The 2023 Terrace Riverboat Days Opens Men’s & Ladies Basketball Tournament, held from August 3 to August 6, was a resounding success, according to organizer Keith Azak.
Featuring 34 teams from across the province and region, the competition unfolded across three local venues — Terrace Sportsplex, Skeena Middle School and Caledonia Secondary School — and the participating teams were divided into four divisions: men’s and ladies, and men’s and ladies masters.
The men’s division saw teams such as Similkameen, The Mambas, Prince Rupert Cubs, and the eventual winners, the Burnaby Chiefs. The ladies division was filled with skilled competitors like Haisla, Nations United, and Gitmidiik Thunder, with Nations United taking home the victory.
The masters divisions were also fiercely contested. The Terrace Titans triumphed in the men’s masters division, while Gukelut emerged as the winners in the ladies masters division.
Cash prizes and other rewards were on the line, with the men’s division winners taking home $3,000, and other division winners receiving $1,000 for first place. All teams were also treated to hoodies and t-shirts.
“The level of play this year was elite,” Azak proclaimed. “Every team and division that stepped on the floor was top-notch.”
Though one fewer team participated compared to last year’s 35, Azak was proud of the high level of play and the tournament’s positive economic impact on Terrace.
“I hope Terrace recognizes and appreciates the level of play we’re now bringing to the city,” Azak said. “This can and will continue to grow and become bigger and better each and every year coming out of the pandemic.”
Besides providing thrilling basketball, the tournament drew players and fans to local attractions and restaurants. Azak noted the joy of seeing players from communities in the Lower Mainland, such as Burnaby and Vancouver, enjoying themselves in the city.
The economic benefits were “huge,” according to Azak. The tournament involved four straight days of basketball, and in one of the quarter-final games, 850 people packed into the Terrace Sportsplex — a significant number for a city of 12,000.
Azak’s hopes are high for the future as the city prepares to host the 2024 Junior All-Native Basketball Tournament. He expects the fifth annual tournament to be “stronger than ever” and is eager to see the event continue to grow.
“Our sponsorship is also starting to grow, as some of the larger players are starting to recognize that this is an annual event and it does support the whole community, not just First Nations because it’s open to all,” Azak said.
In reflecting on the success, Azak’s focus remains on Terrace’s potential. “I’ll definitely be leaning on the City of Terrace to once again prove to them that we need a full-time hardwood floor facility for the game,” he stated.
Viktor Elias joined the Terrace Standard in April 2023.