Rhonda Lee McIsaac —
From the first tip off to the last handshake, the hard work and sweat paid off for the 16 basketball teams whose passion made the inaugural HaiCo World Indigenous Basketball Challenge,. Twenty-six games were played during the hot sunny days of August 10-13 at the Simon Fraser University campus in Vancouver, which sits on the shared traditional territory of the Coast Salish peoples, specifically the shared traditional territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), Tsleil-Waututh, and xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam) First Nations.
Elder Margaret George accepted the peace greeting of Taaxiou Robert Russ who requested permission to enter the territory to share culture and the love of basketball. The Vancouver Haida community danced and sang their way into the gym followed by each basketball team including: Skidegate Saints, Team Vancouver, Vancouver Island, Team Alberta- War Scouts, Team Blackfoot Confederacy, Lords of the Plains- Oklahoma and Florida, Team Vancouver Strathcona, Gitxsan Warriors, Gingolx Sr. Men’s Team, Team Washington from North America. The international teams were the Maori National Team, Bermuda Senior Men’s National Team, IATE-Tonga National Team, Somali Dream Team, South Sudan Senior Men’s National team, and Zambia. Due to passport issues,Team Haiti-Bongu were unable to attend.
Dave Wahl, coach of the Skidegate Saints dreamed up this grassroots event while travelling with the Saints to New Zealand last year. Since basketball came to Skidegate, it has been a gathering point for all ages. The idea was supported by the team whom embrace basketball as a way to build up people and community.
On site the HaiCo banner and two Haida Nation flags were flown at centre court along with other sponsor banners throughout the gym. The sound system rang out 80’s and 90’s dance tunes during intermission and half time. On the sideline there was team seating with cameras and microphones set up at various points which streamed the action on the court live online. “My family has been watching,” said team members from Africa and New Zealand. Many seats during the tournament were filled as friends and family gathered to watch their favorite teams run the court.
The first game of the tournament saw Zambia against Vancouver Island. In a fast paced game, Zambia took Vancouver Island by a score of 98-80 to advance to the next round. Each team was guaranteed to play at least three games based on the four-day schedule. Skidegate Saints progressed through each round until they ran into the faster and hot shot South Sudan team who knocked them into the fight for third or fourth place against the Maori National Team. They lost to the stronger Maori in a heartbreaking and frustrating 67-44 loss for fourth place.
Culture was a major component in the opening and closing ceremonies. Teams exhibited aspects of their heritage and pride. The winning teams’ ambassador; Nancy Geri, the former Miss South Sudan 2014, shared the history of war and colonization in Sudan. Since their struggle for self-determination the country has not had an opportunity to play at an international competition. The country celebrated their independence in 2011 but civil war continued between 2013-2015.
“In South Sudan there are 64 tribes,” said Nancy Geri. “We are here [at the World Indigenous Basketball Challenge] to build our nation,” she stated. “Through this game we can begin to build our nation to be a peaceful, prosperous, and united nation!”
During the final game of the tournament, South Sudan fans perched on the lower stands cheering loudly for their team with a large national flag waving, and with the final buzzer they stormed the court celebrating the win over the Lords of the Plains in a tight seven-point battle that went to the very last seconds of play.
As the fans and teams cleared out of the gym smiles spread across the faces of the remaining helpers and organizers as plans for the second WIBC were being formulated with each cup and towel picked up and deposited into a spent bin.
“It’s been great,” sighed Dave Wahl, as he looked back at the SFU gym and stepped out into the breezeway to send home the remaining teams and return back to Haida Gwaii to host the Maori National Team.
First Day of Games
Wednesday August 10, 2016
- Zambia vs. Vancouver Island 80-98 Vancouver Island advances to A side
- Lords of the Plains vs. Vancouver Strathcona 113-102 LOTP advances to A side
- Maori vs. Blackfoot Confederacy 127-77 Maori advance to the A side
- Somali Dream Team vs. Team Washington 88-93 Team Washington advances to A side
- Gingolx Sr. Men’s Team vs. Skidegate Saints 70-120 Skidegate Saints advance to A side
- Tonga vs Alberta Warscouts 63-76 Alberta Warscouts advance to A side
- Bermuda vs. Vancouver 101-88 Bermuda advances to A side
- South Sudan vs. Gitsxan Warriors 113-49 South Sudan advances to A side
Second Day of Games
Thursday August 11, 2016
- Zambia vs Vancouver Strathcona 72-90 Vancouver Strathcona advances
- Blackfoot Confederacy vs Somali Dream Team 107-124 Somali Dream Team advances
- Gingolx Sr. Men’s Team vs. Tonga 74-103 Tonga advances
- Vancouver vs. Gitsxan Warriors 83-75
- Vancouver Island vs. Lords of the Plains 107-108 Lords of the Plains advance
- Maori vs. Team Washington 105-87 Maori advance
- Skidegate Saints vs Alberta Warscouts 70-55 Skidegate Saints advance
- Bermuda vs. South Sudan 65-87 as South Sudan advances
- Zambia vs. Blackfoot Confederacy 135-108 as Zambia wins this section
- Gingolx Sr. Men’s Team vs Gitsxan Warriors as the Gitsxan win this section
Third day of Games
Friday August 12, 2016
- Vancouver Strathcona vs. Somali Dream Team 96-92 Vancouver Strathcona advances
- Tonga vs. Vancouver 79-102 Vancouver advances
- Vancouver Island vs. Team Washington 117-107 as Vancouver Island advances
- Alberta Warscouts vs. Bermuda 56-86 as Bermuda advances
- Lords of the Plains vs Maori 82-74
- Skidegate Saints vs. South Sudan 62-93
- Vancouver Island vs. Bermuda 92-87 as Vancouver Island wins 5th place
- Vancouver Strathcona vs Vancouver and Vancouver wins B side
- Maori vs. Skidegate Saints 67-44 as the Maori take 3rd place
Final day of Games
Saturday August 13, 2016
- Lords of the Plains vs. South Sudan 91-98 as South Sudan takes the WIBC banner
South Sudan take 1st place
Lords of the Plains take 2nd place
Maori National Team take 3rd place
The Skidegate Saints take 4th place
Vancouver Island wins 5th place
Bermuda wins 6th place
World Indigenous Basketball Challenge 2016 All Stars –
Kuet Kuet – South Sudan National Team
Chier Maker – South Sudan National Team
Lucas Martinez – Lords of the Plains (Oklahoma)
Alfonse Hubbard Lords of the Plains (Oklahoma)
Jones – Maori National Team
MVP Mathiang Muo – South Sudan National Team
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