A sold-out crowd is expected to fill the Kelowna Secondary School gymnasium bleachers tonight, as the host Owls put their new-look lineup to its first major test.
Although they're coming off a pair of Okanagan Valley league wins over Penticton (79-38) and Salmon Arm (81-35) in the past four days, KSS will be meeting much more competitive opponents this weekend at the 40th annual Interior Savings Western Canada Basketball Tournament.
Up first for the Owls will be the Jon Taylor Collegiate Pipers of Winnipeg (8:15 p.m.), the No. 9-ranked team in Manitoba. Billed as a defensive-minded, well-rounded team that relies heavily on a quick transition, the Pipers appear to be what fans at the loud and crowded Owls' Nest will see in their home team.
That's more evident now because the Black and Gold will be without their top scorer in forward Buzz Truss, who broke his ankle two weekends ago. The Owls have also lost a starting guard in John Katerberg to an eligibility issue.
"We've had to make some adjustments, so it's still a work in progress, but this will be an excellent opportunity for us to see just what kind of shape we're in heading into the final weeks of the league schedule and into the playoffs," said Owls coach Harry Parmar.
Parmar said Wednesday that Braden Hall, will get the nod as the fifth starter for the Owls in the place of Truss.
The 6-foot-1 Grade 11 guard won the battle for the spot over Liam McGoran and Elijah Cato on the strength of his performance in practice and in the past two league games. Parmar says his team wouldn't lose a step with either of the latter two should they be called upon for important minutes this weekend.
Parmar will be looking to his other four starters to pick up some the void left by Truss. A key might be 6-foot-6, 215-pound post Darrion Bunce.
"There's no doubt we have to give Darrion more touches, so he has more good looks," admitted Parmar. "I'm sure he'll be up to the added responsibility."
The eight-team tournament gets under way at 2:30 p.m. today with the No. 4-ranked St. Francis Xavier Rams of Edmonton taking on B.C.'s No. 8 W.J. Mouat Hawks of Abbotsford. The Kelvin Clippers (No. 8) of Winnipeg meet the Kitsilano Blue Demons, the No. 5-ranked team in B.C., at 4:15 p.m.
The Walnut Grove Gators of Langley, seeded No. 3 in the province, will play the Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs of Calgary starting at 6 p.m. And the always-popular slam dunk contest is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
For a full tournament schedule, go online to www.kss.sd23.bc.ca