The Walnut Grove Gators hung for three quarters with the St. Michael’s Blue Raiders from Toronto, but the Ontario squad took over in the fourth to win 82-67 and capture the Snowball Classic championship on Saturday night.
The Gators led 44-43 at the half and 63-61 after three quarters, but St. Michael’s went on an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter to cruise to the win.
It’s the first-ever appearance for the Blue Raiders at the event and the second straight year that Walnut Grove has played in the event’s final. They took home the top prize in 2017.
Blue Raiders head coach Jeff Zownir said similar to his team’s other two games at the event, it was a battle.
“Both teams played really hard and I think there was a little fatigue at the end because shooting really dried up for both teams,” he said.
Zownir said his team finally managed to slow down Gators stars James Woods and Jarrett Jacobs by the fourth quarter.
“We tried to wear down their guys [Woods and Jacobs] and in the second half we got a little smarter and made everything more difficult for them,” he said. “With Jacobs, our scouting report said he’s left-handed but early in the game we did five straight drives to his left so I felt like we were beating ourselves a bit with our defending.”
He added that he was impressed with the level of play of basketball in B.C., and he’d gladly come back next year to defend the Snowball title.
“In Ontario we have a lot of teams that are athletic but the skill for the game out here is really high,” he said. “Every team seems to have at least one great shooter. But, anytime they want us to come back we’d love to be back. The atmosphere for the games is just fantastic and the organizers treated us really well.”
The Blue Raiders defeated the host Abbotsford Panthers 81-65 on Thursday, and then beat Burnaby South 79-71 on Friday.
Saturday’s third place game saw Brentwood College defeat Burnaby South 70-49. The Kelowna Owls edged the W.J. Mouat Hawks 91-90 in the fifth place game.
The Hawks opened the tournament with an 82-62 win over North Delta on Thursday, but then fell 76-68 to South Burnaby later that day.
Mouat bounced back with a 82-74 win over Abbotsford Senior on Friday before dropping the fifth place game on Saturday.
The host Panthers kicked off the tournament on Wednesday with a 94-83 win over the Robert Bateman Timberwolves. Abby closed off the tournament with a 94-86 loss to the MEI Eagles on Saturday.
The Yale Lions opened the tournament with losses to Kelowna (84-47) on Thursday and St. George’s (100-55) on Friday, but then beat Robert Bateman 81-61 on Saturday.
The Eagles took down St. George’s 82-73 on Thursday, but then lost to Walnut Grove (106-80) later that day and then fell 106-96 to Kelowna.
Inaki Alvarez of the Blue Raiders was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
The following players were named all-stars: Ben Stonkus (St. Michael’s), Kyle Duke-Simpson (St. Michael’s), James Woods (Walnut Grove), Jarrett Jacobs (Walnut Grove), Nathan Pasloske (Brentwood), Somto Dimonachie (Brentwood), Jusuf Sehic (Burnaby South), Matt Williamson (Kelowna) and Harvir Garcha (Mouat).
Mouat’s Sukhi Kang earned the Best of Abbotsford scholarship from the Abbotsford Basketball Association for his efforts.
For complete results from the event, visit snowballbasketball.com.