The Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake Campus gym was jam packed to the rafters Sunday for the opening ceremony of the 2016 Junior All Native Basketball Tournament.
Teams entered to massive applause, followed by traditional songs and speeches from dignitaries including Tribal Chair of the Tsilhqot’in National Government Joe Alphonse, Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb, elder Virginia Gilbert and Williams Lake Indian Band councillor Willie Sellars.
Thirty-seven teams (20 girls teams and 17 boys teams) featuring players ages 13 to 17 are competing at the provincial event with games taking place at Lake City Secondary Williams Lake Campus, LCSS Columneetza Campus and the Thompson Rivers University gymnasium.
Organizer Roger Harris said teams travelled from Bella Coola, Northern B.C., Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland, the Thompson Okanagan and everywhere in between.
“It’s been going on for more than 20 years now,” Harris said of the tournament’s legacy. “We’ll have lots of talent on display and we’re bringing in some vendors [from Williams Lake] and other communities. And, we have great food.”
Games began Monday, March 14, where 21 games took place, followed by another 21 games on Tuesday. Knockout games begin Wednesday until the tournament finals on Friday, March 18 at the LCSS Williams Lake Campus.
Monday saw both the host boys and girls Nuxalk Nation (Bella Coola) teams win their first games to advance on the winner’s side of the draw.
The boys defeated Mt. Currie, 63-52.
Leland Dester led all scorers for the Nuxalk Nation with 18 points, dropping multiple three-pointers from beyond the arc.
Nuxalk Nation coach Angel Mack said it was a good start for the team, however, they’ll need to improve on a couple of things to advance deeper in the tournament.
“We need to keep pushing the ball up the floor and rebound better,” Mack said. “That’s one thing we’ve got to focus on, and taking good shots.”
The Nuxalk Nation girls, meanwhile, were defeated in their second game Monday afternoon against Greenville.
The Nuxalk Nation boys and girls were slated to play Tuesday, however, scores weren’t available at press time.
The girls final goes at 2 p.m. Friday at the Williams Lake Campus. The boys final will follow at 3:30 p.m.
Harris said a youth dance will take place tonight at TRU for players. A cultural night was held Tuesday at Sugar Cane.
“We just hope people will come out and enjoy the games, enjoy the food and come support the youth,” he said.
Weekly tournament passes are available, along with single game passes. Admission is free to anyone 65 and over or six and under.
For more information check the tournament’s Facebook page at “Jr. All Native Basketball Tournament 2016.”