Wolfpack wins, but Magic puts on a show at Island Zones | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

Wolfpack wins, but Magic puts on a show at Island Zones

Port Alberni

Ahousaht has once again proven it is a basketball powerhouse, dominating at the Island Zone Junior Basketball Tournament held at Alberni Athletic Hall Feb. 18 and 19.

Wrapping up a basketball extravaganza, webcast live by Ha-Shilth-Sa, the Ahousaht senior girls and senior boys clubs took home the winners’ trophies, while the Ahousaht younger boys finished as runners-up.

Francis Frank’s NCN Lady Warriors, made up of players from Tofino and Port Alberni, finished second on the girls’ side.

26 Boys Final Photos at:http://www.hashilthsa.com/gallery/junior-boys-island-zones-feb-19-ahousaht-wolfpackmaaqtusis-magic

17 Girls Final Photos at: http://www.hashilthsa.com/gallery/junior-girls-island-zones-feb-19-mystic-sunslady-warriors

The event served as a dress rehearsal for the BC All-Native Junior Basketball Provincial Championships, which take place in Port Alberni from March 18 through 23. Eight teams qualified for the Provincials at the weekend Zones.

The last time Port Alberni hosted the event was in 2009. This time, the championships will be anchored in a spanking new Athletic Hall (the old one burned down a few years ago) with excellent lighting and, after a successful test run on Sunday, a live webcast by Ha-Shilth-Sa will allow fans from across the province to watch their young players compete live.

On Sunday, while the Ahousaht Mystic Suns girls’ and the Wolfpack boys’ squads were expected to take centre stage, it was the junior teams, the Maaqtusiis Magic boys and the Lady Warriors, who emerged as the twin Cinderella stories, forging come-from-behind victories to earn berths in the finals.

Adding to the boys’ team legend, while competing for the title in Port Alberni, Maaqtusiis coach Travis Thomas managed to juggle his young lineup and field a team at a tournament in Courtenay on Saturday, where they took third place.

Magic’s magic began earlier in the day with a nail-biter against the Hesquiaht Braves.

15 Photos at:http://www.hashilthsa.com/gallery/junior-boys-island-zones-feb-19-maaqtusis-magichesquiaht-braves

Magic made a last-minute comeback against the Braves to tie it up 53-53 at the end of regulation, then powered ahead in overtime for a thrilling 62-57 win.

The game was for a berth in the semi-final, with the winner to face the defending B.C. champions, the Homiss Wolves, who fell to the Ahousaht Wolfpack in another overtime thriller on Saturday night.

The Braves established an early lead in the first quarter, putting up a seven-point lead, but Magic gained momentum in the second after Braves’ #29 Reese got himself into foul trouble. After racking up three fouls, he was benched until the second half, and Magic was able to get better penetration.

With a last-minute bucket, the Magic's Riley Botting closed the gap to one point to end the half 34-33.

The Braves picked up their game in the third quarter, using some fierce rebounding and some fast breaks to establish an eight-point lead, 51-43. But in the fourth, it looked as though they were prepared to run out the clock.

The tactic backfired with Magic mounting a surge and bringing the score to 53-51 with three minutes left.

With Reese already fouled out, the Braves #23 Darien Baker got the hook with two minutes remaining. Magic’s Dominic Thomas had the chance to tie it at the foul line but missed his two shots and the game see-sawed back and forth, scoreless, with the close to capacity gallery of spectators going wild. Then, with 21 seconds left, Adam Campbell dropped the tying bucket.

It was nearly all Adam Campbell in OT, as he dropped four baskets to end the match with 28 points to lead all scorers, with Iziah Robinson adding 18.

Ahousaht coach Travis Thomas said his young players were able to capitalize on their opponents’ two foul-outs in the final quarter.

“As soon as we were able to switch to a 2-2-1 press defence, it changed the game,” Thomas said.

The switch came with five minutes remaining in the game, and it allowed Magic’s big men to get into the shooting lanes and put the critical points up.

Thomas said his players had to turn right around to play the veteran Homiss Wolves, but he expected them to benefit from the experience.

17 Photos at:http://www.hashilthsa.com/gallery/junior-boys-island-zones-feb-19-homiss-wolvesmaaqtusis-magic

“This is only our second year competing in the juniors, so they’re just starting,” Thomas said. “They’ve all got three or four years left.”

Following in the footsteps of their male colleagues, the NCN Lady Warriors overcame an early deficit to down Nanaimo’s Island Storm, 57-52.

18 Photos at:http://www.hashilthsa.com/gallery/junior-girls-island-zones-feb-19-island-stormlady-warriors

The Storm used speed and mobility to take an early lead against the bigger Lady Warriors, doubling up on the Warriors 16-8 in the first quarter, with Celina Jeffrey chipping in seven points, including a three-pointer.

