Haida Gwaii was hungry for a basketball championship, and the Saints’ U13 girls came through, winning their second Challenge by going undefeated in all five of their games. (Grace Garvie/Submitted)

Haida Gwaii was hungry for a basketball championship, and the Saints’ U13 girls came through, winning their second Challenge by going undefeated in all five of their games. (Grace Garvie/Submitted)

Skidegate Saints win second U13 girls challenge at Junior All-Native

Maybe their teachers took a Spring Break, but girls on the Skidegate Saints’ 13-and-under basketball team just took a Spring Challenge.

For the second year running, the young Saints team won the U13 Challenge at the Junior All-Native basketball tournament.

They did it by winning every one of their five games, including a close match-up against the Nuxalk Nation of Bella Coola and a 37-27 final against the Vancity Grizzlies.

“We’re back-to-back champions,” says Wade Collinson, who coached the 10-member team along with his wife Natasha and assistant coach Erica Ryan-Gagne.

Stacey Edinger and Joey Pringle both won all-star awards at the March 18 to 23 tournament — Collinson said Stacey showed great all-round skill and consistent play, while Joey relentlessly chased the ball on pressure defence.

Zoey ‘The Beast’ Collinson came home with Most Valuable Player, High Scorer (89 points in five games) — and the flu.

“She was pretty light-headed in the third quarter of the final, but she pushed through and her teammates helped out,” said Collinson, who praised her team leadership and perseverance.

The girls had to wake up at 6 a.m. for most of the tournament, which was co-hosted in North Vancouver this year by the North Shore Wolves and Vancity Sons.

Not only did they land some early-riser games that started at 8:30 a.m., several players were competing on the Saints’ U17 team at the same time.

But Collinson said the team is used to hard work — they practiced five days a week all season, and played Friday-night league games against teams of different ages.

“They had a wealth of game experience before we went down there.”

Discipline really paid off at this year’s Junior All-Native. With a whopping 83 teams in total — up from 48 last year — teams had to win their division by game three to make the semi-finals.

“That puts a lot of pressure on everybody to come out on top,” said Collinson, laughing.

“It’s similar to the NCAA tournament where you win or go home.”

Five Haida teams made it to the Junior All-Native this year, including the Saints’ junior girls, the Gwaii Storm junior girls from Old Massett, a combined Haida Gwaii junior boys team, and the Old Massett Raiders’ U13 boys.

Organizing was a little easier this year given it was the first time the Haida Gwaii School District had a two-week Spring Break. And Collinson said the community support was huge.

“It’s just an immense support system that we have, with the community and the coaching and the parents,” he said.

“That’s really what gets us down there.”

Skidegate