as the best point guard in Alberta, who played for the under-15 and U17 Alberta provincial teams.
Emmett Cooke, a 6-foot-5 point guard, averages 18 points and six boards per game. The three-year Bulldogs starter is already committed to play for the University of Calgary Dinos next season.
Meanwhile, the three-day, eight-team tournament begins at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday with B.C.'s No. 8-ranked W.J. Mouat Hawks meeting the St. Francis Xavier Rams of Edmonton, ranked No. 4 in Alberta.
The 4:15 p.m. game on Thursday will see Kitsilano Blue Demons of Vancouver (No. 4 in B.C.) taking on the Kelvin Clippers of Winnipeg, seeded eighth in Manitoba.
Following the Walnut Grove-Sir Winston Churchill matchup, the host Kelowna Owls, No. 7 in B.C., will meet the Jon Taylor Collegiate Pipers of Winnipeg, No. 9 in Manitoba starting at 8:15 p.m.
Senior Owls sweep at home tournament
The host Kelowna Owls lived up to a top billing at their own KSS Best Of The West senior girls basketball tournament on the weekend.
B.C.'s No. 6-ranked 3A team won all three games in the eight-team tournament, including an 87-52 victory over the No. 12 Yale Lions of Abbotsford.
Cassidy Kapaiwai scored 16 points and Kaitlyn Lafontaine added 13 to set the pace offensively for the Owls against Yale. Kiana Lalonde chipped in with 13 points, five rebounds and five steals, while player-of-the-game Kirsten Fisk grabbed six rebounds.
Still playing without injured starter Jaeda Stanhope, the Owls beat the unranked Prince George Polars 71-46 in their second game.
Lalonde exploded for 32 points to lead the Owls and claim the player-of-the-game honour. Brooke Briscoe added nine points and five boards while Carly Corrado had a steal, four blocks and two assists.
In a meeting that doubled as a league game, the Owls handled the Penticton Lakers 76-38, led again by Lalonde and her 20 points. Briscoe contributed 17, while Kapaiwai and Jordan Nicholas hauled in seven and six rebounds respectively.
Corrado finished with three steal and three assists.