The Warriors picked up the pace in the second, led by Janine Robinson, with six points and Chelsea McIntosh with four, to match the Storm bucket-for-bucket. Each team dropped in 17 points to bring the score to 33-25 at the half.

Robinson, visibly hobbled by a sore left knee, took a turn on the bench but came back late in the half. She then sparked a comeback in the third, scoring the tying basket to make it 36-36 with three minutes left, then added another bucket seconds later with a quick steal to take the lead for the first time. By the end of the quarter, the Warriors were ahead 43-39, with the momentum on their side.

Going into the final quarter with Robinson on the bench, Warriors Chelsea McIntosh and Clarissa Jimmy went on a tear in the early going to extend the lead as the Nanaimo shooters went cold. They staged a late rally to get within seven points by the final minute, but it was too little, too late. The Storm’s Amber John coolly drained a pair of foul shots with just seconds left, but the Warriors closed the door for the rest of the way.

Robinson led the Warriors with 23 points, while Jeffrey paced the Storm with 17.

Coach Francis Frank, who substituted freely throughout the game, said he was able to change up the Warriors’ attack after the Storm’s Shania Sabbas fouled out in the third quarter.

“Chelsea [McIntosh] was the key. Their #8 [John] was killing us until then. She shut them down from there,” Frank said. “Our game is high-tempo, so we weren’t playing our tempo until then.”

Frank said McIntosh and Jimmy have played together a long time, and they were able to use that experience to hold the Storm off the board in the final going.

With the win, the Warriors were set to face the Mystic Suns in the first all-Ahousaht final.

Magic got about one hour’s rest before taking to the court against the defending B.C. champion Homiss Wolves, and showed zero signs of fatigue, using their whole bench to knock off the favorites 59-54 to earn a berth in the final against the red-hot Ahousaht Wolfpack.

This time Magic went right to work to take the early lead, sparked by Adam Campbell and Iziah Robinson. The Ahousaht boys took a 14-8 lead at the end of the first quarter, then kept up the pressure in the second, for the most part, holding the Wolves to the outside.

The Wolves’ veteran Darian Van Der Merwe, who put on a shooting clinic on Saturday night, was held quiet through much of the first, but caught fire midway through the second, making three solo drives to the net for the close-in lay-up. He then ran the same play twice, only to dish off to Wayne Jules, keeping Magic off-balance.

But Magic continued to outscore the Wolves, taking the edge, 18-13 over the quarter, to take the score to 32-21 at the half.

Van De Merwe put on a stellar solo performance in the second half, but Magic countered with a complete team game, outworking the Wolves under the net, pulling in key rebounds and leaving few second chances.

Magic spread out their scoring over the match, with Iziah Robinson leading the charge with 16 points, Dominic Thomas with 12 and Adam Campbell with 10.

Van Der Merwe, who ended up with 33 points on the game, brought the Wolves close, aided by Jules, who added 15. At the one-minute mark, he popped in a lay-up to bring the score to 58-51, and then drained a three-pointer to narrow the gap to four points.

Magic barred the door from then on. Riley Botting made one free throw, then raced back on the ensuing last second rush to pull in a key rebound to put the game out of reach.

“We ran a box and run defence on them and focused on shutting down their #1 [Van Der Merwe],” coach Travis Thomas said. “Our big guys, Gabriel Campbell and Riley Botting, really outworked them on the defensive boards.”

Thomas said it didn’t hurt that the Wolves were playing with a short bench, and that, despite having played earlier in the afternoon, his young players were able to dictate the pace of the game.

“We ran a lot of ball movement on them. I encourage my guys to pass and run up the court rather than try to dribble all the way. We have a very strong training program down in Ahousaht, with some of the guys also doing some rugby training, so it really helps our endurance.”

Thomas admitted that endurance was about to be tested to the limit, when his Magic squad took to the court for their third game of the afternoon against the big, experienced Wolfpack.

The powerhouse Mystic Suns took the younger Lady Warriors to school through much of the early going, coasting to a 50-32 victory to take the Island title.

The Warriors made a game out of it, however, out-shooting the favourites over the final half, but they were unable to close the gap. The Mystic Suns came out shooting in the first quarter, jumping out to a 27-3 lead, powered by Jaylynn Lucas with 11 points, followed by Kylee Sam with seven and Tracy Frank with five.

The Warriors tightened up in the second quarter, holding the Suns to 13 points, but were still unable to find the basket. The half ended 40-10.

The Warriors put on their rally caps in the second half, holding the Mystic Sun shooters to eight points in the third quarter, but by then, Suns coach Jeremy Sam admitted his girls had taken their foot off the gas.

