WAKS suffer tough losses at All Native Basketball Tournament

With two tough losses to Vancouver and Hazelton, Terrace WAKS had a disappointing bottom-place finish this week.

Terrace WAKS are contending for the title at the All Native Basketball Tournament in Prince Rupert this week. Back: Curtis Young-Mercer

With two tough losses at the All Native Basketball Tournament, Terrace WAKS had a disappointing bottom-place finish this week.

In their first game on Monday, Feb. 8, Terrace WAKS (“brothers” in Nisga’a) were pitted against Vancouver and lost 74-53, intimidated by the strong team and packed gym.

“The crowd, the teams – Vancouver and the defensive intensity – it’s different. It was very intense,” said coach Terry Monture.

“We played 32 games [during the regular season] and even though we won [in several close tournaments], we did not have a single game as intense as the game we had here.”

“We were definitely intimidated by a very good team,” Monture said, explaining that they held back on some opportunities early in the shot clock, and then were forced to throw shots up before the buzzer.

“A lot of it had to do with a packed building. Until you are on the bench and you play it, you don’t realize how it affects you,” he said. “The place was packed. It’s just crazy! The intensity level of that game, you have to be there to experience it.”

In the first quarter, the WAKS played a strong game, but still wound up down 8-18.

Monitor said the second quarter was what really did them in. Vancouver scored 24 points, earning a strong lead which the WAKS could not recover, despite a strong second half.

“We outscored them by five in the second half, once we settled down and played our game, but by then it was already too late,” he said.

The WAKS lost the game 74-53 to Vancouver, with the main Terrace points earned by Kenneth Monture who scored 12, Andrew Nyce 11, and Tyler Moore 7.

Dropped into the second pool, the Terrace WAKS faced Hazelton on Wednesday, Feb. 10, which was a strong, close game ending in a tough 74-73 overtime loss.

The WAKS trailed Hazelton close to seven points all the way through the first half of the game.

Then, down by 12 at the end of the third quarter, the WAKS ramped up their pressure in the fourth, pressing a full-court defence and outscoring Hazelton 19-7.

As the clock wound down to the last 30 seconds, the Terrace WAKS were down by three.

Andrew Nyce got possession of the ball and dribbled fast and hard up the court, launching a three-pointer into the air as the buzzer sounded through the gym.

The ball swooshed through the basket for an epic, game-tying finish, launching the teams into overtime at 63-63.

Both teams played a strong overtime game, but the WAKS missed too many free throws and eased off their pressure which cost them the game.

“The big difference in the overtime was a mistake I made,” said Monture. “We pressured them in the fourth quarter and that’s where we outscored them 19-7, and we didn’t do that in the overtime.”

The final score was 74-73 for Hazelton, a tough swallow for the WAKS, who beat Hazelton three times in their league season earlier this year.

Monture said that besides that easing defensive overtime pressure, keys that cost the WAKS the game were three-point shots and free throws.

Hazelton hit 16 three-pointers, 12 more than the four landed by Terrace WAKS.

“What also hurt us was that we went 15 for 31 from the free throw line. We missed 16 free throws, in a one-point game,” Monture said, adding that even in overtime, the WAKS missed six out of 12 free throws.

Having aimed and expected to finish in the top four, the Terrace WAKS’ bottom place finish means the team will have to qualify for the tournament next year – unlike this year when they had a bye from their 8th place finish in 2015.

The WAKS are now practising to compete in a Kitimat tournament in April and in Kamloops in May.