The Skidegate Saints celebrate their third consecutive Junior All Native Basketball championship.

Skidegate Saints defend Junior All Native Basketball championship

The undefeated Skidegate Saints walked away with their third consecutive Junior All Native title last week.

The undefeated Skidegate Saints walked away with their third consecutive Junior All Native title last week, after conquering their adversaries from Van City 86-49 in the final on Friday.

Skidegate had forced Van City into the loser’s bracket on Wednesday, but Van City won their next three games, including the bracket final against Lytton’s TlkemchEEn Warriors.

Skidegate led early in the final game, but Van City was able to keep the game within reach throughout the first half. When the buzzer sounded at halftime, the Saint held a narrow 34-32 lead.

Skidegate came out firing on all cylinders in the third, going on a 19-2 run in the quarter that ended 53-34.

“We finally got going and started hitting shots in the third quarter. We turned it up defensively and got our game going,” said Nate Vogstad, who was named the Junior All Native’s Most Valuable Player.

“They were picking apart our zone, they were using wild and three-point shots and backdoor cuts and easy layups from the baseline. In the third quarter we went man-to-man, and they didn’t get nearly as many shots. We shut down their best scorer, picked up the rebound and got easy buckets in transition,” said Jesse Barnes, who was named a tournament all-star.

Skidegate kept pushing in the forth, leading by more than 25 points with five minutes to play. The final score was 86-49, with Barnes leading the Saints’ scoring with 30 points, followed by Vogstad with 27.

“It’s a relief that we defended it for the third time. It feels good to bring it back to everyone at home. It’s been a championship year for Haida Gwaii,” said Vogstad, who is 17 and won’t be eligible to compete in next year’s tournament.

“I would have been pretty disappointed if I didn’t win my last year, so I had to give it my all.”

The Saints were unconquerable throughout the tournament, beating the equally undefeated TlkemchEEn Warriors of Lytton in the semifinal after taking out the Gitanmaax Torchmen, Lax Kw’alaams and Van City earlier in the week.

The win followed an inspirational run by the Queen Charlotte Secondary Saints at the B.C. AAAA provincials, with most of the same players making up the Junior All Native team. The Saints only got one day of rest between the two tournaments.

“After coming off of a pretty good performance at the AAAA provincials we came in determined to win this tournament,” said Barnes.

“We exceeded expectations this season. I’m proud of how much heart everyone put into our games,” said Vogstad.