Third time’s the charm for Joel Ewert.
His road to gold started in 2015 when he was 15 years old and he played in his first Canada Winter Games in his Prince George hometown.
Held off the medal podium that year and again in 2019 in Red Deer, there was no denying Ewert and Team B.C. in his Canada Games finale Saturday in Charlottetown, P.E.I.
The heavily-favoured nine-male, three-female B.C. squad beat Alberta 79 -32 to cap an undefeated 5-0 tournament, claiming the province’s first title since the sport made its Canada Winter Games debut in 1995.
“It’s an emotional one,” said Ewert. “Ten years of my life in the Canada Games program – If you are going to finish something, you might as well finish on the top of the mountain.”
The 23-year-old Ewert, a defensive specialist and the team’s inspirational leader, had two points in the final.
“It was just a really special ending for a really special group,” said Ewert. “We earned that final score and it was really awesome to see this group, that was together for eight years, have an ending like this.
“One of the strengths of this group was our depth. It wasn’t one superstar. Different games happened and different people got into foul trouble and injuries. We just had a lot of trust one through 12 and that really showed here with this result.
“We are a family from the players to the coaches to the parents, we had so much support here,” he said. “Family is a big part of what happened here.”
Ewert was born with cerebral palsy, which affects his balance and muscular coordination. He’s been playing wheelchair basketball since he was five.
Ewert announced before he left for P.E.I. that this would be his last major basketball tournament. The UNBC student plans to concentrate more on wheelchair rugby while pursuing his goal to become a medical doctor.
Gabe Harrison of Pender Island led B.C. offensively with a game-high 27 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists, while Nick van Bakel of Pender Island hit for 26 points and five rebounds.
“I’ve been in sport my whole life, and this is the most special moment I’ve ever had.,” B.C. coach Simon Cass told Wheelchair Basketball Canada.
“It’s an incredible group of kids; they’ve worked incredibly hard: empty gyms, long days – working and just doing it together. We did it as a team, and it’s great to see – it culminated with our best performance of the last eight years in the biggest game. Myself and the rest of the coaching staff could not be more proud.”
Quebec defeated Manitoba 75-46 for bronze.
Meanwhile, in biathlon, Liam Simons of Prince George won his second medal of the Games in the final event Saturday, helping B.C. claim silver in the mixed team relay.
Simons teamed up with Molly Caldwell of Golden, Mai Rodger of North Vancouver and Parker Munroe of Vernon to complete the course in 1:10:41.5.
B.C. finished 1:03 behind Quebec (Francoise Gauthier, Francois Harvey, Laurie Jacques, Amelya Pouliot) who clocked 1:09:54.6. Alberta won bronze in 1:11:06.8.
Simons, a member of the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club, won bronze in the pursuit on Tuesday.
In male hockey, Team B.C. lost 7-3 to Quebec in Saturday’s bronze medal final. Chase Harrington of Prince George had one assist for B.C.
Prince George minor hockey product Ryder Green started in net for B.C. and played the first two periods, allowing four goals on 29 shots.
Koen Cleaver of Port Alberni replaced Green for the third period and gave up two goals on 16 shots. Quebec added an empty-netter with Cleaver on the bench.
Cameron Schmidt of Prince George was held off the scoresheet and finished the tournament with four goals and four assists.
Ontario captured gold with a 3-2 overtime win over Saskatchewan. Matthew Schaefer scored the winner 7:59 into the second overtime period.
The Games resume on Monday, the start of the second week of competition in P.E.I., Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.