The Walnut Grove Gators were four seconds away from winning the B.C. Triple A boys basketball title on home turf.
But with 3.4 ticks left on the clock and the Gators leading 74-73, Terry Fox Ravens’ sharpshooter Jesse Crookes drove a stake through the hearts of Gator Nation.
Crookes’ 10-foot basket put the Ravens ahead 75-74.
The Gators tried desperately to get that one, final, game-winning basket of their own, but it didn’t materialize.
A jubilant group of Ravens from Port Coquitlam turned centre-court into a giant mosh pit as they jumped, hugged each other, and screamed in joy.
The Gators, oh-so-close to the elusive provincial title, hugged one another and their fans.
Many of them cried, too, including their head coach George Bergen. The veteran bench boss didn’t hide his emotions, as he consoled his young charges.
Gator Nation, the group of Walnut Grove Secondary students who dressed in green and clustered at one end of the court, were vocal and emotional to the bitter end.
They chanted “Geo-rge Ber-gen” and clapped their hands in unison, in honour of the man who has led the Gators to both second place in the Fraser Valley and in B.C.
“Of course it’s tough. It’s really tough,” Bergen said. “We’ve worked a long time, a long journey of a lot of different things, from skill development to strength training. We really worked our tails off. We’re not an all-star team, we are a bunch of locals.”
Bergen said both teams played “extremely well,” adding that one team has to win and one team has to lose.
“They made the final shot and so be it, right?”
Bergen believed his team had the potential to make the final four and said a Walnut Grove team that’s only losing three players has a new goal to strive for next season.
“They better know that they’re going for it next year,” Bergen said.
The teams took turns taking the lead. Terry Fox led 34-32 at halftime; Walnut Grove carried a 54-52 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Gators had a somewhat sizeable 72-63 lead with under three minutes remaining in the game, before the Ravens stormed back.
The last quarter of the high school hoops season took players, coaches, and fans on an emotional ride, culminating with Crookes’ provincial championship winning basket.
Grade 10 guard Jadon Cohee led the Gators with a game-high 25 points. Other Gators hitting double-figures in points were Paul Getz (13), as well as Ethan McKean, De’Sean Monsanto, and Brad Hoffman (10 each).
Tournament MVP Ryan Sclater led the Ravens with 17 points and hauled in 11 rebounds. Crookes scored 16 for Terry Fox.
The Gators were rewarded for their fine efforts.
Cohee made the provincial first all-star team, McKean was a second-team all-star, and Monsanto, who was named the best defensive player of the tournament, got the nod as a third-team all-star.
McKean said he’s “insanely proud” of his teammates.
“We knew we were a top-tier team all year, but second place is an accomplishment and I’m proud of the boys,” he said. “We actually play as a team and we all love each other. We’re brothers. I’ll never forget these guys.”
Playing in front of a three-quarters full LEC arena bowl, which has a capacity of 5,500 fans, was a crazy experience, McKean said.
“LEC put it together nice,” he said. “It was a big, big experience.”
McKean said it’ll take a while to take the sting from the loss away.
“As of now, it feels terrible,” he said. “Give it a couple weeks, a month, and second place is a great accomplishment.”