For the first time in two years at the All Native Basketball tournament, the Burnaby Chiefs found themselves in a hole they couldn’t climb out of.
In the Seniors final Saturday (Feb. 18), the Skidegate Saints came out firing and quickly jumped into a 10-point lead against the undefeated Chiefs whose normal precision-shooting from both within and outside the arc seemed to have left them.
But the young and agile Chiefs were not about to lie down to the more seasoned and rugged team from Haida Gwaii. By the end of the opening frame, they had clawed back to within three.
The second quarter saw both teams moving the ball expertly, trading buckets one or two at a time. Burnaby even briefly held the lead, but by the half, the Skidegate lead remained at three in a fast-paced final that was living up to its billing.
After the break, though, the relentless attack and rock-solid defence of the Saints proved too much for the Lower Mainland squad as they put up only 10 points to Skidegate’s 30.
There is no quit in the Chiefs, however, and they would make a game of it in the fourth quarter doubling up the Saints 36-18.
While Burnaby continued to press right to the end, time was not on their side and at the final buzzer the scoreboard read 100 - 95.
Skidegate has now held the Senior title for eight out of the last 11 years.
After falling to Burnaby the night before 87-85 and having to get to the final via the elimination bracket semi-final against Similkameen, Coach Josh Ancheta attributed the win to experience.
“Just the tenacity and knowing what it’s like to be here with their backs against the wall, just that veteran leadership from the veterans, it was great,” he said.
One of those veterans, team captain Jason Alsop attributed their success to teamwork.
We’re a team, we all do our thing and every little thing that we do contributes to winning,” he said. “Some people get rebounds, some people get shots and I think it’s a tribute to our team and how well we trust each other and play together.”
That sentiment seemed to be reflected in the individual awards handed out after the final. While the MVP award went to Skidegate’s Desi Collinson, most of the others went to players from other teams.
From the final, Kobe McKnight, who got the MVP nod last year in the Intermediate Division, was the tournament’s Senior Outstanding Player.
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