By Sean O’Brien
The GFSS junior basketball team had an incredible outing in their home gymnasium this weekend hosting the West Kootenay Championships.
The tournament field consisted of seven teams. Nelson, Trail, Castlegar, South Slocan, Midway, Salmo and Grand Forks Secondary battled to determine the top junior team in the region.
Grand Forks came into the tournament ranked third thanks to a strong finish to the season that saw them win their last five games in February. Their first match-up would be against sixth-ranked Salmo, a team the boys were yet to play this season.
“Facing an unknown in a championship tournament is always very nerve-racking, so it was crucial not to underestimate our opponent,” said coach Sean O’Brien. “Although we were a little flat energy-wise, we won the game decisively.”
Grand Forks beat Salmo 40-23 behind the hot shooting of Liam McKinlay and the steady point guard play of Sam Foy.
In their second matchup, GFSS would face Rival Castlegar (ranked second) to determine who would compete in the finals against top-ranked Mt. Sentinel.
GFSS was confident from the get go, as two previous victories over their opponent had them prepared for their pace and talent. Although Castlegar would play with high defensive pressure for the entire second half, Grand Forks was able to capture their seventh straight win 28-23.
The championship game between GFSS and Mt. Sentinel lived up to the billing. With a packed crowd representing both teams, the game went back and forth, with GF leading the majority of the game by 5-7 points. Noor Sibat was once again key against Sentinel, this time dominating the game in post. The final minutes were an intense battle, where injuries and missed free throws would ultimately be the deciding factor—the final score Mt. Sentinel 36, GFSS 33.
“You can’t comment on this season, this run without highlighting Tieren Dolan’s effort. His injury in the final was devastating. He was new to the team, the game at the start of the season, but by the end, he was our defensive anchor, the heart and soul of this team,” O’Brien said. “He showed his teammates how much you can improve with the right attitude.”
He added, “The fact these young men are embracing the importance of the team concept at such a young age, is a great sign for our future. Ten of these guys are coming back to compete at the junior level next year. After the show these guys put on tonight for the home crowd, I know the support will be there.”