LANGLEY — They’ve always been known for having one of the truly great nicknames in all of B.C. high school sports.
Now, Kamloops’ Westsyde Whundas can be known for something else as well: B.C. senior boys basketball champions.
Caleb Ezedebego drained the three-pointer of his life from the baseline corner with 26.5 seconds remaining to put the No. 4-seeded Whundas up 71-68 on Victoria’s Lambrick Park Lions, then teammate Caleb Meikle hit a pair of free throws to make it 73-68, icing an eventual 73-71 victory which gives the Whundas its first boys basketball championship in the school history.
“I was not calm, I just felt that I had to let it fly,” said Ezedebego, who finished his Grade 11 season with 24 points. “It felt natural to shoot it and I just felt ‘It’ll go in’ and it went in.
“Right now, this just feels amazing,” he continued. “We always joked about taking down the curling banners that are on our gym wall cause they’re the only ones on the wall. We are so excited to get our basketball banner.”
Lambrick Park head coach Ed Somers, looking to add to his B.C. record six senior varsity boys titles at the school, admitted he didn’t know a lot about the Whundas.
But he was pretty certain about one thing.
“We just knew they were one of the most physical teams we were going to play all season and that they were going to compete the entire game,” said Somers, whose team was led by the game-high 29 points of guard Wyatt Bransema Stokes, as well as 13 from Owen Jones and 11 from Alex Moch.
Yet despite coming in seeded as a potential Final Four team, Westsyde was, until Saturday, more a proud program which knew how to get to the Big Dance, and less one that knew how to grab the golden prize.
This season marked the school’s 14th time in the Double-A dance, yet its only finals appearance came when it lost in overtime to University Hill in 1982 at the Langley’s D.W. Poppy with a team that featured Kent Lapa and Eric Putoto as first-team all-stars.
In fact the odds seemed stacked against them in the fall when the boys program had trouble ,finding a head coach and was in serious jeopardy of having to fold the senior team.
That’s when Chris Gremaud, whose son Caleb is a dynamic 6-foot-5 senior on the team, put up his hand.
Out of the game for years, he brought in two younger assistants in Alex Toplak and AJ McInnis and let them run the team from a schematic and tactical standpoint.
“I give all of my credit to my assistant coaches,” said Gremaud. “They are the ones that draw up all of the plays and they are incredible.”
Only one coach is allowed to roam the sidelines and interact with the officials, and Toplak assumed that role Saturday.
And interestingly enough, after his Whundas won the B.C. title, he was greeted the media wearing socks, which also happened to be his footwear attire of choice the entire game.
“It started off at The Cities,” Toplak said. “I didn’t want to get the court dirty, so I hopped on with my socks and ever since then, it’s been a superstition and it’s just kept going.. it got us all the way here.”
Yet that it won the title with a steel-toe boot mentality only added to the strange but whimsical nature of the Whundas title, because they are team which, figuratively, aren’t afraid to step on toes to get to where they need to go on the court.
“Our team has always thrived on our physicality,” said Toplak who offensively got a game-high 26 points from his son Chris, who along with Ezedebego played all 40 minutes of the contest. “We’d never had a team that made it all the way. This is our first time, but we knew that for us, it was going to start on the defensive end, with the grind. We had to be physical and we had to make it count.”
Cailen Hamilton added 10 points while Miekle, who had struggled from the free throw line this season, hit 4-of-6 from the stripe over final two minutes to play a big role in the victory.
Added Ezedebego: “It doesn’t even feel real right now. You battle to the end. You try so hard. We’ve been wanting this for so long and we’re just so happy to get it.”
Will Whundas ever cease?
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