Jake Cowley and the No. 1 Walnut Grove Gators beat the No. 2 Kelowna Owls in the Western Canada final on Saturday. (Howard Tsumura/VarsityLetters.ca)
Feature High School Boys Basketball

Walnut Grove’s Cowley on Gators vs. Owls rivalry

LANGLEY — Snow day!

For every battered and bruised player in the B.C. high school basketball world, those are sweet words indeed.

Jake Cowley got one of those day on Monday, and while it was good news for the senior big man with Langley’s No. 1 Quad A-ranked Walnut Grove Gators, his day wasn’t exactly a repeat of the adventures of Ferris Bueller.

“First I had to catch up on school work and so that took priority most of the day,” the 6-foot-9 Cowley reported in the late afternoon. “Now I am just icing, trying to relax a bit, making sure my body gets back to normal after a hard tournament.”

Cowley, of course, was referring to this past weekend’s Kelowna Owls-hosted Western Canada Invitational, the last major tourney stop on the senior varsity calendar before the start this week of league playoffs.

And when the topic got around to his Gators, and their incredible rivalry this season with the No. 2-ranked Kelowna Owls, Cowley took an expected deep breath.

“It’s very unique just because we have played them so many times,” he said of the Owls, whom the Gators beat 73-68 in the Western Canada championship final, their fourth victory in four meetings this season over the defending B.C. champions.

“When you play a team that many times, you not only know their stars, you know what every one of their role players does. The amount of focus just gets unreal.”

The last three meetings have been incredibly close, yet the Gators have somehow found a way to win them all.

The Gators beat the Owls 83-63 in the championship final of the Tsumura Basketball Invitational on Dec. 10. After that, every game has been within six points.

Walnut Grove beat Kelowna 68-64 at the Terry Fox Legal Beagle on Jan. 7, 90-84 at the Abbotsford Snowball on Jan. 14 and then 73-68 this past weekend at the Western Canada.

In the most recent affair, Cowley was especially potent, scoring 27 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in the win. He went 9-of-11 from the free throw line. Andrew Goertzen had 16 points and 17 rebounds. Kelowna guard Mason Bourcier, the tourney MVP, had 36 points and 12 rebounds while post Owen Keyes had 19 points and 13 rebounds.

It certainly wasn’t an easy win based on the supportive crowds the Owls draw each year at the tournament.

“That is a very tough gym to go in and try to win a game with all of their crazy fans,” said Cowley. “So all of our focus in the pregame goes into that. It’s intense every time we play them, but it’s a fun rivalry.”

The Gators’ Grade 12s will say farewell to their home gym Tuesday when they play host to Abbotsford’s W.J. Mouat Hawks on their Seniors Night.

After that, it’s all about the post season.

And if meeting No. 5 is going to happen between the Gators and the Owls, it’s going to happen at the Langley Events Centre-hosted B.C. Quad-A championships in March.

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