For three quarters Saturday, the Osoyoos Rattlers had their friendly rivals from Similkameen in their pocket.
But the Sparks — ranked No. 6 provincially — found a way to escape, outscoring the home side 37-13 over the final frame to escape with an 88-77 victory and the Desert Classic championship.
It was a tough pill for the surging Rattlers to swallow, but one head coach Casey Brouwer says his team will have to overcome as it prepares for the Valley championships later this month.
“We had a great weekend of basketball,” he said. “And I’m very proud of all our players and the teams that were here.
“We’re two weeks away now from Valleys, in which we have a chance at making provincials.”
Navraj Brar and Amritpal Aujla each scored 25 points to lead the Rattlers in the final; Kav Dhaliwal added 13.
The Rattlers coasted through the first two rounds of the tournament, beating LV Rogers of Nelson 81-39 and Ashcroft Desert Sands 74-41.
The Rattlers, who have honorable mention status in the provincial Single A rankings, will have to find a way to beat the top talent in the Okanagan Zone tournament if they hope to advance to provincials.
Three berths in the zone are up for grabs.
Second-ranked Kelowna Christian and third-ranked Heritage Christian — also of Kelowna — are heavy favourites to advance, meaning another showdown with Similkameen could be in the cards.
The tournament will be held in Barriere Feb. 22 – 24.