The annual All Clans basketball tournament in Skidegate was fast-paced, sweaty, energetic, emotional, and a favourite for all islanders who love hoops, the sound of running shoes on a gym floor and clamorous crowds cheering for their favourite teams.
Desi Collinson organized this year’s tournament and shared some memories to honour past players who have contributed to Skidegate basketball. Troy Pollard “schooled me right here,” he said, adding that Troy taught him to play hard but also show sportsmanship.
“At the end of the day, he’d shake my hand like a man,” he said. “We respected each other — there is nothing more Haida than this.”
Desi credits Godfrey Williams and Alvin Hans with always calling out, “Come on ref! I’ve seen better eyes on a potato!” which brought laughs from the crowd.
Desi paid highest praise to well-known Saints player and honoured elder, Percy Williams.
“He meant so much to this nation. He brought so much. He gave so much. He just gave and gave and gave.” Percy’s black-and-white photo hung in the background on either side of the scorekeeper’s area.
The final game between Southern Ts’aahl and Ts’aahl Laanas was a physical one, and heavily scrutinized on and off the court for fouls, body contact, and travelling. The game ramped up in the third and fourth quarters as Southern Ts’aahl’s Duane Alsop tossed 3 pointers on precision, adding to the angst of the last minutes. In the end Southern Ts’aahl fed Alsop the ball for three pointers from either side of the court. The last minutes of the fourth saw Southern Ts’aahl setting up strong plays highlighting their skill under pressure. Clanging pots and pans, booming hand drums and a cheering crowd fuelled the tension and rhythm from the sidelines. In a valiant effort by Ts’aahl Laanas, the score was 82-79 for Southern Ts’aahl, the defending champions.
“The Eagles won the tournament. They went through tough times too with four players on the bench and here they are winning two years in a row — It’s a long-term grind, it’s a hard thing to do” said Desi about Ts’aahl’s win as the tournament closed with the Ts’aahl Eagles dancing in their 2016 clan tournament hoodies.