The SAS Senior Boys Basketball Team put the pencils down after completing their final exams and travelled to Winfield this past weekend to compete in – and emerge victorious from – the George Elliot Coyote’s eight team tournament.
In their first game of the tournament, the Golds defeated Seaton from Vernon 104-46. Although the Golds entered the tournament with two key players injured, they managed to generate a balanced attack against Vernon. Noah Jansen led all scorers with 18 points and was named player of the game.
In the Golds’ second game on Saturday, they faced the SaHali Sabres from Kamloops in one of two semifinal games. In a match that saw the Sabres hit eight three=point shots in the first half and come out firing on offense, the Golds found themselves only up by nine at the half. Establishing more defensive prowess to start the second half, the Golds set the tone and created a 20 point lead early in the third quarter and never looked back, defeating SaHali 99-64. Silas Hecker and Evan Smith led all scorers with 18 points each.
In a much anticipated final, which saw the Golds up against the host Coyotes from Winfield who are provincially ranked second, a great deal was riding on the outcome of the game. For the coaches on both benches and several of the players on both teams, they have been going head to head for the past eight years after they met for the first time at Shuswap Middle School in an early spring club basketball tournament back in 2012. Over the years, a fierce and competitive rivalry has been born; however, throughout their fierce rivalry some of these players ended up playing together on regional teams, and shared experiences of competition. So, with one big chance to get an edge in the rivalry and establish bragging rights with a victory over one of Salmon Arm’s biggest rivals, the Golds entered the final determined to establish themselves as the team who won the ‘final’ game.
With much anticipation and a nervous energy, Salmon Arm fell behind early in the first quarter 23-16. As the Golds found their resilience, they revealed their toughness in the second quarter and executed with more precision at both ends of the floor. The turning point of the game was established early in the third quarter by three players for the Golds: Matthew Paiement, Gavin Limber and Darian Sundby. All showed grit and toughness in the third quarter as they took defensive charges on aggressive and attacking players, which slowed the Coyote’s offensive attack.
It wasn’t until the later part of the fourth quarter that the Golds were able to establish control of the game and seal their victory with an 87-79 win over George Elliot. With the Golds’ victory, came the gratification of knowing that they had won the ‘final game.’ Leading Salmon Arm in scoring in their final contest was Evan Smith who had 26 points, Noah Jansen, who established a strong inside presence, had 21 points, Gavin Limber added 17 points and Silas Hecker, who had a strong game, had 13 points and 7 assists. All four players, Smith, Jansen, Limber and Hecker, were named tournament All-Stars for Salmon Arm. The most satisfying thing, besides winning the ‘final game,’ was that all members of the Golds – players, manager, and coaches – left the tournament and came home with the coveted black Coyote Championship t-shirts.