Victory in Rupert, a true Skidegate championship

  • Feb. 16, 2012 8:00 a.m.

By Jeff King–The Skidegate Senior Saints got off the ferry as heroes Sunday evening, with hundreds of well-wishers turning out to cheer, scream, honk and holler, while the drums and singers pounded and sang. And that was just at the landing. Right afterwards, it seemed like every car in the village got in line and followed the fire truck through Skidegate, as the cacophony of horns and shouting filled the air, ensuring that no one in the village and beyond would be unaware of the victory. It was all because of a great week of basketball in Prince Rupert at the 53rd All Native Tournament, which saw the Saints come out victorious, defeating Ahousat in the final 107 to 81. That game came after a week of wins over New Aiyansh, Friendship House Chiefs, Ahousat and Massett, a total of five wins and no losses in six days of play.”They just played amazing,” said Peter Lantin, “I’ve seen them play for years. They have a new coach. Their defence was something I’ve never seen the Skidegate Saints do. It was all local guys. The All Native had that ringer rule they got rid of.It’s a true Skidegate championship.” Mr. Lantin also noted the team seemed confident “. and they played like that, it was really impressive.” “I was successful (as a coach) because they are talented,” Dave Wahl of the Saints told the Observer Monday. “They were just going to win. They are by far the most talented team. The credit deserves to go to them because of a lifetime of basketball work,” he said. It was Mr. Wahl’s first time coaching the Saints, but he’s no stranger to the game or to coaching. He played ball at university, then professionally in Europe, and five years ago, coached the Bella Bella seniors to victory in the All Native. He’s known to ask his players to train relentlessly, and in fact the team recently practised 11 nights out of 12. “We started in September and we trained three, four or five nights a week,” Mr. Wahl said, “they worked really, really hard. They did everything full on. They are really competitive guys. There was never any talk of (you have to) play harder.” Mr. Wahl says he thought the team had a really good chance to win, once everybody got to know Jared Casey, a Haida from the lower mainland. “He’s like 6 foot 11, 7 feet, he’s a big guy,” Mr. Wahl said, “he was still aggressive, he was a perfect fit.” Despite things clicking well, Mr. Wahl said the tournament still had some moments. He noted that in both games with Ahousat, the scores were very close at half time. “You just had the sense that it was just a matter of time, there is so much talent on this team,” he said, “they were going to wear (the other teams) down.” “I didn’t have to talk to them about basketball. They did the job,” Mr. Wahl said.Marshall Russ of Old Massett has coached the senior team, the Raiders, there for three years. He wants to congratulate the Saints on their championship, but says his team, which also had a good tournament, is only going to get better. “We’ll be back next year for sure,” he said. Mr. Marshall said his team had too many injuries, and was playing with mostly six guys for the last couple of days. “(It’s) pretty good, coming in third out of 12 teams,” Mr. Russ said. The Raiders defeated Port Simpson, Hartley Bay and Kitkatla but lost to Skidegate and Ahousat towards the tournament’s end. “On Saturday, we had a really good game against Ahousat,” Mr. Russ said, “we just came up a little short.” By a little short, he means just two points, 75 to 77. “It comes down to basic basketball.them’s the breaks,” he said. Mr. Russ also said the Old Massett players have to get in better shape. “Next year, we’ll be hopefully first,” he said. He also wants to thank those who raised funds for the team, including Memory Brown and Deena Manitobenis. “And I’d like to thank my brothers for the argillite pendant and the paddle and the cedar hat,” he said.One highlight of the tournament was the induction of Willis Parnell into the All-Native Hall of Fame.”This was the best (tournament) I have ever been to, the most special,” said Peter Lantin, who has announced the games on CFNR for the last seven years.”This one, for the Nation, was special, because of Willis Parnell’s hall of fame induction.” Mr. Parnell won the most valuable player award at the tournament three times, and has coached and played basketball for decades. In fact, he has played 23 out of the last 28 years at the All Native and only didn’t play this year because of a problem with his ankle, which has ended his career.”We didn’t want it to be just (another induction),” Mr. Lantin said, “the Haida just rallied and coordinated their own process, with Guujaaw and Donny Edenshaw leading, singing the Lyell Island song.”Mr. Lantin said the entire civic centre gave Willis a standing ovation.”That shows the type of impact he had on the tournament. Everybody loves Willis, not just the Haida Nation and it shows,” Mr. Lantin said.”It was very special for me,” Mr. Parnell told the Observer Monday, (I was) “very overwhelmed.and honoured of course.” “The best thing about my career, it was the great people,” he said, “it was lots of fun, sad that it’s over, but also very happy.” Mr. Parnell and his father are now the only father/son combination in the All Native Hall of Fame.Please note that the celebration feast planned for Friday evening is Skidegate has been postponed.

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