‘Terry Fox never gave up’: Sclater
As tough as Walnut Grove was to crack Saturday night, Terry Fox Ravens’ guard Jesse Crookes shattered the Langley school’s hopes with one gigantic, last-gasp strike.
Crookes connected on a 15-foot jumper with 3.4 seconds remaining to give No. 5-ranked Fox an astounding 75-74 victory over the gritty No. 6-seeded Walnut Grove Gators before 4,061 fans at their hometown Langley Events Centre, in what was immediately being billed as one of the most thrilling B.C. AAA senior boys high school basketball championship games ever.
The victory, which came after the Ravens overcame a seven-point deficit with two minutes remaining, gave Fox its third provincial boys hoop crown ever and it first since winning back-to-back titles in 1993 and ’94.
“I didn’t think I’d see that last shot but I got it, I hit it,” crowed Crookes, who had the ball kicked out to him after a wild scramble with time ticking down under the Gators’ hoop. “I’m just so excited right now, words can’t describe.”
Words were also at a premium for first-year Fox head coach Steve Hanson.
“What just happened? What just happened?” Hanson asked a pack of reporters gathered courtside.
“That’s all.... this won’t hit me for another month, I think.
“This is just nuts. It’s a blur.
“Our guys just out-willed them a little bit at the end.”
Six-foot-seven post Ryan Sclater spurred the Ravens with a team-high 17 points on eight-of-10 shooting from the field and also hauled down a game-high 11 rebounds. He led the Ravens in scoring in three of their four tournament games and was fittingly chosen MVP for the provincials.
Unlike Crookes and Hanson, the ever-driven Sclater found precisely the words he wanted to describe his feelings.
“It’s been such a long journey with this great group of guys. I love everybody out here, man,” an emotional Sclater told The Tri-City News shortly after being mobbed by adoring fans and family. “In the locker room, every day we hear ‘Terry Fox never gave up, Terry Fox never gave up.’ We play with his name on our jerseys and here we are, champions.”
Hanson said Sclater took it upon himself to tackle his Gators’ nemesis, six-foot-four Paul Getz, who gave Sclater fits in the teams’ previous three meetings this season, all won by Walnut Grove. The Grade 11 Getz was second in Gators’ scoring with 13 points.
“In the three losses, he had a really tough time,” Hanson said of Sclater, who unquestionably led all players in floor burns after he repeatedly sacrificed his body on the hardwood for ball possession. “Paul Getz is an amazing defender. At six-four, he plays like he’s six-nine. He gave Ryan all he could handle the first three games and Ryan was focused and stepped up tonight.”
Crookes finished with 16 points, including three treys, with Daniel Collins and Trevor Casey added 13 and 10 respectively for the winners, who trailed 72-63 before surging to out-gun the Gators 12-2 down the stretch.
The finish overshadowed a brilliant performance by Gators’ Grade 10 do-all star Jadon Cohee, who ended with a game-high 25 points.
The seesaw game featured 18 lead changes — 14 in the second half alone — with Walnut Grove holding the biggest margin at 72-63 before the Ravens’ late surge.
Looking ahead to next season, four of Fox’s five starters are set to graduate while the Gators’ future looks extremely bright as they return Cohee along with eight other players on their 12-man roster.
• TIP INS: Venerable former Fox co-coach Rich Chambers — now head coach of the University of Victoria Vikes women’s squad — was in attendance and called the game “the best provincial final I’ve ever seen.” His long-time sidekick, Don Van Os, missed the thriller, as he was on vacation.