After three long years, the Western Canada Tournament returned to the Owls Den at Kelowna Secondary School. The long-awaited day one was a tremendous success featuring top B.C. programs backed by a great fan turnout. Families and students filled the gym throughout the day and brought an energy synonymous with the tournament.
The tournament, which made its debut in 1975, was directed by Jack May, an inductee of the B.C. Basketball Hall of Fame. Shortly after, Jack Hoy, the longtime coach of the Kelowna Owls, helped develop the tournament. Since its inception, the Western Canada Tournament has blossomed into a spectacular showcase of Canadian talent.
Dave Reynolds, Co-Director of the Western Canada Tournament, says it is a legacy piece for the two. “It’s their legacy to the talent in Kelowna, to the school of Kelowna Secondary School … it’s part of their DNA,” said Reynolds.
Fast forward to 2023, the doors opened for the tournament following a lengthy hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to a warm reception from the community. Community members filled the gym dressed in black and yellow, bringing an infectious energy to the gym that delighted the directors of the legendary tournament.
“That was a fear heading into the tournament, having it been three years since any of this has happened … the energy of the crowd, the energy of the kids didn’t dissipate, and that was encouraging,” said Reynolds.
While the tournament countdown continued, players and coaches started preparing for the visiting teams.
Kelowna Owls coach Harry Parmar spoke about the importance of playing teams outside the province.
“The style of basketball is not the same wherever you go with Alberta, they play a faster game, and the prairie teams are usually bigger, stronger and they grind it out playing physically,” said Parmar.
But the beauty of playing such teams goes beyond the game of basketball to Parmar.
“The beauty of that is down the road when these kids are not here and they go to university and they run into these kids again and say, ‘hey I met you here’ and it is the connections that they make,” said Parmar.
As February 2nd came around the teams were ready to perform.
Visiting team Oak Bay picked up an emphatic win against Sir Winston Churchill to open the tournament. Semiahmoo continued their stellar play taking a 108-71 victory over Winnipeg’s John Taylor. Vancouver College would score 113 points En route to a 113-88 win over Winnipeg’s St. Paul’s.
It was time for the main event between Kelowna Secondary and Edmonton’s Ross Shepherd. Fans poured into the gym as the teams put on a dunk contest, to the enjoyment of fans, players, and coaches.
“It felt home, it felt surreal, the gym was electric last night, and I think it’ll only get better,” said Parmar.
The game tipped off shortly after, and Kelowna’s defensive brand of basketball propelled the Owls to a 72-47 victory advancing to the semi-finals and sending the fans home with a win.
Day one of the Western Canada Tournament was one for the books and a moment for a community that loves basketball.
“The KSS community and the Kelowna community love basketball and they showed that last night,” said Parmar.
The 2023 tournament is an important event for the community and is living up to the tournament’s legacy, which has remained strong for 48 years.
The tournament rolls on today, with Semiahmoo taking on Oak Bay and Kelowna challenging Vancouver College.