Host Homiss Wolves dreaming of a repeat Junior championship | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

Host Homiss Wolves dreaming of a repeat Junior championship

Port Alberni

The Homiss Wolves are hoping that home-court advantage will help them win another provincial championship.

The Wolves captured the boys' division at the British Columbia Junior All Native Basketball Tournament last March in Penticton.

The Wolves are now gearing up to host and defend their title at this year's provincials. The Port Alberni event, which will be staged at three local facilities, is scheduled for March 18 to March 23.

"If all our players show up we have a really legitimate shot of winning again," said Wolves' coach Bruce Lucas.

One player that Lucas would love to see in the Homiss line-up for the tournament is shooting guard Graylon Martin.

But he might not be available to play in the tournament as he also toils for Victoria's Mount Doug Rams, a highly regarded high school AAA squad that is hoping to have success at its provincial tournament.

The high school AAA tournament, which is being held in Langley, concludes March 17, so Martin could play at the Junior All Native event as well, even if he needed a day or two to recover from the high school provincials.

There's no guarantee though Martin would play for the Wolves. He's eligible to suit up for the Homiss side because of his mother's local connections. But Martin himself is from Bella Bella and could represent that community at the provincials.

“He played for us earlier this year,” Lucas said. “(We'll) see what happens. He is eligible to play for both teams.”
One thing for certain is that this year's tournament will be considerably larger than the 2011 provincials, which attracted 37 entrants.

A total of 53 clubs (27 boys, 26 girls) have indicated they will take part in the event as of this past Thursday (Feb. 23). And Lucas anticipates perhaps another half dozen squads to sign up before the registration deadline of March 2.

The number of teams that will take part has exceeded the expectations of organizers.

“When we had our first meeting in April last year our target was to have 50 teams,” Lucas said.

By winning last year's tournament, the Wolves will automatically be the top seed for this year's event. And the Homiss side will also receive an opening-round bye.

The Wolves' roster includes five returnees from their championship team. The most notable veterans are point guard Darian Vandermerwe, forward Ryan Sabbas and forward/centre Wayne Jules.

For the second straight year the Wolves' lineup also includes Lucas' young son Bryce, who is just eight. He gets into matches when the team has a considerable lead over its opponents.

Lucas' charges will be considerably smaller than last season. The team has just one player over 6 feet.

“Last year we had five guys over 6 feet,” he said. “When we walked into the gym we intimidated other teams.”

The club is hoping to find other ways to win this season.

"We're going to have to rely on our outside shooting," Lucas said. "And we have some set plays for our fast break."

Though he is still hoping to win another provincial crown this year, Lucas realizes his 2011 team was a special one.

"Last year my team was exceptionally strong," he said. "We knew it would be tough to follow up with another team like that."

The Wolves though will be hoping to duplicate the results of the Prince Rupert Tribesmen. They captured back-to-back provincial titles in 2009 and 2010.

Lucas welcomes the fact his team is hosting this year's tournament. He doesn't believe this will result in any concerns for his players.

“My boys don't know pressure,” he said. “Over the years we've learned how to deal with stuff like the crowd and other teams.”
Lucas also said the fact he is the tournament director will not be a distraction either.

“The work is all done,” he said, adding there are eight tournament committee members who can assist with any difficulties that might arise. “We're ready. Once the tournament starts, it should be all smooth sailing and I can concentrate on the coaching.”


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