2023 BC Provincial Champions

by Graham Cousins

Kelowna Raiders are provincial champs after miraculous comeback, buzzer beater and OT winner

The Kelowna Raiders are provincial champions after a Sunday afternoon final that even the most dramatic Hollywood script writers couldn’t have dreamed up.

Kelowna knocked off the Port Coquitlam Hitmen 14-13 in overtime in the final to lay claim to the club’s first men's senior C provincial lacrosse championship since 2008.

It was a double measure of revenge for the Raiders, who lost to the Hitmen in the same game last year and also in this year’s round robin, which was their only defeat of the 2023 campaign.

Kelowna balanced the round robin loss to PoCo with two wins to make the semi-final, and an 11-3 win in that game set up the two powerhouses for what was sure to be another hard-fought battle with hardware on the line.

It was a nightmarish start for the Raiders on Sunday, as the Hitmen scored early and often to take a 5-1 lead after the first 20 minutes.

To make matters much worse, starting goalie Graham Cousins went down just minutes into the game with a lower-body injury and was forced out of action.

As a result, in came backup Gord Bowes, a rookie who has not played a competitive lacrosse game for multiple years.

Bowes understandably showed a bit of rust, but played well enough to keep the Raiders within striking distance and the two teams entered the third period with the Hitmen up 10-4.

In the final frame, the momentum started to shift significantly and Kelowna crawled all the way back to tie things up at 12-12 with 2:32 to play.

Just over a minute later, PoCo reclaimed the lead, which set the stage for a dramatic finish at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria.

With the final seconds ticking away, a hail-mary pass from one end of the floor to the other sent in Dayton McIntosh on a breakaway and he made no mistake, burying one past the PoCo goalie with less than a second left to play.

The clock read all zeroes as he was mobbed in the corner by his teammates, but the goal was confirmed and the game was off to sudden death overtime.

After a brief break, Kelowna got the ball off the overtime faceoff at centre court and it only took seconds for captain Andrew Garant to score the winning goal and cue the celebration.

Garant and the rest of the team ran directly back into their own end to mob Bowes for his heroic efforts in relief of the injured Cousins and the party was on in Victoria for the Raiders.

Sunday's victory capped a dream season for the Raiders, who will enter the 2024 campaign as top dog in BC with multiple trophies to defend.