Two North Coast teams did the area proud at the recent Junior All Native Basketball Tournament.
Lax Kw’alaams and the Prince Rupert Synergy Storm boys’ teams both took part in the annual tourney, this year held in Williams Lake from March 13 – 18.
The Synergy Storm achieved the best result out of a tough boys’ bracket (all players were aged 13 – 18) and ended in third-place out of 17 teams with a 7-2 record.
The Storm made it to the semifinals of the tourney but bowed out to the eventual champs, Nanaimo Native Sons in the game.
Lax Kw’alaams meanwhile, finished in sixth-place, with four wins and two losses. The team, carrying mostly younger players, also knocked out the host Nuxalk team – a game they took great pride in, despite being in enemy territory.
“It was kind of tough without our fans being around us, compared to Rupert where we have quite a fan base. It was a great game. We pulled it off [beating the hosts] and knocked them out,” said Lax Kw’alaams head coach Brett Ross last week.
“We had three guys who were 17 and in their last year and the rest were pretty young,” said Ross, adding that the team had one all-star – Trysten Derek – who also won Most Inspirational Player at the tournament.
The Synergy Storm played nine games in six days and even had six players who had played for the Charles Hays Rainmakers team the week prior, and cumulatively hit the court 13 times in less than 10 days.
Led by coach Judy Carlick-Pearson, the Synergy Storm made a name for themselves in their first year of existence at the tourney.
“The All Native competition within the top four teams was unbelievable and since then I’ve had three university coaches call me to get phone numbers for my players,” said the coach.
“[In the semifinals against Nanaimo] we played a really tough game, like everything we threw up never went in. We must have had 30 three-point attempts and nothing went in … If we had hit half our shots we would have been in contention, but our boys were just tired. They had nothing left in the tank.”
All five of the Synergy Storm’s starters were named Player of the Game throughout the nine games, showing a great balance of skill-level and Nick Campbell and Skyler Wesley were named tourney all-stars.
“It was a great tournament and we’ve only lost a couple players so it will be even better next year. This team is going to be around for awhile,” she said.
Nanaimo won the overall boys’ tournament and Syilx claimed their third straight Junior All Native girls’ crown.
The highlight of the tournament came when members of the Williams Lake RCMP suited up for a game of pick-up basketball against Hesquiaht players at Lake City Secondary.
Both North Coast teams are looking to attend next year’s Junior All Native Tournament, scheduled to take place in Kelowna. Lax Kw’alaams wanted to put in a bid to host the 2017 edition, but due to zone restrictions were unable to.
– With files from Greg Sabatino