Not this year, but next year; Haidas regrouping for All-Native gold

  • Feb. 20, 2008 5:00 p.m.

By Heather Ramsay–Watch out Bella Bella. The mid-coast village may have walked off the courts with two of three titles at the All-Native Basketball Tournament in Prince Rupert last week, but the Haidas will be looking to regain control. The Skidegate Masters, who won the tournament for the last two years in a row, didn’t pull off a three-peat this year, but are already talking about taking back the title next year, when the All-Native celebrates its 50th anniversary. “We’ll show up at the Golden Anniversary ready to reclaim the championship,” said Masters player Eddie Russ. “We had our opportunity to win but the shots didn’t fall for us,” he said. The grueling play schedule may have had something to do with it. The Saints played three games in 24 hours, two of which went into overtime. On the night of Feb. 14, play against Metlakatla went into overtime and Russell Gladstone picked up the ball after a missed shot and slammed the extra points into the basket as the buzzer went ending in a 77-76 Skidegate win. The next morning the stands erupted when a game against Prince Rupert also went into overtime yielding another win for Skidegate (74-71). But the 4pm semi-final against Bella Bella didn’t go their way and the team lost 52 to 78. The next day Bella Bella faced Kitimaat, the team finalists have fought and beat for at least four years in a row. But this was Bella Bella’s year and they claimed the Masters title in a 71 to 52 game. Mr. Russ opted out of sitting down for the final game between last year’s and this year’s foes. “I wasn’t playing in it and I didn’t feel like watching it,” he said. In another disappointment, the Masset Seniors made it to the last game on Friday night, but New Aiyansh took the game (58-69) and went to the semi-finals. Bella Bella beat them 64 to 61 and then went up against the Alaskan Haidas, who have dominated the Seniors’ title for the last seven years. But Hydaburg’s dynasty ended Saturday too in an 83-76 game that went Bella Bella’s way. Peter Lantin, better known as Pistol Pete, one of CFNR’s play-by-play commentators, said that in 18 years of All-Natives, he’s never heard the civic centre that loud. “It’s going to go down in All-Native history. It was absolutely electric in there,” he said. “Sometimes you have the best team and you don’t come home with the championship,” said Skidegate Masters coach Kevin Borserio, whose team ended up in third place – a respectable standing. Not to mention that two players, Frank Russ and Sid Edenshaw, were named all-star players and Wade Collinson the 6th man. In the Seniors, Trevor Russ from Massett and Darren Edenshaw from Hydaburg were also named all-stars Jason Alsop, captain of the Skidegate Seniors was disappointed too. “There were no highlights for Haida Gwaii this year,” he said. His team went down from 6th place last year to 7th place in 2008, but the competition was intense, with five capable teams in the division fighting hard to take the title. But, he went on to say that the Seniors have a new player, John McIntyre, a Skidegate Haida who lives in Port Alberni. Mr. Alsop said it was the first time Mr. McIntyre had met people his own age from the village and they were looking forward to getting to know him better and having him on the team. He was also gratified to see two young Intermediate players, Matthew Gladstone and Cole Eddinger (who was given the 6th man award) getting comfortable on the floor. “It takes a while to adjust to the number of people out there,” he said. With no official count handy, Mr. Alsop said there can 1,000 people in the arena at times and up to 2,000 in the civic centre. The Intermediates held steady in their fifth place standing for the 3rd year in a row and coach Dan Burton was pleased with his young players. “They did a good job of representing Skidegate both on and off the court,” he said. Team member Darcy Pearson was named an all-star player. The Old Massett intermediates played the first game of the tournament on Feb. 10 against Kincolith and got in one more game with Hartley Bay before getting knocked out. In the women’s division, Massett played Kitimaat and Greenville before falling out of play. Frank Collison, a fan from Old Massett has made the pilgrimage to indulge his love of basketball 30 times in the past 50 years. He says the caliber of playing is getting higher and higher. “A lot of players are getting bigger and know more about the game,” he says. He noticed one player, a 17 year-old high school student from Ketchikan, who played on Hydaburg’s Seniors team. At 6’9″ Damen Bell-Holter will head to Missouri State to play college ball next year. “He was amazing to watch,” said Mr. Lantin. He also wanted to clarify what happened when the young man, originally from Hydaburg, refused to go up and accept an all-star award at the end of play. “People got offended, but it turns out he wasn’t allowed to do it,” said Mr. Lantin. His high school doesn’t allow players to accept awards from outside their league. “He wasn’t being disrespectful,” he said. Even though they didn’t bring home any titles, Mr. Collison was happy with all the Haida teams’ play. He said playing basketball is character-building and persevering in the game help develop leaders and role models for the community. “There is a certain amount of losing you have to put up with and you have to know how to do that too,” he said. Mr. Borserio said, like most coaches and players, he tries to watch all the Haida games – Skidegate, Old Massett and Hydaburg. And that’s a highlight for a coach who has put in 10 years and plans to step down after next year. “The three villages come together as Haidas and support each other in all the games,” he said. Another highlight was having Percy Williams, long time player and inspiration to Haida teams, on the bench with him. “I told him, we may have to break out a uniform for him next year,” said Mr. Boreserio. So the Haida teams have a year to redouble their efforts in anticipation of the festivities for the 50th anniversary. “We are rebuilding, but we are going to be there next year, guarantee that,” said Old Massett Seniors coach Arnie Bellis. “It was a gallant, sportsmanlike effort. Good to see a big group of Haidas in Rupert,” he added.

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