Warrior Janine Robinson, who played much of the tournament on a sore knee, put on a free-throw clinic in the final quarter, going seven-for-nine, while adding two more baskets to lead her club with 15 points.

In the final minutes, with the game well out of reach for the Warriors, the Suns coach gave his youngest two players some court time, to the delight of the crowd. Sam’s daughter Savannah (#40) and niece, Janice Sam (#60), both eight, hit the floor in full uniform, with Savannah notching the final basket of the game.

Mystic Suns Kylee Sam and Jaylynn Lucas each finished the game with 14 points. Perhaps the most notable stat was that nearly half (24) of the Suns’ points came from behind the three-point line.

Coach Sam said his girls used their speed and positional play throughout the tournament.

“It’s all about defence. If you look after the defence, the offence looks after itself,” Sam said.

Part of that edge comes through conditioning, he added.

“The gym is available four nights a week and we take full advantage of it,” Sam said. “Ahousaht is a basketball community. My girls practice with the Wolfpack. It’s a whole-team effort.”

Following the girl’s final, Sam immediately turned around to take the helm of the Wolfpack.

The boys’ final proved to be a furious match-up of youth versus experience as Magic struck early and never let up, despite playing their third no-tomorrow game since noon. But the Wolfpack applied equal pressure and determination to wear down the junior side in the late stages to grind out a final 68-62 victory.

The Wolfpack came out hard in the first quarter, drawing a series of fouls, which Magic jumped on immediately. Adam Campbell dropped five-for-six, while big man Riley Botting, whose stature grew as the game unfolded, was two-for-three with an added basket. Iziah Robinson was also just warming up for the later stages, dropping the first six of his team-leading 18 points. The Wolfpack’s Tristan John dropped a late three-pointer to tie the quarter at 18-18.

The pace never let up in the second, and it was up to the Wolfpack’s Robert Frank to tie the score at 31-31 with a last-second basket to end the half.

The Wolfpack stormed out to an early lead in the third quarter, led by Frank and Dominic Campbell, but Magic countered with Botting from under the net and Robinson shooting four baskets from just inside the three-point line, to take a 48-44 lead into the fourth.

When the teams took to the court for the frantic final quarter, one had the feeling the game would be decided at the free-throw line. Stepping up the pressure on their younger opponents, who were by now showing visible signs of fatigue, Wolfpack veterans Paul Smith and Robert Frank quickly extinguished Magic’s lead with a cool three-pointer each, but Botting and Robinson continued to put up the numbers, aided by teammate Gabe Campbell.

With the score still tight but with the Magic back end visibly sagging, Smith  made a key steal at mid-court and cruised in for the easy lay-up to go up 61-58, then Alonso Sam made a second steal to keep the ball in Magic’s court as the minutes ticked down.

In the end, it all came down to the free-throw line. With the score at 62-63 in the final minute, the Magic’s Botting was unable to deliver the tying basket. All told, he and Robinson went 0-for-six in the fourth quarter while Smith was good on four out of six. Despite a desperate late attack, the Wolfpack were able to keep Magic off the board in the final minute while potting five unanswered points.

With his second victory in a matter of hours, coach Jeremy Sam gave full value to Magic.

“Congratulations to them. They’re Grade 9 ball, and they came right at us after playing two tournaments in one weekend,” Sam said. “We could see they were tired in the late going, so we kept the pressure on them. It was a team effort. They wanted it so bad.”

Sam said his clubs were both now well placed for the provincials.

Bruce Lucas, the coordinator of the 2012 BC Junior All Native Basketball Championships, said about 50 teams are expected and games will be played at the Alberni Athletic Hall, at ADSS and at Maht Mahs gym.

“Athletic Hall can hold 700 in the stands and about 1,000 total using extra chairs,” Lucas said, adding that ADSS holds roughly the same number.

“We played in Penticton last year and the seating was about twice that size, and it was packed,” he said.

Related links:

6 Photos at:http://www.hashilthsa.com/gallery/junior-girls-island-zones-feb-19-island-stormtfn-first-ladies

9 Photos at:http://www.hashilthsa.com/gallery/junior-girls-island-zones-feb-19-lady-warriorsmystic-suns

 9 Photos at: http://www.hashilthsa.com/gallery/junior-boys-island-zones-feb-18-tfn-kingsmaaqtuisis-suns

10 Photos at:http://www.hashilthsa.com/gallery/junior-boys-island-zones-feb-18-homiss-wolvesnative-sons

28 Photos at:http://www.hashilthsa.com/gallery/junior-boys-island-zones-feb-18-young-gunshesquiaht-braves




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