Monday, February 20, 2017

Skidegate and Kitkatla bring down the house with ANBT 2017 finale

They saved the best for last this weekend at the Russell Gamble Gymnasium as Skidegate and Kitkatla put on a memorable show for the overflowing crowd at the McBride Street Home of Hoops.

The sound  of drums, yells and cheers echoed through the Gym all night long, providing the soundtrack to a highly entertaining battle for the Seniors championship.

In one of those games that will be mentioned among the classics of tournaments past both teams battled hard through regulation time and on into an extra frame before the Saints finally secured a 74 to 72 victory delivering for the Haida Gwaii community the status as repeat champions for 2017, the sixth straight time that they have claimed the Seniors title.

The Championship final featured a comeback for the ages from the defending champs who at one point in the third quarter were trailing Kitkatla by thirteen points, the Warriors holding a 57 to 44 advantage heading into the final ten minutes of the 2017 Tournament.

The push back from the Saints began right from the start of the quarter, though Kitkatla matched them shot for shot for the early period before the Skidegate run picked up speed thanks to some solid rebounding in their own end, denying Kitkatla points while returning up court to cut the margin.

Turnovers and fouls also started to play a part in the remarkable final five minutes as the Saints in danger of losing their defending champion status pushed Kitkatla hard towards the final buzzer.

Some impressive passing and big time shots narrowed the lead to three points with three minutes to go in the regulation time. It all made for a frenzy of action at both ends of the court, as Kitkatla made a strong attempt to hold off the Saints charge, while the team from Haida Gwaii built on their push crossing the two minute warning.

Strong defensive play created a turnover on the shot clock giving the Saints a key possession of the ball, which along with some desperate rebounding in the Kitkatla end making for a one point lead with just a minute to go.

A pair of clutch free throws from Charlie Leeson gave Kitkatla the three point margin once again, though in a twist of fate, a foul call at the other end on Leeson gave the Saints some life as they made good on their two shots.

Back down the court and with thirteen seconds to go, Leeson was back on the foul line, however he missed both of his free throws in that instance. That allowed the Saints to make the most of the foul game at that point, fouling Kitkatla's Jacob Thom, sending him to the line, where he only connected on one of his two opportunities.

The Saints would then push down court and erase the two point lead with a rebound at the Kitkatla end, leaving the two teams tied at 69 to 69 at the end of regulation time.

The heart stopping action continued through the five minute overtime, Skidegate taking the lead of 72 to 70 in the first minute of the five, Kitkatla tied it up shortly after that, leaving the two teams to battle it out through the final four, with turnovers and strong backboard play keeping the margin at two until Skidegate took the lead at 74 to 72 with one and half minutes to go.

Kitkatla launched a string of last minute shots to try and tie the game, with a last second throw looking to be close to making ANBT history, as Jacob Thom pushed it out to Phillip Gamble for a three point shot, a marker that while finding the twine, didn't count as the shot had first hit the top of the backboard before going in.

The surreal finish denied Kitkatla the victory and was no doubt a heart breaker for the Warrirors, a team that was impressive through both the tournament and the entire final game,  coming oh so close to being giant killers and the storyline of the 2017 event.

In the end though, the Champs of the Seniors Division showed the competitive spirit that Skidegate basketball is known for, and offered up a remarkable account as to why they have reigned atop the All Native listings for over half a decade.

The finale to tournament week provided a conversation topic for the weekend and one that will continue on for All Native Tournaments to come.

CFNR Radio has a replay of the Seniors Final available on their website here.

The Intermediate Boys made for a pretty impressive preliminary bout for the main event, as they took to the court during the supper hour to provide a full bounty of basketball for the huge crowd in the bleachers and at courtside.

The up and comers for the ANBT feature a number of names that basketball fans will be hearing much from in the years to come, and the skill level was at its peak as the two North Coast powerhouse teams delivered a strong showing for the early evening crowd at the Russell Gamble Gym.

Fans were treated to some fast paced action as the players from Lax Kw'laams Strike Force and Prince Rupert Synergy Storm battled back and forth for much of three of the four quarters.

The first quarter ended with a Lax Kw'alaams lead of four points, much of it through battles on the boards that was indicative of the close contest between the two teams who went into the second quarter with a 15 to 11 spread.

Things didn't change much in second quarter play as the two teams traded off scoring opportunities, as the Strike Force held onto a five point lead of 33-28 heading to the half.

The two teams continued with their back and forth play, with little room for a run that would pad the advantage, with the Synergy Storm bringing things even with three and half minutes to play in quarter number three.

Prince Rupert took the lead shortly in the final minute of the quarter, only to see the Strike Force push right back to tie things up again at three quarter time.

That set the stage for the frantic fourth, which remained very tight in the first five minutes of play, with the Lax Kw'alaams squad starting to gain some distance as the final few minutes started to tick down.

The Strike Force worked hard to create some breathing room by midway of the final quarter, increasing the lead to seven into the home stretch of the Final.

It was on the back side of the final ten minutes where the Synergy Storm who had the longer path to Saturday's final eventually seemed to finally run out of gas, as the Strike Force continued to push them hard and take advantage of their scoring opportunities.

There was no quit from the Rupert side however, as they battled hard down to the final shot and left nothing in their tank, keeping Lax Kw'alaams to the test all the way to the 74 - 61 final.

The victory solidifies the Lax Kw'alaams bragging rights for basketball for another year, the victory marking their second consecutive Championship at the ANBT tourney.

You can view the Intermediate replay from CFNR here.

Earlier in the day both the Women's Division and Master's Championships were decided as well, as the Gitxsan celebrated their title.  

Some hard work on the part Mystics managed to hold back an exciting Haisla charge in the fourth quarter of the Women's Division, as the team from Hazelton secured victory, topping Kitamaat by a score of 56 - 46.

The Mystics held a thirteen point lead at the half taking the 32-19 margin into the third and from there, looked as though they would be in total control of the match up coming into the final twenty minutes.

Yet the Kitiamaat team would have something to say about that notion, as they made things quite interesting and maybe just a little bit uncomfortable for the Gitxsan ladies midway through the fourth.

At one point in the game where they had pulled to within three  points at 46-43 just past the midway point coming with but four minutes to go.

It proved to be a push that brought some energy to their fans in the stands, but also served to grab the attention of the Hazelton team who finally regained some of their focus.

The Mystics took note of the challenge and were back on track as the final minutes began to play out, keeping the Haisla at a distance down the stretch to secure their victory by a ten point margin.

CFNR's  look in at the Women's Final can be reviewed here.

On the Masters side it was a pair  of familiar names tipping off atop the ranks of the division once again, with Hydaburg returning to the final for a sixteenth time, having only lost once in that period of time.

The Saturday afternoon showdown once again showcased the domination of the Division by the two competitive foes as  Hydaburg prevailed to knocked off their Haida Watchmen rivals from Masset, holding to an eleven point margin as the buzzer sounded to signal a final score of 87 to 76.

The Hyadburg Men never really were in any danger of letting things slip away, as they kept a healthy margin between themselves and Old Massett.

You can view the Masters final from the CFNR website here.

You can review the path to victory from each division from our Scoreboard Archive page here, you can also explore our archive of stories through Tournament week.

We will add to that archive as more final thoughts are assembled from around the region through the days to come.

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