Kelowna Christian shows it's up to the task

They wanted a challenge and they got it.

Now, the Kelowna Christian Knights are the provincial AA basketball champions.

The Knights knocked off Mill Bay-Brentwood College 58-47 in Saturday's championship final at the Tournament Capital Centre.

It's Kelowna Christian's first AA title, but the Knights have been a force in A ball for years. They won A titles in four of the past five seasons, the lone exception being 2010, when they decided to play AAA.

With the core of this group, which had been together since Grade 5, in its final basketball season, Kelowna Christian decided to play AA. Good move, as it turned out.

"This is a lifelong goal. It's not just a year or two, it's been eight years," said Knights head coach Eva Linttell. "Since they were small, it's been their dream, and it's nice to see their dream come to pass.

"I'm proud of them. They could have stayed A and walked through that, but they wanted to challenge themselves."

The Knights weren't flashy, instead relying on a bunch of players who could play both ends of the court.

Drew Schulz, who had 17 points and eight rebounds in the final, was named tournament MVP, while Ryan Linttell was named a first-team all-star and Ethan Klukas was an honourable mention.

"It's unity - everyone is so unselfish here," Schulz said. "We've played together since Grade 5, all of us. We're like brothers."

There was a star in the championship game, but he didn't play for the Knights. Brentwood's Jordan Charles, a 6-foot-5 forward, fit the bill, even if Kelowna Christian took him out of the game.

Charles, a tournament all-star, was dangerous every time he got the ball. So the Knights worked their butts off making sure he didn't get the ball.

"We really covered (Charles), and put him in his place," Eva Linttell said. "That did it for us."

Charles still managed to score 20 points for Brentwood, and Ulas Zeyrek added 16 and grabbed 10 rebounds. Daniel Seinen had 12 points for Kelowna Christian.

Brentwood scored the game's first seven points and led 11-6 after 10 minutes. However, Kelowna Christian really came on in the second quarter, taking over and holding an 11-point lead at the half.

Brentwood attempted a comeback, but any thought of that ended when Schulz, a 6-foot-1 guard, broke in alone and slammed home a dunk. That emphatic play provided the Knights with an eight-point lead late in the third quarter. It also gave Kelowna Christian all the momentum.

It was the play of the game - it might have been the play of the tournament.

"It definitely gave us momentum, but I don't know," Schulz said. "Ethan (Klukas) was hitting some pretty big shots for us . . .

"I was more than excited after (the dunk)."

mhunter@kamloopsnews.ca

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