"We have unfinished business. Plain and simple. No one liked the taste that was left in our mouth last year, and we'd like to change the flavour."
Kelowna Owls head coach Harry Parmar didn't mince any words after his team handily defeated North Vancouver's Handsworth Royals 84-54 on Friday night to advance to the Quad-A provincial finals for the second consecutive season.
Just 361 days before, the Owls had held an 18-point lead over the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers with only a few minutes left in the third quarter of the British Columbia Quad-A Provincial Finals. In what became the largest comeback in BC provincial finals history, Tweedsmuir's diamond-and-one defence combined with clutch three-point shooting resulted in a 25-0 run and gave the Panthers a 91-86 championship victory.
The Owls are led by their core of senior guards Jonathan Haughton, Ajay Gill, Malcom Greggor, and Hunter Simson. All four made big impacts on offence and defence as third-seeded Kelowna simply overpowered seventh-seeded Handsworth on both ends of the floor.
"Our tempo, our pace- we had to make sure [Handsworth] couldn't slow it down," said Parmar.
From start to finish, the Owls played suffocating defence. Their full-court pressure and aggressive double-teams wore Handsworth down until the Royals folded. A four-point lead for Kelowna after the first quarter became a forty-point lead by midway through the fourth quarter.
Friday demonstrated the brand of basketball that the Owls have been known for over the past couple of seasons. It's a '3-and-D' style that has been perfected under the tutelage of Parmar. According to Parmar, the culture he's trying to build in Kelowna is based off something much more basic.
"It's just accountability" he explained. "No excuses. We want character guys who are accountable for what they do. It's about the team first."
This mentality has gotten the Owls back into the finals, where the number one team in the province await, the Burnaby South Rebels. The Rebels have just two losses this season (against BC teams), and one of them is courtesy of Kelowna - that was at the Tsumura Basketball Invitational in December, when the Owls topped the Rebels 78-77.
But, that was before the Rebels got back 6'10' senior post player Sasha Vujisic and senior guard Emir Krupic from injuries. In February, when the Owls faced the new-look Rebels in their own gym, they were handed an 82-58 whooping. However, the Owls past experience at the provincials perhaps works in their favour ahead of Saturday's matchup.
"I think it helps that we've been through the gauntlet," said Parmar. "We're used to being in the arena." With both teams heading into the finals playing their best basketball, Saturday's finals should prove to be a competitive battle.
Written By: Aly Dhanani