by Roberta Aiken-They came into the tournament as the defending champions, and the Skidegate Masters were ready to put up a huge battle to anyone facing them.
In the early predictions Skidegate was given the first place odds with “won’t need to pray for help”. Yet a tough game against last years’ rivals left the Saints number one fan Percy Williams at home in Skidegate praying for good weather to fly over to surprise the Masters in their semi-final match against Kincolith. Surprise it truly was. I felt so honoured to be a part of that one and nothing was more special for me than to be the one to escort Uncle Percy (who was jogging along the back of the arena) into the locker room where he delivered the greatest inspiration to the team.
The team already had a mission to dedicate this year’s tournament to the late Joe Wilson. The family of Joe had also just surprised the team with a beautiful inspirational letter which the team received prior to Percy’s entrance into the locker room. Now if that was not inspirational enough, the brutes from Skidegate gave no room to Kincolith in this game and were successful in securing their final game position against Kitamaat.
That was a total repeat of last year’s final game. With patches over their hearts and the game was on to hold back Kitamaat’s key point leader Ellis Ross.
The Saints had the fans singing “when the saints go marching in” and Guujaaaw, Tyler Crosby and the whole crowd singing our Haida songs. The gym was ours, with Staas Edenshaw and little Kostan Pelton running the floor with the Haida Nation flag . The game was ours – once Kitamaat thought they had a lead the Saints stomped down hard and shut down the inside protecting the paint and Russell – 14 points, Richard hanging in with four fouls in the almost the whole second half and 13 points, Frank – 12 points and Wally with three big land mines 9 points, dominating the point lead.
Nothing sweeter than a back-to-back victory for these guys. This marked 33 years for Garner the Chief, setting an all-time record, let’s go for 34 Garner, you’re still dominating!
The crowd was still singing Haida songs while we got our first place awards and then the time came for the winning coach award – nice watch. In a classy move, coach Kevin presented that watch to Percy Williams.
Also in the masters division Massett come through with a nice sixth place finish, with their key players being Duffy Edgars and Willis Parnell. I am sure they could have pulled in a closer placing if they did not face a conflicting game having Willis sitting out to guide the Senior men’s team. Good job Massett!
Awards heading home in the masters division:
o Mr Hustle – Frank Russ (Skidegate)
o Sixth Man – Garner Moody (Skidegate)
o All stars – David Hill (Skidegate), Willis Parnell (Massett), Russell Gladstone (Skidegate)
o Tournament Most Valuable Player – Richard Aiken (Skidegate)
In the intermediate division, the first to play was the Massett squad. They did great to say the very least. Young and strong, they played Ahousat, with Greg and Gary Brown leading the team in points, yet they had to sit back in this one going up next against Hartley Bay. In the lower bracket taking on a great battle with final score of 79-70 to their favour, sending Hartley Bay home in two. They played next against Lax Kwalaams. This match-up was one I am sure will not be forgotten as the young guns from Massett gave Port Simpson NO room by knocking them out and moving on next to play the Bella Bella wolf pack. This being the final game for Massett, Gary Brown was sure to take the reins with his number hitting 30 for Massett and yet not enough. Massett played super well and they are sure to be top contenders in the very near future. Masset took 8th spot in this years tournament.
The Skidegate intermediates were hungry and faced first the team from Kitkatla. Kitkatla was sure to be honored this year, this being the first year that the legendary Russell Gamble is no longer here. So the representation was strong and all heart. And it showed in this game as Kitkatla was not going to give in without a battle. But Duane and Darcy both dominated for the Saints taking them in for their first victory with 23 and 19 points respectively.
Next they played the North Shore team. Starting out slow the Skidegate team managed with the help of Darcy’s 21 points to take this one and put themselves up next against the Friendship House “club” team. Although Duane dominated with 27 points, the Saints had to sit back in this one and move downward next to play North Shore again. In this knockout game it was a good battle yet only to be taken by the North Shore team sending our Saints home with a nice fifth place finish again.
Awards in the Intermediate bracket that made it home to Haida Gwaii:
o Duane Alsop – Tournament All Star team. Congrats Duane!
And if I could have another pick for the All Star team I most certainly would have picked Gary Brown from Massett. He was incredible for the Masset Intermediates. Good job Gary.
In the senior bracket Massett came through wonderfully with a fourth place finish. But they gave it their all in all their games with Abe, Trevor and Waylon all contributing hugely for their placing this year. I would have to say that when they played the defending champions from Hydaburg that was literally ANYONE’S game right to the wire and not to mention the Bella Bella game was huge.
The Skidegate Seniors ended up in a good sixth place this year after some excellent battles and the key points all put up by Curtis Lane. The Saints will be sure to come back and put more of a battle with Duane, Des and James all moving up to this division for next year’s tournament.
The biggest win in this division was for the defending 2006 champions from Hydaburg. Suffering a loss to Vancouver and having to battle through the lower bracket without key player Matt Carle, the Haidas from Kaigani were on a mission to bust the six straight year title held by Kitamaat. They did it and did it well, the victory being noted as “seventh heaven for Hydaburg”. Congrats Hydaburg, excellent show and one can rest assured that they will be back next year with their full roster to set the bar at eight straight wins in the all-time record books.
Senior Men’s awards heading home with Haida teams are:
o Mr Hustle – Curtis Lane (Skidegate)
o Sixth man – T. J. Young (Hydaburg)
o All stars: Waylon little (Massett), Darren Edenshaw (Hydaburg), Curtis Lane (Skidegate), Abe Brown (Massett), Travis Dybdahl (Hydaburg)
o Most Valuable Player – Devin Edenshaw (Hydaburg)
In the women’s draw, the Massett women, again young and all heart, came out representing well in their new uniforms and this year suffered their first two losses. They will now have to make travel plans to head for the November qualifying tournament.
Overall, the 2007 All-Native Tournament resulted in an excellent showing to all Haida teams and players.
Congrats to you all and special ones to my team – the SKIDEGATE MASTERS.
Hawaa to Uncle Percy and the family of the late Joe Wilson for your inspiration.
I am sure that all teams would like to thank many many people for their support and the biggest thank you goes out to all the businesses, band councils, Gwaii Trust and all of you that supported the hard fundraising this year to get the teams over to the tournament.
If I missed anything, please, it was not done on purpose. I did have everything and somehow lost it all with the fatal error of hitting the wrong button during my typing in for deadline.
Way to go HAIDAS!
See you all next month at the junior provincial championships in Prince Rupert.
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