BY GREG SABATINOBlack Press
The Snuneymuxw Native Sons repeated as B.C. champions in front of a raucous crowd Friday in Williams Lake at the Junior All-Native Tournament.
The Native Sons boys’ basketball team defeated Syilx 95-81 in the final to top 16 other teams from around the province.
“First off, I’d like to thank that other team for playing a great game against us,” said Charles Gladstone, one of the coaches of the Sons. “Playing them year after year is pretty tough.”
Syilx had sent Snuneymuxw to the bottom half of the draw just two days prior, but the Native Sons battled through Prince Rupert in the semifinal to earn the rematch in the championship.
Hayden Jeffrey scored 35 points to lead his team in the final, Jordan Gladstone scored 19 and Will Nicholls had 16.
Trailing 45-40 at the half, Charles Gladstone said his club was getting hammered on the boards and needed to start playing a more team-oriented game.
“We knew if we could do that and close the wings off in the second half we’d get the game,” he said.
Another coach, Paul Wyse-Seward, said that sort of win shows why the Native Sons are champions.
“My thing is, we’ve all got to believe and work as one, sticking together as a team whether you’re on the floor or on the bench,” he said.
Jeffrey was selected MVP for a second-straight year and he and Jordan Gladstone were tournament all-stars. Cedric Mack was chosen the tourney’s top defensive player.
Wyse-Seward said the Snuneymuxw take a lot of pride in the achievements of the Native Sons. Some family members made the trip to Williams Lake, but those in Nanaimo remained keen supporters.
“Our chief and council chambers was full with members that went up to watch it on the big screen. We had members throughout our community watching the live stream, all texting back and forth, commenting on Facebook,” he said. “It shows how much the community was behind our boys.”
The tournament featured upward of 450 players in both boys’ and girls’ divisions of players aged 13-19. Games were spread across three venues and crowds of more than 500 spectators regularly attended.
In the girls’ final, Syilx downed Greenville 71-40 to claim its third-consecutive Junior All-Native Tournament crown.
Event organizer Crystal Tallio said she couldn’t have been happier with how the week went.
She stressed the importance of the tournament in providing a positive environment and experience for First Nations youths around the province.
“It was a really great turnout and all in all a really great week…” Tallio said. “The basketball was all really good calibre and all the kids played their best. We had lots of good feedback from the other teams.”
Next year’s Junior All-Native Tournament will be hosted in Kelowna.
-with files from Greg Sakaki