The Walnut Grove Gators were a mere four seconds away from winning the B.C. Triple A boys basketball title on their home soil.
But with 3.4 ticks left on the clock and the Gators clinging to a 74-73 lead, 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 in front of a raucous Saturday night crowd of 4,061 inside the Langley Events Centre's arena bowl.
The Gators tried desperately to get that one, final, game-winning basket of their own, but it didn't materialize.
At game's end, a jubilant bunch of Ravens from Port Coquitlam turned centre-court into a giant mosh pit as they jumped, hugged each other, and screamed with joy.
The Gators, oh-so-close to the elusive provincial title, hugged one another and their legion of fans.
Many of Gators were in tears, 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 adorned in green clothes and body paint, and who clustered at one end of the court, were vocal and emotional to the bitter end.
They chanted "Geo-rge Ber-gen" in honour of the man who led the Gators to second place in both the Fraser Valley and B.C.
"Of course it's tough. It's really tough," Bergen said, after being asked the obvious question. "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 provincial final four.
He noted that a Walnut Grove team that's only losing three Grade 12 starters 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 last quarter of the high school hoops season took players, coaches, and fans from both teams on an emotional ride, culminating with Crookes' B.C. title-winning basket.
The Gators had a somewhat sizeable 72-63 advantage with under three minutes remaining, before the Ravens stormed back.
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).
Game and Tournament MVP Ryan Sclater led the Ravens with 17 points while hauling down 11 rebounds. Crookes tallied 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 thirdteam all-star.
McKean - one of the Grade 12s who played his final match with Walnut Grove (Monsanto and Charles Luu were the others) - said he's "insanely proud" of his teammates.
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