Kelowna Owls hope to win big as they host the Interior Savings Western Canada Basketball Tournament this weekend.
Picture this: pristine mountains with snowy white caps surround a sea of black and gold fans. If you call the not-so-small town of Kelowna home, you know exactly what we’re talking about: the Interior Savings Western Canada Basketball Tournament.
Celebrating 45 spectacular years of all things basketball, the tournament invites a selection of the top teams in Western Canada to duke it out at the three day event hosted by Kelowna Secondary School (KSS).
“The tournament has a significant impact on our community. Having several teams from out of town is a positive benefit to our local economy,” says Kelowna Mayor, Colin Basran. “Watching some of the best high school basketball teams is also inspiring for our young athletes, who will be compelled to work hard and continue living a healthy lifestyle as they grow.”
Mayor Basran commends the tournament for creating a sense of pride in the Kelowna community, which is very evident by the number of devoted fans who attend each year donning their home team swag.
“Community wise, you’ll see tonight that there will be over 2500 people in the gym. They come from all over—Vernon, Salmon Arm, Keremeos, Oliver—it’s just not KSS kids. But there’s a big spirit that happens this weekend. It seems like they always call it Western Canada weekend,” says Kelowna Owls senior boys head coach Harry Parmar.
Parmar has spread his coaching wings for 14 seasons with the Owls and expects nothing less than a win for his team. As far as hosting goes, he embraces the strong bond that the community shares with this tournament.
“It’s great. It involves a lot of people, not just the basketball community. So for instance, we have a song that the media arts kids did. The ME to WE kids are ambassadors. The junior basketball is involved as well. And it’s a good representation of KSS.”
It’s no surprise that the tournament was recently inducted into the Central Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame.
“It’s become a pillar of an event here in Kelowna,” says Don Walker, who is in his 29th year as a tournament co-director. “It was founded 45 years ago by the coach and Vice Principal at the time, Jack May. He started it and built it up and it’s just kind of continued to evolve. You look in the stands and there are people who have been here and probably caught all 45 years of it - they never miss a game.”
Dave Reynolds, who has been a co-director for the tournament for 15 years, truly admires the school atmosphere. Just walk through the halls leading up to the gym and you’ll see black and gold balloons, face painting tables, and families with little ones even sporting the iconic KSS colours.
“It’s just the spirit that it kind of brings out in so many of the students, the staff members, and the community just in general. Plus, it’s some really good basketball,” says Reynolds.
Kelowna sits beautifully along the shores of Okanagan Lake and is populated by nearly 130,000 people. The community itself is diverse and inclusive to all visitors, and is always accepting of those who may want to call the town a permanent home.
It’s easy to feel the warmth of each person who sits in the bleachers watching as both girls and boys at all levels partake in this wonderful basketball event.
“I have attended the tournament a few times over the past years and always enjoy seeing how many people come to the games to cheer on our KSS Owls,” says Mayor Basran. “The gym is always packed, many fans are dressed up in black and gold and the energy level in the gym when the Owls are on the court is off the charts! I know the Owls players always look forward to tournament time and for many, it’s the highlight of their sporting lives.”
If you’re feeling spontaneous, take a drive up to the lovely city of Kelowna to watch the Interior Western Canada Basketball Tournament, happening now until Saturday, February 3rd.
Written by: Crystal Scuor