The Skidegate Saints’ senior basketball team have captured their fifth straight All Native Basketball championship.
The opponents for the powerhouse Saints on Saturday were the Kitkatla Warriors, no slouches in their own right.
The titans of the tournament collided throughout the game as both sides dueled it out.
The atmosphere inside the arena was something to behold, with only standing room available for spectators, who made up the two opposing fan clubs on each side of the floor. The players were caught in the middle.
On display were two quality teams, and a bunch of All-Star calibre players. Jacob Thom from Kitkatla and Tyler York from Skidegate headlined the bunch. These opposing guards went head-to-head all night.
Kitkatla started the game out well, as Dustin Eaton hit two early three-pointers. Thom, as he did all game, supported the Warriots with a couple solid drives and finishes.
Both teams were pushing the pace early and running a 1-4 offence, with the offensive team’s forward in the paint, and the other four players acting like an umbrella around the three-point line, and cut when the ball went inside. Using this offence Skidegate got out to the 23-21 lead.
Kitkatla’s defence was the backbone of their game, with Thom, Charlie Leeson and Jordan Vickers providing much in the way of offence for Kitkatla.
But Skidegate’s big man, Jared Casey made it look easy for the Saints inside. He had a huge footprint on the game. Kitkatla was forced to double team him, creating space for Skidegate’s other players.
“We always know it’s going to be tough. Every time you step on the court you have a target on your back, especially for me, being as tall as I am, I know I’m going to get bumped and bruised quite a bit. If we can draw some attention to the inside, any time someone’s got a small guy on them we put them down there and try to take advantage of the mismatch, it’s just smart basketball,” said Casey.
Both teams slugged it out until the end. It was like watching a title fight between two heavyweight boxers. Casey continued to be a force inside. Skidegate built a six-point lead, 57-51 going into the last quarter of the tournament. With both teams’ fans going bananas Thom hit a fade away Kobe Bryant-esque jay to cut into Skidegate’s lead. It wasn’t meant to be despite his efforts.
The difference in the game was York’s ability to hit the open shot and create off the dribble. He ran the point to perfection. York distributed the ball inside to Casey and penetrated when the pass wasn’t there.
Jason Alsop from Skidegate sealed it late with back to back threes, giving the Saints their biggest lead of the game – 12 points – with 2:47 to go.
“We have a lot of respect for Kitkatla – they’re hungry, and they’ve been working hard for this. Jacob Thom is an amazing player, we are just humble, and focused on defence to try and contain him. I’ve been shooting well all year, it’s tough to get loose, and guys have been keeping track of me. I’m just glad I put the work in and was in good enough shape to have the legs at the end of the game to hit the big shots.”
York won Seniors’ Division MVP, while Thom won the division’s Most Outstanding Player. Skidegate’s Darcy Pearson took Most Inspirational Player.