They’re the new generation of Snuneymuxw basketball, and this year, they’re B.C.’s best.
The Snuneymuxw Native Sons won the Junior All-Native Tournament, defeating Syilx 57-53 in Thursday’s final at the Vancouver Island University gym.
“It was great,” said Hayden Jeffrey, tournament MVP. “A hometown win, the gym was rocking, so it was fun.”
Snuneymuxw trailed most of the game, but by a narrow margin.
“We came out in the second half wanting this, with more fire, and there’s going to be no crying this year,” said Paul Wyse-Seward, one of the coaches. “We overcame and adapted and we prospered in the end.”
The Sons moved the ball around and created openings for Jeffrey and Jordan Gladstone to slash to the hoop. Snuneymuxw extended the lead to as much as eight points, but Syilx narrowed the gap to two with 30 seconds left and had a chance at a game-tying or game-winning basket. The Sons made the defensive stop and the gym was so loud, they went and scored a basket in transition not realizing the whistle had gone.
“There were so many people here … It was an awesome experience to see everyone going crazy when we won,” said Gary Gladstone, a Sons guard.
Jeffrey scored a game-high 24 points and Jordan Gladstone scored 14. Ethan Marsden led Syilx with 13.
“It’s the best feeling ever for everybody. Everyone’s happy,” said Charles Gladstone, coach of the Sons. “We won all this for Snuneymuxw people, our people, and ourselves, but the joy was to win for all our fans.”
He said his hat’s off to his players “for playing the best they could all week.”
According to coaches, this was the first time Nanaimo had hosted the Junior All-Native Tournament since 1983, and Snuneymuxw’s boys hadn’t won the title in more than 30 years.
“To win here in your home territory, your home village, is something remarkable,” Wyse-Seward said. “You could hear the atmosphere in here – the adrenalin that you get from the drums, the cheering, the horns, the screaming, the yelling. It just makes everything more intense and [makes you] want that championship.”
In the girls’ final earlier that afternoon, Syilx won its second-straight JANT crown, defeating Nanaimo’s West Coast Storm 53-38.
Syilx’s Madison Terbasket-Winser, tournament MVP, said her team kept its cool, limited turnovers, and took advantage of the fact that the Storm had played a semifinal earlier that day.
She led all scorers with 24 points and Summer DeGuevara added 10. Olivia Mjaaland was West Coast’s top scorer with 17 points.
Terbasket-Winser said her team is proud to be back-to-back champs.
“We’re such a small town, people didn’t think we were going to win again this year. It was great.”
She said her team enjoyed its experience in Nanaimo.
“It was amazing seeing so many people, all my friends from all over B.C., and watching really good basketball,” she said.
— Greg Sakaki (@BulletinSports) March 27, 2015